Nine teenagers who have been learning some of Shakespeare's greatest speeches off by heart compete to become the BBC Shakespeare Schools Champion.
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hardly a name that you would expect to thrill Britain's teenagers
but over the last year thousands have taken part in a nationwide competition
to perform a Shakespearean speech off by heart.
Friends, Romans, countrymen! Lend me your ears.
But, wherefore, villain, didst thou kill...?
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
At stake, a place in the grand final, hosted by Jeremy Paxman,
performing for a 1,000-strong audience and three respected judges,
on stage at one of the most prestigious venues in the UK,
the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
After two rounds of competition, and workshops across the country,
the shortlist has now been whittled down to nine children,
all with very different backgrounds but all sharing one passion,
for Shakespeare's language.
With five days to go before the final,
they are thrown into the dramatic world, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company
to polish and perfect their performances.
They'll deliver one speech each and then three will go forward
to perform the most famous speech of them all.
-Or not to be.
That is the question.
Whether it is nobler in the mind...
To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.
It's a life-changing experience for all of them
but only one can take home the prize
for delivering Shakespeare Off By Heart.
All the world's a stage and all the men and women, merely players.
Oh, my God!
Shakespeare's verse is a challenge for every one of the finalists.
Full of strange oaths...
Oh, my God!
Jack, by far the youngest competitor,
is performing in his second language.
You either get Shakespeare, or you don't
and I've always felt that I got Shakespeare
sometimes even more than I got things that are drama now.
Neil is determined to overcome dyslexia and do his country proud.
Being asked questions by everyone, what's haggis like?
Do you wear a kilt?
The traditional questions but, yeah, kind of like representing Scotland, really,
because I'm the only Scottish person here.
Jacinta, from Wales, will be playing the part of an English king.
I try and think of a character that I know that's a bit manly
and gruff and everything.
I think about Shrek, he's quite manly.
James struggles with Shakespeare's language.
I remember when I've been in the car with my dad
and I go, "I can't do it there's too many lines, there's too many lines!"
I just used to repeat it over and over and over again
until I eventually just got it.
They all suffer from a problem shared by every actor on the planet.
I have to admit I do struggle with nerves.
I go on the stage and I'm like...
Nervous, all the time. I'm always nervous.
Yes, really nervous.
I'm still nervous. I'm thinking, "I'm nervous, I'm nervous."
Do I get nervous?
Do I really get nervous?
If they want to know what it's like to be a professional actor,
they have to rehearse like crazy.
We're doing a quick hop here, because we're in a race against time.
This is what we do in a rehearsal room.
No actor pops out speaking Shakespeare.
Well, not one that I've met, anyway!
You have to do this work.
This is not a school production, it's the real deal.
Like going from go-kart racing to Formula One in a single step.
Back here, you'll also have the stage manager who'll be looking after the actors
and they'll have a screen where they're watching the stage.
They'll be to see everything that's going on on stage
and if anything looks like it's going wrong, or if someone hurts themselves
or, is not very well, they can step in and call a stop to this show.
Has it ever happened where they've had to go onstage?
Theatre's live, you know, sometimes an actor does hurt themselves in a fight scene
or sometimes a piece of scenery doesn't do what it's supposed to do.
Struan Leslie, the RSC's movement director
takes the finalists onto the main stage.
This is no school hall.
What's your sense of the space?
So much bigger but smaller, it's that strange thing.
It's a bit like a kind of TARDIS, in reverse.
But, really intimate, you know.
If somebody's sitting up there, they're only 15 metres away.
None of them has played on anything like it before
and amid the camaraderie, they all know
that they're competing against each other.
I would like to win but I think if it happens, it happens.
I would like to win but I'm sure there are other contestants
that were picked for a reason and so they will be fierce competition.
Because I know that everyone else has gone as far as I have
to do this and so we're all almost of equal skill.
But, of course, I want to win!
They'll be performing in front of three judges who really know their stuff.
The actress, Imogen Stubbs, who has performed Shakespearean roles
from Desdemona in Othello to Gertrude in Hamlet.
The historian and Shakespeare authority, Simon Schama
and the actor Samuel West, a famous Hamlet of the RSC in 2001.
As the scale of the challenge sinks in,
the finalists see how professional actors perform in the RSC's current production,
The Taming Of The Shrew.
I knew you at the first, you were a moveable.
What's a moveable?
A join'd stool.
Thou hast hit it. Come, sit on me.
When I looked at the stage and the actors, it really goes to show
how even just the slightest movement can make everyone's heads turn.
When you feel you have to move across the stage, you really don't,
you just have to take a couple of steps.
With my tongue in your tail.
It's good so far. It's a bit...
It's good, it's good.
It's really funny and as Emily said,
kind of graphic.
The warning said nudity,
but I don't think they'd take it that far!
Ladies and gentlemen of the Off By Heart Company, this is your quarter-hour call.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Off By Heart Company,
this is your quarter-hour call, you have 15 minutes.
15 minutes, thank you.
On the day of the final, each of the nine performers is expected
to be in complete control of Shakespeare's language and meaning.
Come on then, team.
To ease their nerves backstage, the actor, Samuel West,
gives them a few quick tips.
I don't know if you'll find it useful,
I learn it when I'm dancing.
-No, I don't dance.
Yes, he does. Yes, he does!
I don't really dance, either, but if you're learning a speech
that has an iambic pentameter and you go,
"for God's sake let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories."
And you go, dum dum, it's got two full syllables to the death of King!"
You know, you do it while you're doing the washing up, or whatever.
The verse just goes in so much faster. That's my trick.
Well, hello, and welcome to the final of Shakespeare Off By Heart.
It's a sort of X Factor for people with brains.
2,000, 13 to 15-year-olds from right across United Kingdom
have now been whittled down to a mere nine.
Here at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon,
one of them will emerge the winner.
Each of the nine will perform a speech from Henry V or Romeo and Juliet.
The three judges will then choose a final three
who will perform the most famous soliloquy in the world.
First of all, please welcome our three judges,
the actors, Samuel West and Imogen Stubbs
and the historian, Simon Schama.
What are you looking for, Simon?
A sense that Shakespeare's language is of our time as well
as the Elizabethan time.
We're looking for passion, eloquence,
people who don't take Shakespeare is sort of stick on beards and dangling swords.
