A mother and son are taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s works to write poetry and develop acting skills, thanks to 1623 theatre company, a local grants scheme and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Budding actor Darius Cranston was just 13 when he successfully auditioned for a place on 1623's new trainee actors course at QUAD in Derby before receiving a grant from the local Helping Hand Scheme to fund it.
Going along to a 1623 event at QUAD with her son last month inspired Cheryl Herbert (52) to try writing a sonnet, which has since been chosen to be read at the Stratford-on-Avon Poetry Festival at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Cheryl, of Nottingham Road, Spondon, said: “As a single mum on benefits it can be hard to find the money for Darius to pursue his ambitions in acting, but then I found out that there was some funding available for youngsters living in council accommodation."
The Helping Hand Scheme provides grants to support young people who have a skill, talent or interest, but need a bit of help to develop it.
Darius started performing in school plays at Asterdale Primary School. He has also appeared with Derby Youth Theatre, The Good Companions Society and at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre in a play called Gargantua commissioned by the National Theatre.
When Darius, now 14 and a pupil at West Park School, heard that 1623 was inviting applications for its first-ever course for trainee actors he was keen to try for a place.
Darius performed a speech by Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for his audition. Ava Scott, 1623 trainees coordinator, said: “He really impressed us. We were unanimous that he showed real promise and wanted to offer him a place. He’s the youngest trainee on the course and has lots of energy.”
Darius said: “It’s been great fun and I have learned so much. So far I’ve tried out scenes and speeches from lots of Shakespeare’s plays. I've even played Macbeth with bloody hands and Hamlet with a skull!"
It was at the 1623 Winter Gathering at QUAD that Cheryl saw a sheet explaining how a Shakespearean sonnet is constructed.
She explained: “I just took myself off into a corner and thought I'd see if I could write one. I didn’t intend to show it to anyone. But Ben saw me writing it and asked if he could read it. Later he sent it to Marion Fleetwood from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Poetry Festival who has now asked if it can be read at the event this summer. I was completely shocked."
Marion said: "It's a pleasure to be able to include Cheryl's sonnet in a performance as part of our festival. It is a special year for the Poetry Festival as we celebrate our 60th anniversary, and Cheryl's sonnet, written quietly in a corner but expressing beautifully the cycle of the year, fits extremely well with our theme of time and place.
“As it will be included in a performance, Cheryl's sonnet will take its place in our archive alongside letters from Oscar Wilde, original manuscripts by Marie Correlli and of course our very own copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623.”
How do the seasons meld to make the year?
Combine and flow from death to life again.
When summer's gone, does autumn shed a tear?
Does winter sing to spring a soft refrain?
For winter harbours dark, depressing morn
Yet sprinkled white from heav'n to coat bare land.
Then up from this, spring bursts with life reborn
Of maiden blooms that make a happy band.
But still to come is summer all aglow
Radiant in her glory, shining so strong
Stretching her arms across her Earth below
Enveloping the world with days so long.
And then to autumn, shedding leaves abound
Again the seasons start the year around.
Notes to editors
More photographs are available on request