Bard far from boring for these budding artists

Primary school students have perfect pitch when it comes to making prize-winning films, writes Jim Griffiths.

A group of six primary aged students sitting around a large table holding swords and poison.
Image: Where there's a Will: A scene from The Writer's Room

“You think it’s not going to be interesting, but it’s cool.” That’s how award-winning Year 4 student Daisy McLean describes Shakespeare.

Daisy was part of a team whose film, The Writers’ Room, recently won the Primary Film and Excellence in Performance category at the Bell Shakespeare Shorts Festival.

The group effort involved budding actors Daisy, her sister Georgia, twins Piper and Lilia Buhagiar, all from Cronulla South Public, and Toby and Isla McAlary from Robertson Public, with filming and editing provided by Port Hacking High School English and drama teacher James Cameron.

The Writers’ Room depicts the efforts of the students pitching story ideas to a very difficult-to-please director – played perfectly by Mr Cameron’s four-year-old daughter Charlotte.

Their pitches make light of several well-known Shakespearean plays, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and the Comedy of Errors – the latter being dismissed by the young director as too confusing due its multiple sets of twins.

The competition winner was a collective effort, that involved input from parents and students, with the ultimate aim of showing young people that Shakespeare is, at heart, a bunch of fun characters and great stories.

Mr Cameron said even his young daughter Charlotte was now engaged with Shakespeare’s stories, not realising the 16th century playwright had a reputation for being difficult for young modern audiences.

“My high school students also loved the film, and are now really into Shakespearean story lines to the point that they want to enter the competition next year,” he said.

Filmed just before lockdown, the award announcement was made just after gatherings were allowed again, giving the Cronulla South girls a chance to hold a red-carpet event (with pizza) at home.

“It was the first time we were able to be together, and when they announced our names we were so proud,” said Piper.

The six primary students – and young Charlotte – will receive acting classes with Bell Shakespeare as part of their prize packages.

As for a final word on Shakespeare, Lilia said: “If there are kids who think Shakespeare is boring, they just have to watch our film, because Shakespeare is funny, dramatic and inspiring.”

You can view the The Writers’ Room on the Bell Shakespeare website.

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