That it's the language that's the most glorious thing ever done in English.
That's easy, isn't it?
It sort of raises the question, though, of why anyone should feel
the need to learn Shakespeare, doesn't it?
What's the point. You two, obviously, it's your job.
It makes waiting for a bus, a bit less boring.
I'm serious, if this stuff's going round through you.
You're in the company of some of the greatest stuff written.
It's like a beat going through you and it can be your friend
and your inspiration for the rest of your life.
-Is it difficult?
-It is very, very difficult.
I think for this age group,
Shakespeare writes the most wonderful stuff about being human
but it's very hard to make yourself sound like a human being
when you first try with Shakespeare, it's like speaking another language.
If you don't have the life experience, it makes it hard.
When you get it, when you solve that riddle, when you're gifted with that eloquence
coming out of your mouth, it's a dream, it's wonderful.
You can only feel it when you speak it.
Right, I don't envy you your job, thank you very much for now.
Let's get on with it, then.
# Lift up the voice, just carry on singing #
15-year-old, Femi, grew up in a large Nigerian family in South London.
A born performer, he sings and dances, as well as acts
and is not short of ambition.
Yeah, I want to be famous.
I've said it since I was seven, I want to be famous.
I would like to be in the drama industry, the acting industry first
and then, obviously, if there's different opportunities
like dancing and singing, I'll just take that opportunity as well.
# Like the way you hold me #
I mean, before I get to the stage, before I actually walk on the stage, I'm like...
When I'm on the stage I'm like, "Yeah!" I don't know what happens.
When I'm on stage it's just a whole different story.
I used to be watching TV, I'm thinking,
"imagine me in that TV screen right there.
"Will people at home be thinking of me?" And just thinking, "Yeah."
I'd love to be on the stage acting. I'd love to sing in choirs.
I'd love to be dancing on stage and all of that.
Well, here's my family and friends.
Here's Tina, my cousin, Angie, my other cousin...
Femi's mother and entire family will be cheering him on all the way.
My wonderful mum.
And I feel happy, excited.
I feel privileged as well, you know.
Just to have a boy who's very talented
and very gifted at what he does and he does work hard at what he does.
Acting, anything, he really works hard for it.
My aunty and my dad.
My mum keeps pressuring me like, "Learn your lines, learn your lines."
Every single day, "learn your lines, learn your lines."
"OK, mum, I'm coming, I'm coming, I'm watching EastEnders!"
How oft when men are at the point of death
have they been merry?
I first began to notice Femi
when he auditioned for the annual school production.
He had a very small role
but he was one of the keenest chorus people I've ever met in my life.
He just demonstrated from the onset, that he was a young man with enormous potential.
So, not only is he extremely talented in terms of his singing,
his dancing, he's proven himself
to be an incredibly talented young Shakespearean, or straight actor.
How can I call this a lightning?
Femi will be performing Romeo's death scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Don't put your hands to your face, cover your mouth
because you can't hear.
You started so lovely out to us, you are talking to us
and you went in, you retreated more and more. Don't.
Yeah, he's really good.
He is teaching me a lot
and making me understand why Shakespeare was invented.
Why Shakespeare is here.
Why they do Shakespeare.
How does it feel to see the woman that you love lying there dead?
Shakespeare wrote this so that he'd be telling the audience
how that feels.
We've seen him several times on stage
but this is something different, this is massive.
It's going to be shown on TV, as well.
So we're really happy for him.
-And proud of him, as well.
-Yeah, proud of him
Femi's mother even insisted he wears his best suit for the final.
Here will I remain with worms that are thy chambermaids.
O, here will I set to my everlasting rest.
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars from this world wearied flesh.
Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace.
O you the doors of breath
seal with the righteous kiss.
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
Bitter conduct. Come.
Unsavoury guide, thou desperate pilot.
Now at once, run on.
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here's to my love.
O true apothecary.
Thy drugs are quick.
..with a kiss...
He's a wonderfully watchable boy.
-You know, you couldn't not be swept...
He has you in the palm of his hands and especially in that space
he's got a marvellous energy.
You just know... I can really see him going on to be an actor.
Because he has fantastic enthusiasm, so that carries a long way.
-If I was being honest, I couldn't hear everything he said.
-No, I couldn't either.
I think he needs to work on that. I think he's worked on it very hard and will go on working on it
but he has trouble articulating some of it.
-He needs to trust the verse more.
It adds a precious seed to the eye.
The finalists' first taste of the RSC was a workshop with Cicely Berry.
When the suspicious head of theft is stopped.
A veteran voice coach who's worked with everyone from Dame Peggy Ashcroft to Samuel L Jackson.
The first thing I want to say is,
that there is no one right way of saying a line.
All right? There's no right way.
Everybody has a different feel about a line,
feel of what it means, we're all different.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust.
In Shakespeare's day, this is the important thing I want to say,
in Shakespeare's day, only 8% of people could read.
They couldn't read, most of them.
They went... He was the most popular playwright.
They went to see his plays but they understood it by listening,
by hearing the sounds of that language
and where the sound and the rhythm takes us.
All right! Gather again.
I get bored very quickly.
Emily is 15 and hails from the West Country.
She'll be performing a speech in which Juliet
prepares to lose her virginity to Romeo.
When she is saying, "gallop apace,"
she's not being poetic in describing it,
she's actually telling us what she feels inside.
Do you know what I mean? She is hot for him and wants him.
To tell the truth, I didn't want to do a lovely dovey piece.
That's one piece, "I don't want to do it, I don't want to be in love!"
because, I find, it really difficult to act.
It's definitely pushed my boundaries.
Acting is a fairly new hobby for Emily,
who discovered her enthusiasm after appearing in a school play.
It was only about a year ago when in school we did a drama piece
and I thought, "I really like this."
I was really getting into it.
And, erm, after we had the sort of scripted bit over with,
I was, "I would like to do that again" kind of thing.
So I auditioned for some other plays and I now go to an after-school, out-of-school, session
and it's really just gone from there, to be honest.
It's funny really because she's... I mean, you know
when they were at primary school it was a case of having to be in some of the productions and stuff.
It's something she's never really done
and then when this Shakespeare thing kicked off,
-she came home and told us vaguely what was going on, didn't she?
She had this...
