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Romeo and Juliet stars decry cuts to arts in education

Dyfan Dwyfor, James Cundall, Alexandra Dowling and Alexander Vlahos at the launch of Shakespeare's Rose Theatre in York. Photo: JMA Photography Dyfan Dwyfor, James Cundall, Alexandra Dowling and Alexander Vlahos at the launch of Shakespeare's Rose Theatre in York. Photo: JMA Photography
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Actors Alexander Vlahos and Alexandra Dowling have argued it is “more important than ever” to give children opportunities to see live theatre, in the face of cuts to the arts in education.

The pair are to play Romeo and Juliet in a production directed by Lindsay Posner at a new pop-up theatre in York, where four Shakespeare plays will be performed in repertory in a season running from June 25 to September 2.

Alexander Vlahos and Alexandra Dowling to star in Romeo and Juliet at pop-up York theatre

Producers at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre have put aside nine performances for children in the venue’s season, offering 9,000 seats priced at £10.

In addition, they have set up a Rose Bursary Scheme, with charitable donations so far paying for 2,000 tickets for schoolchildren from underprivileged backgrounds to see a show free of charge.

Dowling, whose credits include the BBC’s The Musketeers, told The Stage: “With cuts to drama lessons, I know so many kids aren’t even getting taught drama any more, and their only opportunity is to see it. I think that’s even more important than ever.”

She added: “It feeds into that whole elitist thing, where the only people who are accessing drama are people who can go to private schools. It won’t be cut from the private schools, but it will be from the state schools.”

Dowling said that she found it sad that some children only had the chance to study plays in English lessons at school, and not in drama, because some people “find that process quite dry”.

Versailles star Vlahos echoed her comments, adding: “Unless you have someone who is a fantastic English teacher to provide inspiration then it’s always going to fall on deaf ears. They will find it as a text-based work rather than a play, which is what it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be read, it’s supposed to be performed.”

Vlahos added: “Especially Shakespeare – Shakespeare can seem quite unattainable [at school], but this will be really accessible.”

Producer of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, James Cundall of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, agreed that there are currently not enough opportunities for school children to see live theatre.

He told The Stage: “It’s incredibly important. Every child at the moment is spending six hours a day on that shit you call an iPhone, being seduced by Facebook and all these other things, but I think if you can get them to see something live, how wonderful is that.”

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