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How It Works

How it works?

We provide all the resources you need in order to help your school put on a Shakespeare performance in a professional theatre.

The process is simple. We’ll guide you every step of the way, so whether you’re experienced in drama or have never directed a play before, you’ll have support and guidance from the first step to the final curtain.

A brief overview of the six stages of taking part in Shakespeare Schools Festival is below, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.


6 easy steps to begin the journey

Step 1 - Register your School

The Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSF SA) is an opportunity for your young adults to make their theatre debut on a professional stage in a non-competitive environment. We provide the scripts, resources, training and framework you need to direct Shakespeare with your students.

Step 2 - Pick your Play

We provide 21 abridged Shakespeare plays, including 9 that have been specially abridged for Primary Schools (indicated with an* next to the play titles below), so you can choose the script that best suits you and your students.

Step 3 - Get Resources

Once you have Registered you will receive an email containing all the rehearsal resources you need to take your production from the page to the stage. In time we will provide a login for you on this website via which you can access these resources and the SSF SA community for support from fellow participants, so watch this space.

Step 4 - Teacher Workshops

SSF SA offers teachers an exciting opportunity to experience being a director. The workshop imparts directorial techniques designed to make Shakespeare accessible and exciting to your young cast.

Step 5 - Your cast attend a Cast Workshop

We’ll match you up with another local school for a half-day pupils workshop with theatre professionals. This workshop includes work on storytelling, character, voice, ensemble building and staging techniques; your students will leave feeling inspired and excited about their Performance Day.

Step 6 - Your cast perform!

Its showtime! Each school arrives at the theatre early for technical and dress rehearsal with the venue’s professional technicians to prepare for the ultimate adventure in learning, alongside 3 local participating schools.

Play Synopses


A Midsummer Night’s Dream*

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Lysander and Hermia are in love but they flee Athens because Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius. Helena is in love with Demetrius so tells him of the flight to win favour. Both follow the lovers into the forest where Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the Fairies, are feuding. Oberon orders Puck to use a love potion on Demetrius so that he will fall in love with Helena but Puck mistakenly anoints Lysander’s and Demetrius’ eyes and both fall in love with Helena. Meanwhile, in another part of the wood, craftsmen are rehearsing a play and Puck fixes an ass’s head on one named Bottom with whom Titania, under the influence of the potion, falls in love. After much confusion harmony is restored, and the play is performed at the multiple wedding of the Duke and the four young lovers.


As You Like It*

“All the world’s a stage, and all the

men and women merely players…”

Duke Frederick overthrows Duke Senior and exiles him. Oliver plots to kill his brother Orlando, who falls in love with Rosalind, Senior’s daughter, and flees to the Forest of Arden. Rosalind disguises herself as a man called Ganymede and also escapes to Arden with her cousin Celia, daughter to Frederick. There Ganymede meets Orlando and agrees to help him win Rosalind’s love. Orlando sees Oliver being hunted by a lion and rescues him. Wounded, Orlando cannot visit Ganymede and sends his brother instead, who falls in love with Celia. Ganymede reveals herself as Rosalind and all ends well.


Measure for Measure

Venice is out of control. Its ruler, Duke Vicentio, hands over power to the morally upright Angelo and pretends to leave for Poland. In reality the Duke, disguised as a friar, remains in Venice to see whether Angelo is successful at installing law and order. Over-zealous Angelo instantly imposes the death sentence on Claudio for getting his girlfriend, Juliet, pregnant. Claudio’s sister, Isabella, a novice in a convent, is sent to Angelo to beg for mercy. Angelo offers to spare Claudio if she will sleep with him. Isabella refuses until the Duke, still in disguise, persuades her to agree to the deal and to send (under cover of darkness) Angelo’s ex-girlfriend, Mariana, in her place for the so-called ‘bed trick’. After the event, to cover his tracks, Angelo orders Claudio’s execution and Claudio is only saved by a cunning plan to swap Claudio’s head for that of a robber who had conveniently died that same morning. Isabella finally exposes Angelo’s treachery and, as a punishment, Angelo is forced to marry Mariana. The play ends with the Duke proposing to Isabella.


Much Ado About Nothing

 “O God, sir, she’s a dish I love not!”

Benedick and Beatrice have a love-hate relationship. Beatrice’s cousin Hero loves Benedick’s best friend Claudio. But before the wedding Don John arranges events so that Claudio believes Hero has been unfaithful and he spurns her at the altar. She faints and her father Leonato pretends she is dead. When Claudio discovers the accusation against Hero was false, he is grief-stricken. As punishment, Leonato orders him to marry his niece. He agrees and is married to a masked Hero. Benedick proposes to Beatrice.