She burst into tears at the same time
because she said she'd recently lost her best friend with leukaemia
and she was like, "I've got to go for it" kind of thing, you know.
"Life's just too short to sit back" and "I'm really going to get out there and have a go
"and experience all these things."
Next thing is, she's gone through the school heats
and she's in the regional finals and it's like, "Oh, my God!"
-It's really fired something, hasn't it?
It's really hit the something somewhere that's clicked.
I think she's gone through every single YouTube video there is,
with every Shakespeare performance there ever was, kind of thing.
-It's funny, isn't it?
I can hear her in the morning at three o'clock listening to Hamlet.
It's like, "turn the TV off!"
Emily's nerves means that she tends to race through her speech.
Director Justin Audibert tries to slow her down.
Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds
towards Phoebus' lodging.
Such a Wagoner as Phaethon would whip you to the west...
If you are telling me the information for the first time,
if you were telling somebody, that's what you are doing, you're telling us all
information for the very first time.
-When I get nervous, I get faster.
-If I said to you...
SPEAKS VERY QUICKLY
-You'd be like, "What, what you want Justin?"
If I said to you, Emily, I could do with a cup of water,
-could you get me one?
-You might get me a cup of water, might you?
-That's the difference. You've got to tell us so we can understand it.
All right, tell me again, you started beautifully.
Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steed,
towards Phoebus' lodging.
Such a Wagoner as Phaethon would whip you to the west
and bring in cloudy night immediately.
Emily prepares for her final performance.
Cicely Berry gives an extra workshop specifically about nerves.
It's very important to realise that we all get nervous.
I don't know one actor in all the hundreds I've worked with
who doesn't get nervous going on a stage
and being seen by a whole load of people.
I think it's a good thing because it means you care,
do you see what I mean?
You care, you do the best you can.
I can't tell you how not to be nervous but what I can do,
I think, is really valuable,
is to give you a few tips of ways
of not letting that affect your voice.
With me, it's not my voice that shows nerves, it's my hand shakes,
my hand shakes.
No, what we're going to do will help everything, you see.
Just think about your shoulders
because it is the shoulders that get so tense, isn't it?
Open your mouths wide and sigh out.
This time I'm going to ask you to breathe out for ten counts.
And, out, two, three, four...
Now, Emily from the West Country takes to the stage
with A speech from Act III of Romeo and Juliet.
Juliet is impatient for news of Romeo.
Gallop apace, you fiery footed steed towards Phoebus' lodging.
Such a Wagoner as Phaethon would whip you to the West
and bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtains, love performing night
that runaway's eyes may wink and Romeo
leap to these arms untalk'd of
Adrenaline normally kicks in after you've done.
For me, halfway through I'm...
It's a bit like, "Oh God."
Come civil night, thou sober suited matron, all in black.
Learn me how to lose a winning match
play'd for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
Oh my God!
I've lost it. Can I star...
Can I start again, please?
Gallop apace you fiery footed steed towards Phoebus' lodging.
Such a Wagoner as Phaethon would whip you to the West and bring...
Emily, I thought she did very well starting again
-and was infinitely better the second time, which is pretty hard to do.
-She actually looked up.
-I wouldn't even, you know...
I thought she was the least in command of meaning, I have to say.
I think that probably wasn't her time
but I did take my hat off to her that she started again.
Incredibly brave without a doubt.
I forgot it halfway through. I had to start again.
That wasn't the best but...
I think the nerves have kicked in again.
# Come, monsieur, sit yourself down
# and meet the best innkeeper in town #
Ben, 15 and from Lincolnshire, aspires to an acting career.
I would like to be an actor, yeah, when I'm older.
I know it's really hard business, to be honest.
But, erm, I'd just love to be in the arts industry.
# Master of the house, doling out the charm... #
Ben is very driven, he's very competitive. He loves a challenge.
He's been doing drama since he was eight
and he's not really stopped since.
I don't know where it comes from but the more he does it,
the more driven he becomes.
Ben won a scholarship to a private boys school
and he's down to perform the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet,
although he's not that keen on the character of Romeo.
I think Romeo's quite naive, to be honest.
They both are, really.
But Romeo is so obsessed with Juliet
that he forgets pretty much all the morals that he has been taught.
In a way, what he's doing is he's throwing all of his beliefs out of the window
just to be with this one girl, which, I think, is slightly naive.
Maybe that's what he thought.
Have we got time to do one more thing?
You'd like to, wouldn't you? Yes?
For me, I think drama is one of the only ways to be able
to express yourself fully because I used to have really,
big problems with confidence and now that I've got the whole drama thing going,
I can talk to anyone and not have a problem with it.
Ben's father died a year ago.
I want to reflect on things that have happened to me over my life
and incorporate them into the play and into my monologue,
sort of get the message across.
Things like, sort of the grief he's feeling at the loss
of someone close to him or, you know, he's not really sure about himself,
what he could do, what he shouldn't do.
Erm, generally sort of his morals in life.
What light through yonder window breaks.
It is the east and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun and kill the envious moon
who is already sick and pale with grief that thou her maid
art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
and non but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady.
O, it is my love! O, that she knew she were.
Well, I think, Ben was lovely
because he seemed to be utterly credible as a Romeo.
I put down, "realty in love."
Realty in love and he also was brave enough to pause and think
-when he wanted to pause and think which is always nerve wracking.
-Massive hands, though.
-More hands than anybody else.
-Yes, but you're playing up to a balcony and it's very tempting, isn't it?
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek.
O, speak again bright angel!
For thou art as glorious to this night being o'er my head
as is a winged messenger of heaven.
unto the white, upturned, wandering eyes of mortals
that fall back to gaze on him when he bestrides
the lazy puffing clouds and sails upon the bosom of the air.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
I thought Ben's interpretation, his understanding was pretty top.
He has a slight habit of pausing in the middle of verse lines,
-which he could get rid of.
I mean, there is a lot in that speech that makes you,
"Oh, that she knew...
"See how she..."
-Just let the verse carry you through.
He did very well at the end, there some very long sentences at the end
and he did that extremely well.
-He did that beautifully.
-It's a hard speech, isn't it?
Even though we're all saying it's a teen speech because
it's got all these jokes in the middle and you both want to cuddle him
and laugh with him and the fantastic kind of twitchy...
