The spectacle might have seemed incongruous to many diehard Shakespeareophiles (Shakespeare made up words, so I guess he’d forgive me for that one) as characters from another age descended on Canowindra High School in the state’s Central West last term to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.
The pageant was acted out in a small rural town known for its veranda posts and balloon fests rather than its adherence to high art forms. Nevertheless, fair maids, gentlemen of the yeomanry, Shakespearean characters, Elizabethan peasants and nobles and members of the clergy were all represented, with students and staff getting into the spirit of things.
An ongoing quiz leading up to the big day gave everyone a taste of jolly olde England in the 16th and 17th centuries. As every teacher knows, prizes are a great motivator! In the final week of term all faculties turned towards Shakespeare and lessons took on an Elizabethan slant.
When the big day finally arrived the costumes were amazing. A concert highlighted the talents of students and allowed everyone to strut their stuff on the fashion catwalk. The school captains then solemnly cut the cake while everyone wished the old bard many happy returns.
Hope that Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), who was actually filming a movie in Canowindra on the day, would be present at the ceremonial cutting of the cake were dashed when he sent his apologies. He didn’t know what he was missing!
Even the canteen got on board and provided shepherd’s pie, chicken drumsticks and toffee apples. The afternoon consisted of popular 16th century sports — though we drew the line at bear-baiting.
On a more serious note, it was so encouraging to see the whole school in a state of Elizabethan enthusiasm. It was not just a celebration of an important birthday, it was also a celebration of public education and community spirit. I’m looking forward to Will’s 451st.
Judy Reynolds is a teacher-librarian at Canowindra High School.