Campion tops Shakespeare contest
"The world is a stage, and we are the players," wrote William Shakespeare many centuries ago.
This will become more than words for a drama teacher and several students of Campion College, who, by virtue of winning the JN Shakespeare Schools' Championship on Saturday at the Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew, will, next year, move on to the world stage at the Shakespeare Festival in the United Kingdom. A combined St Hugh's High and Kingston College were runners-up, performing Merchant of Venice. Campion performed one of Shakespeare's classic tragedies, Macbeth.
The high schools emerged from the semi-final round, held earlier in the day at the same venue, from a field of seven entrants Wolmer's Boys and Girls, the American International School of Kingston, Waterford High, Ardenne High, and Glenmuir High, completing the roster.
The finalists performed a second time, the evening session dubbed 'The JN School's Championship Final: An Evening of Excellence'. The winner was announced by compere Adrian Atkinson.
Damian Radcliffe, Campion College's drama teacher, said "We stuck to what the competition was about, which was to put it in a Jamaican setting and keeping the language. We had very strict guidelines: Keep it to the 30 minutes, not eliminating any of the language. So I felt we were stronger and we believed in ourselves and, of course, the immense talents."
Radcliffe said, "We will be tightening things up, making sure that we are clear in how we speak our language because clarity is important."
Macbeth was set in a garrison community with gangs fighting over turf. The play began with a street dance, with girls gyrating in fishnet stockings, shorts, and wigs as the three witches.
St Hugh's and Kingston College provided a sense of calm with a solid interpretation of Merchant of Venice. They adapted the conflict to that of one between Jamaican Christians and Rastafarians. Shylock the Jew was transformed into Shylock the Rasta Man.
Also, Portia as Miss Jamaica and her suitors, a Revival Shepherd and a DJ, illustrated thoughtfulness.
The decision to declare Campion College the winner was unanimous, said Chief Judge Eugene Williams in his report.
"This competition, as far as awards go, is about the winner. And as judges, our primary job was to decide on a winner, and it was a very difficult task because of the quality. [However] we ultimately arrived at a unanimous decision prior to our discussion, and after discussion," Williams said.
interesting range of interpretation
He lauded the students for making the language their own, while grappling with their own challenges such as giving it "a Jamaican interpretation". Williams added that the range of interpretation was very interesting to watch, likewise the use of space, interpretation of characters, and the use of stage. He classified the works done by the competing schools as interesting, outstanding, or admirable.
Conceptualiser of the Shakespeare Schools Championship, Dr Tony Sewell, told The Gleaner that the "judges judged wisely. We trust the judges' judgement. The judges chose the winner and I am happy with that".
He noted that the winners will need to put in a lot of work to perfect their play, "like any of the other schools if they had won. And we are going to work with them [Campion College] and support them in that. I think they already have the basis of a good play to work with."
And there was good news for all the participants, who will be invited to audition for a part in an upcoming Jamaican-style Hamlet movie. The audience was told this by Sewell, who recently lost his mother.
Dr RenÈe Rattray, director, Education Programme, Jamaica National Building Society, said she hoped that the students would make a commitment to remain part of the process.
The competition is part of the celebration of William Shakespeare's 400th birthday in 2016.