The note was the same but more so.
-He started interpreting it and I said "Yeah, keep going in that direction."
Because it's really helpful.
One of the challenges the children face
is performing in an exposed space, similar to the one Shakespeare would have used,
thrust forward with the audience on three sides.
And walk around the stage and find yourself somewhere comfortable. Great.
All right, I want to do just a little exercise. OK?
Basically, what we're going to do, is a bit of call and response. OK?
You'll say line to them and they'll say a line back down to you.
It will give you a sense of what it feels like
and how much you need to project and where you need to come from.
OK, Nuha, you can give yours to Amy.
I have faint cold fear of thrills through my veins.
-I have a faint cold fear of thrills through my veins.
And, again. Give us it again. This time I'm going to give you the challenge of getting
it to her in a whisper but I wanted to hear every word of it.
Keep that whisper really energised.
I... I can't whisper any more!
Erm, I have a faint cold fear of thrill through my veins.
I have a faint cold fear of thrill through my veins.
Nuha, whose Muslim family emigrated to West London from Sri Lanka,
entered the competition on her own initiative.
I like reading a lot of classics.
I'm trying to finish as many as I can.
I do have kind of a passion for maths and history
so I do like doing maths. I work well with numbers.
When I'm not at school I like going ice-skating and riding my bike.
That's the only fitness I do, otherwise I'm very unfit
and the least athletic person you can find.
Her relationship with Shakespeare came from her father
who first learned English by reading tales from Shakespeare.
I did the same thing what my father did to me.
I went to Wimbledon when she was a very young child.
I wanted Shakespeare books, like stories of Shakespeare.
Then, which was also with pictures and all that,
from the Wimbledon bookshop there.
I gave it to my daughter as a very small young child.
Then she was also reading it. She has the book.
My dad has this opinion of Shakespeare, and his mother also shared it,
that the morals that Shakespeare had, the good morals in his characters
were almost the same morals that religion teaches you to have as well,
the idea of being trustworthy, loyal and respectful.
It just added to the learning curve of growing up
and becoming who we were.
To be or not to be...
As well as learning her lines, Nuha has to think carefully
about her selection of hair covering for the final.
The headscarf, to me, is more of a day-to-day thing
so if I'm meeting up with friends or going to school,
I wear my headscarf but when it comes to acting,
especially for my drama GCSE exam, I will wear a scarf cap,
only because I feel with the headscarf it blocks my peripheral vision
and I feel a bit more conscious when I'm wearing it.
Whereas when I'm wearing a scarf cap,
I'm a bit more me in that sense so I'll be able to act to my full percentage,
rather than being just a bit more reserved as I normally am.
Though her parents are happy for Nuha to act as a hobby,
they have different plans for her career.
As far as our tradition and culture and all that,
religion is also concerned,
we are not, you know, very keen to do acting as a profession.
'As far as we're concerned, we want her to study
'and, you know, become somebody.
'And then this can be part of, you know, enjoyment.
'I mean, she can enjoy by acting. It's up to her.
'As a profession, I mean, of course...'
you know, we are drawing a line there.
-Drawing the line?
-Yeah, between that, you know.
We don't want her to be in that kind of profession, like, you know,
'that is an open profession there, you know.
'You would rather she did a proper job?'
How if, when I am laid into the tomb,
I wake before the time Romeo Come to redeem me?
There's a fearful point!
Nuha's speech involves Juliet contemplating faking her own death
as a way of escaping her arranged marriage.
And there die strangled Ere my Romeo comes?
'I'm a spontaneous kind of person, so I guess it depends...'
which way the audience is going.
I could be portraying Juliet as a really innocent person
or I could portray her as someone who's very rebellious.
'And the idea of her loving Romeo is a very innocent emotion,
'and she's so young.
'And the fact that she's willing to die for him...'
is very contradictory.
And I'm really unsure as how to portray her
because she's got lots of conflicting sides to her.
And that's really difficult to portray because, again,
it's completely up to me and I don't know how to go about doing that.
And have you been in love like that yourself?
Justin Audibert is determined to up the energy in Nuha's performance.
..The heat of life.
I'll call them back again To comfort me:
What should SHE do here?
OK, so that's a good example THERE.
I just think that change of thought needs to be 10% more energised.
It's like you go, "I'm going to go and make a sandwich."
"No, I'm not!" Do you know what I mean?
You just need to change it more.
Like, it just needs to be bigger, the difference between the two.
So, you're going to call the nurse, but then you realise, actually,
that's a terrible idea, and it's better off just being on your own.
So, definitely you're going to be on your own.
Be more definite about things. Just that.
I'll call them back again To comfort me...
'Nuha speaks the verse very intelligently...'
and she's worked out the emotional journey
of her characters very clearly.
Her performance, at times, is too small and too contained.
And Nuha's probably one where she needs to think,
"OK. I've got to hit 600-1,000 people with this."
Romeo, Romeo, here's drink.
I drink to thee.
Fantastic! I think that's the level it needs to be at.
Do you know what I mean?
It's just that bit more energy in everything that you do.
'It's so good.
'It's SO good, like, but it just needs that 10% that you gave then.
'It just makes such a difference to it.'
I have a faint cold fear Thrills through my veins,
That almost freezes up The heat of life:
I'll call them back again To comfort me:
What should SHE do here?
My dismal scene needs I Must act alone.
What if this mixture Do not work at all?
Shall I be married then Tomorrow morning?
Shall forbid it...
We all loved what she did.
She's the only person who recognised a line of monosyllables.
-She did, didn't she? She went, "bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, bom."
-I noticed that too.
-She has music in her.
I have a faint cold fear Thrills through my veins,
That almost freezes up The heat of life...
Also, there's a thing that it can be rhetorical.
If you have a question, when she has so many questions,
"What happens if this happens?"
And she actually asks the question.
She actually asks the audience or to herself, you know.
It doesn't become a rhetorical device. She goes, "Oh my God! What would happen if that happened?"
And the whole speech stopped and then she went, from there,
"Maybe this would happen." And it was not watching a play.
She has an extraordinary maturity as an actress which is odd
cos she's playing a relatively immature character
compared to many.
Methinks I see my cousin's ghost Seeking out Romeo,
That did spit his body Upon a rapier's point:
Stay, Tybalt, stay!
