BBC Off By Heart Shakespeare schools contest

Teenagers from around the UK will be taking part this autumn in a national contest for secondary schools as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Season.  Students aged 13 – 15 will learn and perform a famous speech from one of Shakespeare’s plays such as Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.

Places are available to take part in the regional heats being staged in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester, and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.  Schools can nominate up to three of their students to take part.

The contest is designed to get youngsters up on their feet performing and enjoying Shakespearean language.  It is hoped it will encourage an appreciation of the relevance of his work and its lessons in human nature.

Dame Helen Mirren says:  “I am very excited about the Off by Heart competition.  We will be seeing our next generation of great classical actors and on the way, many young people will discover for themselves the treasure of Shakespeare.  It is through performance that the words leap into life.

“It was through a small competition in my school that my appetite for Shakespeare was awakened, which lead me into my profession. I am sure this competition will do the same for some young actors.”

Schools are invited to register their interest now at  The closing date for nominations is the end of July 2011.

Those students successfully nominated will attend a regional heat, and workshop, delivered in collaboration with the Shakespeare Schools Festival.  It will be a fantastic opportunity to work with both professional actors and skilled teachers.

The panel of judges (to be announced) will select nine finalists to compete in a televised Grand Final for BBC Two hosted by the RSC in the newly reopened Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in January 2012 which will be shown as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Season.