Armidale students excelled at the Seymour Centre in Sydney earlier this month at the state finals of the Shakespeare Carnival, taking last minute COVID-19 hurdles in their stride.
Students from both The Armidale School and PLC Armidale returned with accolades for their dance, drama and music performances.
Alongside dozens of other performers from schools across the state, the students were impressive at the event and workshops run by Sport for Jove Theatre Co.
PLC Armidale attended accompanied by principal Mrs Nicola Taylor, drama and dance specialist Jo Wysel and acting music director Sam Jacometti.
"Despite being one of the smaller schools taking part in the carnival we had one of the larger teams participating across four sections in what was a very competitive field of entries this year," Mrs Taylor said.
PLC Year 9 student Arlie Bragg won the music section while Catie Alcorn, Annabel Kaberry and Fifi Imberger placed second in the dance section.
Arlie's composition was inspired by Helena's experience of feeling mocked by her friends in the 'A Midsummer Night's Dream Act III' where Demetrius joins Lysander in declaring their love to Helena due to Puck's potion. Arlie's song reflects how Helena feels.
The win was particularly impressive given Arlie could only send in a recording of her performance after testing COVID-19 positive on the morning of the workshops.
Taking top drama honours were TAS students Felicity Barton and Meave Churchyard, who won the duologue section for their excerpt from 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'. The duo were also awarded the performance of the carnival.
The pair say they were surprised by the win, given they selected their piece just two days before the regional qualifier after Meave contracted COVID-19.
"We chose this particular comic dialogue as it gave us an opportunity to integrate modern day behaviour into Shakespearean language," Meave said.
"The obnoxious gossiping from the two women offered a unique perspective and being fun and lighthearted we could play around with it."
Felicity said the workshop the pair did at the regional carnival with Christopher Tomkinson (Carnival Director) really helped them expand on their ideas.
"From there we played with new ways to do things," she said.
"We couldn't believe it when at the state finals we discovered another duo was doing the same scene but our interpretation was quite different and while we did not think we were going to win, we trusted our piece and were just overjoyed to win. Then to be recognised as the judge's favourite performance of the day was just extra special."
Rather than being alienated by Shakespearean language, the Shakespeare Carnival succeeds in making the work of the Bard more accessible and fun, Felicity said.
"You get to unpack the "truth" behind his words, understanding where the characters are coming from, even when they seem to be behaving incredibly crazy and irrational," she said.
Meanwhile an original music composition performed by TAS students Noushi Byrne, Essie Lindeman, Jasper O'Neil, Grace Thompson and Harry Turnbull, inspired by 'The Taming of the Shrew', received a standing ovation and placed third.
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