Romeo, Romeo, here's a drink.
I drink to thee.
WHISPERS: Really good. So much fun.
It's like you own the space, so it's really good fun.
Amy, a 14-year-old from Northern Ireland,
goes to a Catholic school in Belfast,
a city where Romeo and Juliet is popular
and the tale of feuding families has a special resonance.
Amy enjoys one of the great qualities in Shakespeare,
the complexity of writing that can work
on many different levels at the same time.
'Once you've learnt what you have to say...'
and you've read it, and you start to think about the subtext of it,
it's much easier to convey different emotions in different ways.
So, you can be angry but kind of sad at the same time,
but kind of underlying layers of it.
'So, once you understand it,
'it's definitely a lot easier.'
'Possibly, the challenge is that...'
Juliet is close to her character in age,
and therefore, you don't want it to become cliched and stereotyped.
'There can be a dangerous safety where you think,
'"I know this character. I can identify with this character."
'Therefore, there may not be the same intensity. She's going to have to work through...'
"How do I convey this emotion as Juliet, not as me?"
'I like being someone completely different and surprising people.'
You know, whenever you come off stage,
people go, "I wasn't expecting that!"
'She's always been a very quiet, unassuming girl.
'But beneath that is a very steely individual.'
And she certainly has absolutely no precedent in the family for acting.
But she has a great love of literature, great love of reading.
'And I suppose it's not particularly
'funny that she would eventually turn to the theatre.'
There is no end,
No limit, measure or bound
In that word's death...
Amy's emotional speech comes as Juliet, just married,
discovers that Romeo has killed her cousin, Tybalt.
Lovely! OK? Lovely!
And this time, your senses...
You know, you're struggling against these tears.
It's a really lovely thing to play, that you're struggling against these tears.
That's why you've got to work it out cos if you don't talk, you're going to go mad.
That's why she's talking. Otherwise, he could have just written a sign which said, "She cries."
OK? Yeah? He'd have written, "Have a good cry."
He hasn't written that.
He's written a story that's her working out
whether she should mourn for Tybalt or whether she should mourn for Romeo
or whether she should mourn for herself
or whether she should mourn for.
So, that's what you've got to do.
You've got to work it all out.
Shall I speak ill of him That is my husband?
Poor my lord,
What tongue shall smooth thy name,
When I, thy three-hours wife, Have mangled it?
But, wherefore, villain Didst thou kill my cousin?
That villain cousin Would have kill'd my husband...
Her understanding of the text is really first-class.
It was incredibly nimble, and she really played the part.
Again, she has that habit of emphasising things
with her hands, which is her default position.
If you shut your eyes, it's a better performance.
I thought she did wonderfully, carrying through.
It got better and better, the speech.
There's something terribly sweet about glasses then wiping your eyes.
Good choice. Good choice of action, you know,
'to get yourself into the part.'
Back, foolish tears,
Back to your native springs;
Your tributary drops belong to woe,
Which you, mistaking, Offer up to joy.
My husband lives, That Tybalt would have slain
And Tybalt's dead, That would have killed my husband:
All this is comfort
Wherefore weep I then?
WHISPERS: It's so good. It went really well.
I thought my voice kind of cracked.
I was like, "That's not right."
But it went well. I got a good reaction, so that's good.
The four remaining finalists
have been assigned soliloquies
from Shakespeare's most patriotic play, Henry V.
The play begins with a prologue that asks for the audience's imagination
in conjuring up the battlefields of France
on the bare boards of a theatre.
Jack, from Portsmouth on the South coast,
has been given the tricky speech.
O for a Muse of fire,
That would ascend The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage,
Princes to act and monarchs To behold the swelling scene...
At 13, he's the youngest finalist.
'Really, it doesn't really concern me...'
that I'm the youngest
because I get on with all the others really well and everything.
'It's quite nice to be the youngest because then I know that, now...'
the older ones are so advanced that I can see where my limits are.
And that's what I really came here to find out,
'so it's really helped me, having the older people here.'
Jack's engagement with Shakespeare is all the more remarkable
because he spent his first five years living abroad,
speaking a different language.
'He was really struggling with the English language...'
based on the fact that we brought him up
over in Bulgaria for five-and-a-half years.
So, coming back to the UK,
-having been in a
for so many years, and then,
having a love of the English language,
and obviously studying Shakespeare as he is now
and really getting and understanding it,
I think that's been quite outstanding, really.
As well as acting, Jack enjoys some more physical pursuits.
'I think karate,
'it really helps me to...'
concentrate in difficult situations.
It really teaches me discipline.
And I am quite, sometimes...
quite not a child, so I am going to have to
sort of deal with some stick from people at school.
'So, if people do start, it gives you the discipline
'to know when to sort of keep calm.'
Step forward. Punch!
The flat unraised spirits
Who have dared on this Unworthy scaffold
To bring forth so great an object:
Can this cockpit Hold the vasty fields of France?
Or may we cram within this wooden O
The very casques that did Affright the air at Agincourt...
'Can we talk about Jack, actually?'
What I thought was fantastic about him was that...
The Choruses, in any case, are kind of grandiose,
slightly panto mimic kind of persona.
-And he sort of really went for it.
-He really enjoyed it.
He went down on one knee.
-"The vasty fields of France," when he moved from scene to scene.
And I just thought there was a much bigger, older actor, really,
kind of impending.
He was very strong on the conjuration.
Think when you talk of forces that you see.
"OK, we WILL see them! That's great! Jack, you're our guide."
Think when we talk of horses, That you see them,
Printing their proud hoofs I' the receiving earth
For 'tis your thoughts That must now deck our kings,
Carry them here and there Jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment Of many years into an hour-glass:
For the which supply, Admit me Chorus to this history
Who prologue-like Your humble patience pray
Gently to hear, kindly to judge,
Now, Jacinta from North Wales with one of the most famous speeches
in the whole of Shakespeare's Henry V.
It's his rallying cry to his troops.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility.
Jacinta grew up in a small town in North Wales.
As someone who has always struggled with confidence,
playing a powerful male king might be a bit of a stretch.
All I have to portray is his feelings and emotions,
and so it doesn't really matter if I'm a man or a woman,
it is just showing their feelings at that point.
