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Our Theatre and Performance degree students recently staged an original production called, Still Roarin’, at the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, as part of the partnership between the venue and University Centre St Helens.

This performance was the first time a university or college has performed in the cockpit theatre, and the audience was thoroughly captivated by the thought-provoking piece. In attendance were friends and family of the students, local theatre enthusiasts, and staff from University Centre St Helens, including Principal, Simon Pierce, and Chair of Governors, Bill Nixon.

The production has been in development since September 2022 and explored the roles and perceptions of women in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The original contexts of pieces such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” were challenged, and were effectively re-imagined through a modern lens, examining inherent themes of misogyny, inequality and abuse.

A key element of the performance was the role of the audience in challenging harmful behaviours and themes that are considered “traditional,” with the performers encouraging the audience to question the choice to accept and romanticise these stories as they are, and instead consider the ways contemporary works can be adapted for modern theatre.

The performance had an unconventional beginning, as the students formed a flash mob and performed an original musical piece. The audience were then invited to take their seats surrounding the Cockpit stage, as the performers blurred the lines between reality and performance, playing the roles of a theatre company staging an upcoming production.

Early scenes examined the ways women and minorities are marginalised, with key roles in the production being given to men, and the opinions of female members of the company being disregarded. Following this, the students performed scenes from traditional Shakespeare plays, both in their original context and with a modern twist. Romeo and Juliet became a cautionary tale warning against grooming, and Hamlet was performed as a powerful interpretive dance.

Evonne Bixter, Head of Engagement at Shakespeare North Playhouse, said: “It was wonderful to see the students performing their own devised piece on our Cockpit stage. We are keen for education providers to see Shakespeare North Playhouse as a local resource that they can engage with throughout the academic year to provide unique, inspiring and enriching experiences for their students.

“University Centre St Helens has fully embraced this approach since we opened just six months ago, and we are excited to see what the future holds for this great partnership.”

Proud Theatre and Performance Lecturer, Rebekka, who has worked with the students throughout the development of Still Roarin’, said: “Planning a production of this scale was a challenge, but the students worked tremendously hard and pulled it together on show day. The students were ecstatic that we were the first university to be able to perform in such an incredible and intimate space.

“The students conducted research on feminist movements and began questioning the representation of women in early modern plays, and began drawing connections between the issues that those characters faced and that women still experience today. The live music numbers were a great addition that our talented students wrote the lyrics for, the powerful words from the script they wrote and the technical elements that accompanied the performance worked in unison to drive the message home to the audience.”

If you are interested in studying Theatre and Performance with us, check out our dedicated page here.

Still Roarin' - Shakespeare North