I think when she went for the first leg in Manchester,
she felt a little bit intimidated by the people there, she said
she had people looking at her as if she wasn't going to win it,
but when the winner was announced and it was her, she said a few of
the other competitors looked around as if, "she didn't win it, did she?"
And that's how she is, she likes to do it quietly,
and she just does it when she needs to do it.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war.
I don't know, cos I'm quite used to just being in the background,
I'd like to put myself out there, I don't get competitive,
I just get annoyed with myself if my performance hasn't been as good
as usual, cos as long as I try my best that's all that matters to me.
It sounds so cheesy. Gosh. It really does!
Hoop, hoop! Good girl.
Henry V is one of Shakespeare's most demanding roles.
It's a fantastic speech, it'll be a fabulous challenge for her
to do it, I know she's looking forward to it hugely.
She's a big personality, again,
that is sometimes hidden because you see this nice, quiet,
well-spoken young lady, but actually she has a big personality
on stage, so I know she's got that to carry this speech forward.
During the workshops in Stratford, assistant director Rae McKen
has had to work hard to help Jacinta develop a persona
with the confidence and authority of a Shakespearean monarch.
Cry "God for Harry, England and Saint George!"
-Can you feel the difference?
-I'm feeling it.
That had no need there for prepared gestures at all but they all came.
-They came naturally.
-They all came, where you felt they needed to come.
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.
The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit and upon this charge
Cry "God for Harry, England and Saint George!"
(Congratulations! That was good.)
Throughout their time in Stratford, these young performers
are being asked to rethink the way they breathe, walk, look and think.
Every word of Shakespeare, every move they make,
requires meaning and purpose.
How are you going to know where the space is?
No one will be there, use your eyes, look for it. Where is it?
The panto season is over, but it might be behind you.
Proscenium stage is like looking at a painting.
Two-dimensional, things generally work in lines across the space,
whereas with this, it's much more like sculpture.
The difference is you're not just being the sculpture,
you actually have to think like a sculptor,
you have to think about making three-dimensional space.
Stop, stop, if we were in a playground or on a field,
if you saw space, would you move like this?
-Would you? What would you do?
You'd pace your weight forward and run.
Something really funny happens here.
Not just in this theatre, all over the world,
if you see a space, get into it.
People go, "I'm just going to walk in a really weird manner."
As opposed to just getting down and pelting, get there.
Come on, let's go. Thank you very much.
No, come back!
With only two performances to go, next up is 14-year-old Neil.
He's the star drama pupil
at his school on the north-east coast of Scotland.
Even since he was tiny,
I remember seeing you age two at nursery dancing in front of
the littler kids in their high chairs just to get them to laugh.
It's always been just what you've done.
Neil's dyslexia means learning Shakespeare off by heart
That's the one thing, learning lines, it's really boring,
and it's one of my least favourite parts of drama,
but as soon as they're in there, you can do so much more with them,
you can change them round, make them come to life, really.
Neil's a bit dyslexic,
so that makes it even more difficult to learn them.
It's the one thing you're absolutely determined to do.
When you get a bit of text to learn,
you are determined to learn it.
How he comes o'er us with our wilder days.
Neil's diffidence means his performance sometimes lacks energy.
Rae McKen is determined to change that for his speech,
in which he has to play the king at war with the Dauphin of France.
You cannot stand on stage and speak nicely,
which you are doing very well and which a lot of people do very well.
But the audience won't feel anything.
They have to feel, and in order for them to feel, you have to work hard.
So even though you're not actually going to be running up
and down the stage like a maniac, you need to, inside,
be working that hard to get it out across to the audience.
Allow yourself to be physically loose, don't get stuck in,
"I am a king, I will do my gestures, I will be a king."
You have a nice, loose physicality, use it.
There's no reason why you can't do a modern Henry,
he can't be a bit like, "Yeah, yeah, Dauphin's being an idiot, man.
"Why has he sent me these balls? What's that about?
"You wait till I throw them back at him, then we'll see."
Now, Neil from north-east Scotland will deliver Henry V's
declaration of war on France from Act I, Scene II.
But I will rise there with so full a glory
That I will dazzle all the eyes of France,
Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us.
And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
Hath turn'd his balls to gun-stones, and his soul
Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly with them. For many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands.
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down
And some are yet ungotten and unborn
That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin's scorn.
They all had individual qualities.
Neil's power is very extraordinary though.
-Hang on, let's just quickly...
-In Dauphin, yes.
He's got an extraordinary presence on stage.
He's extremely still, isn't he?
He's very still, he's got a very powerful voice
and it may have been a bit one-notey
but his presence on stage is remarkable for somebody of that age, I think.
I think he used the images and emotions he had.
He's got roots, not feet. He really goes into the floor, he's amazing.
I thought he was very good
but I didn't get swept away by that particular monologue.
I totally agree with you, he was very centred, very still.
He used all the energies and emotions he had available at his age.
But this lies all within the will of God,
To whom I do appeal, and in whose name
Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on,
To venge me as I may and to put forth
My rightful hand in a well-hallow'd cause.
So get you hence in peace, and tell the Dauphin
His jest will savour but of shallow wit,
When thousands weep more than did laugh at it.
Convey them with safe conduct. Fare you well.
The last performer in the final is 15 year-old James
who won the Leeds heat.
He lives on an estate in York with his dad,
his sister and his pet boa constrictor.
We're getting the snake out now.
She's called Cleopatra which is what my sister called her
because that was the name of my dad's snake that he had
when he was about our age, I think.
Theatre has really increased my confidence
because you might have noticed in my speech, I have a slight stammer.
When I was younger, I had a really bad stammer
and I always stuttered in my words and whatnot.
When I went on to do things in stage and theatre,
if I had a script I wouldn't stutter. I'd be word-perfect.
Cos I was quite a fluent reader.
That really increased my confidence.
I'd be quiet and shy off stage,
but when I was on stage, I'd be acting my heart out, you know.
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriment. Awake...
James's father John has noticed how much confidence
drama has given his son.
...to funerals, the pale companion..
It's lovely, actually. It's really nice to see him maturing
and blossoming like that,
because he starts to ask questions around the thing.
It's not just the acting. It's all the things around it.
And it's just nice.
He's not the brightest lad in the world. I love him to bits.
But we're not academic.
But he's got quite an enquiring mind.
And it's nice to spark that
and get him to think around things.
James is like a full-on actor.
You really never know what you're getting with him.
He's very theatrical He's very over-the-top.
It's either his way or no way.
But he's lovely. He's very kind. He's sweet.
Any time I need help with Shakespeare,
for auditions or anything,
he's very critical.
He's really judgemental, but he's good. He is good, yeah.
If there's anything that I would completely devote my life to,
it would be acting.
I just enjoy it so much. I think it's absolutely great,
and there's so much to it.
It's what I'm not going to give up on.
I'm not going to get ahead of myself,
but I really, really love theatre.
Even now, I'm learning more about it.
There's even more I'm learning about it.
You never stop learning...
Even if I do become successful, even by the age of 60,
if I'm still doing it, I'll still be learning and learning.
It's really, really great.
This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
and rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day, and live old age,
will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say,
"Tomorrow is St Crispian".
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say,
"These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget. Yet all shall be forgot,
but he'll remember with advantages what feats he did that day.
Then will our names, familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot,
Salisbury and Gloucester, be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son.
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
from this day to the ending of the world,
but we in it shall be remembered.
The thing I thought was fantastic about James's performance
was it started because he's dealing with people who wanted to go.
And he had a sort of "piss-off voice", really.
Then, through the course of the speech,
I think it was fantastic when he managed, this kid,
managed to switch to the people who had been there
talking to old geezers who hadn't, or those who had.
There were all sorts of...
You had a kind of vision
of what it was going to be like, years on. From a kid!
"Stripping their sleeve", and... "I know here tomorrow!"
we happy few.
We band of brothers!
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother!
Be he ne'er so vile. This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here.
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon St Crispin's day!
I thought he was phenomenally good.
What was wonderful with James is he started off very gently.
As I was saying to you,
I thought gradually the speech sort of took over.
He then gave himself to the speech,
rather than trying to command where the speech went.
WHISPERS: I think it was OK.
I'm very nervous, though.
I'm glad I did it.
I don't feel how I thought I'd feel.
I'm very nervous and jittery, but I think I'm quite calm.
The first half of the final is complete.
The nine performers will now be whittled down
to a final three,
who will each perform the same soliloquy from Hamlet.
"To be, or not to be?"
Right, do we have a clear sense - maybe we do -
of the three we would like to hear from again?
That we would like to come round every Sunday?
Let's just see if we have any correspondence at all.
Mine would be Neil,
and James, and Nuha.
With a possible
another look at Amy.
It's really hard to sort of tell
how they think your speech went,
because, when you have a quick glance at them when you're on stage,
It's almost that they're not allowed to smile at you.
They're there, and they're, like..."Yup".
I wish you the best. Yeah!
I really liked Nuha.
I liked Nuha very much, too. So we've got one.
I think she's wonderful, so we all agree on that one.
We all agree. That's one.
I liked Ben.
I liked... Oh, it's so difficult.
They were all so good.
They were, but life is difficult.
And I liked Jack. I liked Amy.
And I liked Femi.
My God, I won't be able to breathe.
Say my name! Come and say my name!
It's three people. Can I just be one of them,
Since you're the one who doesn't go for it,
I would want to make a strong case for James.
I know it's a familiar speech.
I thought it was brilliantly modulated.
I thought he owned the language.
I really did. Meaning by meaning.
I thought he was phenomenally good.
Is that OK? I don't want to force this on you.
-Nuha and James, OK.
Winning, or getting through, anyway
would just be like a bonus now.
But a good bonus. A really good bonus!
I'm going to vote for Amy, actually.
For many reasons. I know the voice is a little weaker.
She has then... if we see her again, it's a meditative piece.
I mean, Ben is the more forthright, in a way.
I think I'd vote for Ben.
"Nervous" doesn't really cover it, actually.
I feel like I have some weird alien in my stomach.
Welcome back to the final of the BBC Shakespeare Off By Heart.
The judges have considered their decision, so please welcome
the nine finalists back on stage.
Jack, from the south coast of England.
Neil, from Northeast Scotland.
Jacinta, from North Wales.
James, from Yorkshire, Ben, from the Midlands,
Emily, from the West Country,
Amy, from Northern Ireland. Nuha, from London,
and Femi, from London.
You're very smiling for people I'd imagine
will be rather nervous at this point.
I suppose you are, but I just want to say one thing.
Whatever the judges decide, the judges' decision is final,
even if it's wrong.
But, it's a fantastic achievement.
down to nine.
And you've done it, so congratulations to all of you.
Let's find out who the final three are, and welcome on stage
Simon Schama, chairman of the judges.
Don't want to be in your shoes!
I know - parents!
It's all very well having Paxman here. We love him.
But the person I really want to be presenting
is that great actor, William Shakespeare.
He would have loved you all.
He was an actor, remember, as well as a writer.
He would have loved you. You'd have all been hired
for the Globe, right away.
So, many congratulations.
We were moved. I had so many hairs go up on the back of my neck,
I started to get a Mohawk.
It was really utterly wonderful.
So many, many congratulations.
You should be very, very proud of yourselves.
But, we had to do the dirty deed.
And the three Hamlets -
the first is going to be Nuha.
The second Hamlet is James.
And the third Hamlet is Amy.
Thank you all very much. Thank you.
Now, Hamlet is a notoriously difficult part to play.
"To be, or not to be" is the most well-known
of all Shakespeare's speeches
So, while the three finalists are collecting their thoughts,
Sam West - who played Hamlet here in 2001,
and learn from him what the challenges are. Sam.
It must be one of the most terrifying things, isn't it?
Well, the audience know the speech at least as well as you do.
At least if you dry, they can help!
But, like all soliloquies, the question is, "Am I talking to myself,
"or am I talking to the audience?"
And, like all Shakespeare plays,
There isn't one answer.
There are as many answers as there are Hamlets.
If I think the speech is about, "Do I kill myself, or not?"
I probably go around talking like this,
but in a voice loud enough for you to be able to hear it.
If I think the speech is about something bigger -
"Is life worth living, or not. Is it worth existing, or not?"
I probably turn the lights on, and ask you all.
Which is how I did it.
The speech doesn't include the word "I".
And it also doesn't really include any plot,
so you could quite easily cut it.
-It's up to you.
You'd make your Hamlet quite cross,
but it might be better for the play, who knows?
But, these guys. These are 13 to 15-year-olds.
It's a tough thing to do at that age, isn't it?
It is. It's remarkable.
We have had an absolutely extraordinary time,
and a really difficult decision.
But I have to say, one of the wonderful things
is seeing Romeo & Juliet spoken by people of the right age.
And the depth and power that people have.
If you're playing Romeo, and you think you've just got off
with a nice pretty girl at a party,
and then she says, "No, no, no. My love is boundless as the sea,"
you don't know what you're getting into.
"If you marry me." And he goes, "Oh, help!"
But that's Juliet all over.
And the fact it comes out the mouth of a 13-year-old
makes it all the more powerful.
-Sam, thank you very much.
-Not at all.
So, time to get on with it,
and hear the first of those great soliloquies,
which comes from Nuha.
To be, or not to be?
That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
and, by opposing, end them?
and by a sleep to say we end the heartache,
and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,
'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream.
Ay, there's the rub. For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause?
There's the respect that makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
the pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
the insolence of office,
and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his quietus make
with a bare bodkin?
Who would these fardels bear,
to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
but that the dread of something after death...
..that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns,
puzzles the will, and rather makes us bear those ills we have
than fly to those that we know not of?
Thus, conscience does make cowards of us all.
And thus, the native hue of resolution
is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought
and enterprises of great pith and moment.
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
and lose the name of action.
It's decision time for the judges.
It's an extraordinarily difficult thing
to choose between two girls and a boy,
playing a part which forms itself around the character
of the person who's doing it,
in a moment where their character is not the most important thing.
We had one completely inner, and one completely public.
I think Amy had the thought, and she knew the speech,
and she was absolutely in control of the meaning,
but the voice didn't quite follow the understanding, always.
She had a wonderful through line on the thing.
She's absolutely marvellous...
Conscience does make cowards of us all.
And thus, the native hue of resolution
is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
and enterprises of great pith and moment.
With this regard, their currents turn away,
and lose the name of action.
I thought James was pretty damn good.
He dried on one line, which was a shame.
-"Conscience does make cowards of us all".
But I absolutely believed his changes of mind,
and I think he's very gifted indeed.
Ah, to sleep,
perchance to dream.
Ay, there's the rub!
He's got a lovely gentle quality.
I think his arms got in the way, from nerves or whatever.
Sometimes he was hiding behind them, or using them
to express thought or trouble
in a way that distracted. He could have trusted himself,
cos he's good enough to trust himself.
I did want to pull his arms down and say, "Just say it".
I wanted to say to a lot of people today,
"Do it again, with your hands in your pockets".
One reason that I thought Nuha's choice, and the way she opened -
which I've never seen before-
was so brave and clever,
was that there is a sort of jocund, self-mocking,
philosophical black quality to Hamlet.
It's Hamlet the actor, after all,
who thinks he can teach other actors how to act.
This constant kind of jokey
gallows humour about Hamlet.
I felt that was amazing to have that.
I've seen lots and lots of Hamlet,
including David Warner.
Never seen the opening taken like that.
She just threw it at the audience. "OK, this is the problem".
To be, or not to be? That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind
to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms...
The challenge is to make any Shakespeare speech
that people know well,
one that you've just made up, or the centrepiece of a new play,
whatever you want to call it, that makes it refresh,
but challenging the audience with that first line
is actually not only thrilling,
and tickles your ear,
but it's also deeply unfashionable.
We are a very inner age.
And we think about psychology, and we think about feelings.
She has all of these things,
but she comes on and plays the public Hamlet,
she plays the political Hamlet.
She says, "You! What will you do about this?
"You will die. Why don't you kill yourself?
"Because you're frightened of what will happen afterwards. Thank you!
"What will we do now? I don't know." You know what I mean?
Who would these fardels bear -
and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns,
puzzles the will,
and makes us rather bear those ills we have
than fly to others we know not of?
Welcome back. The judges have made their decision.
So let's welcome our three finalists back on stage.
James, Amy, and Nuha.
Well, I'm holding in my hands a star.
But, you'll agree with me, ladies and gentlemen,
we've seen nine brilliant stars performing their hearts out.
So, it is indeed
almost unbearable to have to single one out.
I want to specially congratulate the three Hamlet stars.
But, there is one star
that just kind of exploded, I think,
in heavens, and that is Nuha.
This is just crazy.
Get out there.
It's crazy. Someone pinch me!
Is Nuha your daughter? Many, many congratulations.
I have to say, I really hope she becomes an actor.
I think she's very remarkable.
She IS astonishing.
She's employable now.
She could be playing on that stage.
She could be on that stage right now.
I hope you'll give her the chance, cos she's very amazing.
Weirdly, I think the people
that dedicate themselves to the 400-year-old language
are the real rebels.
Because they dare to care.
When you have to speak verse,
it's impossible not to care about it.
The other things is,
it goes through you like a beat.
If you play Hamlet,
which is a 1,500-line part,
and you come off stage at 11 o'clock, and you think,
"Why do I feel like I'm in a club at 3am, without any drugs in me?"
Because of the beat of the verse.
Because it's a heartbeat that keeps you going,
and makes you excited.
You don't need to be an actor to feel that,
you just need to have some verse in your head, some verse memorised.
I think that this caricature
that is perpetrated by various parts of the media,
about how the youth of today don't know anything,
aren't interested in anything.
It's just rubbish, and it's not fair.
We saw nine children today,
representative of 2,000,
representative of untold thousands and thousands more
who actually appreciate words, and drama,
and the human story.
I thought it was really exhilarating, actually.
You're right, they were great.
That's it, the result of a year-long talent search,
and the wonderful final.
Please welcome back all of them on stage now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
William Shakespeare is hardly a name that you would expect to thrill Britain's teenagers, but over the last year thousands have taken part in a nationwide competition to learn some of his greatest speeches off by heart.
Now, nine finalists, aged between 13 and 15, and from all over the United Kingdom, are off to Stratford-upon-Avon to take part in a life changing series of workshops with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Over a single week, they learn how to perform some of Shakespeare's greatest soliloquies from Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and Hamlet, before taking part in a dramatically different and closely fought grand final, hosted by Jeremy Paxman, to find the BBC Shakespeare Schools Champion.