The Merchant of Venice

 “The quality of mercy is not strain’d.”

Bassanio gets his merchant friend Antonio to borrow money from Jewish money lender Shylock so that he can woo Portia. Shylock agrees, but on the condition that if Antonio cannot repay him by a set date, he can take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. When Antonio’s ships are lost at sea, Shylock demands his compensation. Disguised as a lawyer, Portia successfully argues against Shylock taking his pound of flesh.


The Taming of the Shrew*

“For I am he am born to tame you Kate…”

Many men try to woo Bianca, the youngest daughter of the wealthy Baptista Minola but he insists that his elder daughter, Katherina, is married first. So suitors Gremio and Hortensio encourage Petruchio, in search of a rich wife, to take on the notoriously difficult ‘Kate’. There is an instant, fiery attraction, and Kate agrees to the marriage. Once married Petruchio sets out to tame her by being more awkward than she is. Lucentio finally wins Bianca’s hand only to discover she is now less obedient than her sister.


The Tempest*

“Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.”

The Duke of Milan, now Prospero, has been overthrown by his brother Antonio and Alonso, King of Naples. He now rules a desolate island with powerful magic. When his enemies sail nearby, he creates a storm to wash them onto the island. Shipwrecked on another part of the island are Alonso’s son, Ferdinand, and several reprobates who tempt Island creature Caliban to kill Prospero. Believing Ferdinand to be dead, Antonio encourages Sebastian to kill his brother Alonso so that he can become King of Naples. With the help of Ariel, the island spirit, Prospero foils their plans; Ferdinand and Miranda agree to marry; and Prospero forgives all.


The Winter’s Tale*

“Tis time; descend; be stone no more…”

Leontes of Sicilia wrongly believes his wife Hermione and his friend Polixenes are having an affair. Polixenes escapes, and Hermione dies in jail. New-born daughter Perdita is abandoned to a foreign country and found by a shepherd who takes care of her. Sixteen years later Perdita, unaware of her birth-right, falls in love with Polixenes’ son and they elope to Sicilia. Reunited with the repentant Leontes, they visit a statue of Hermione. When the statue moves they discover that Hermione is alive. Leontes is reunited with wife, daughter and best friend.


Twelfth Night*

“If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it.”

Viola’s ship is wrecked, apparently killing her twin brother. She disguises herself as a man (Cesario) to join Duke Orsino’s service. Cesario is tasked with making Olivia fall in love with the Duke but Olivia falls in love with Cesario. To make matters worse, Viola has fallen in love with Orsino, although he still believes that she is a man. Viola’s twin brother is found alive and falls in love with Olivia. The comedy ends happily with marriages galore.


All’s Well That Ends Well

Orphaned Helena, a gentlewoman in the household of the Countess of Rousillion, is in love with the Countess’ son, Bertram. When she cures the King from a terminal illness he allows her to marry the man of her choice. The reluctant Bertram resists and leaves to fight in Italy. He says he will only accept Helena if she becomes pregnant with his child. Helena goes to Italy in disguise and tricks Bertram into sleeping with her by pretending to be Diana whom Bertram is trying to seduce. Helen’s subsequent pregnancy leaves Bertram no option and he promises to be a faithful husband to her.


Henry V

 “Cry ‘God for Harry! England and Saint George!’”

A playboy prince in earlier plays, young Henry V has suddenly grown up and is intent upon reviving his claim to the French throne. So when Louis, the French dauphin prince, sends him a present of tennis balls, it is the excuse Henry has been looking for and he leads his country to war to avenge the insult. But war is ugly and Henry admits that even he cannot prevent his men committing atrocities. With clever strategy and against all odds, the foot-sore British defeat the French, and Henry marries the French princess, Katherine.


Richard III*

“I am determined to prove a villain.”

Richard’s brother Edward, the king, is dying. Intent on the throne, and encouraged by his cousin Buckingham, Richard has his older brother Clarence murdered, and marries Anne, the widow of the late Prince of Wales. When King Edward dies, Richard is forced to murder Edward’s sons – the little princes in the tower. Buckingham’s hesitancy at this point signs his death warrant. Richard arranges for Anne to die so that he can marry Edward’s daughter Elizabeth, betrothed to the Earl of Richmond. But Richmond leads an army against Richard. On the eve of battle, the ghosts of Richard’s victims visit him and forecast his demise. During the battle, Richard is killed by Richmond, who is crowned King Henry VII and marries Elizabeth.



“… blood will have blood.”

Macbeth and Banquo meet three witches who tell Macbeth he will be King. Macbeth is spurred on to murder the king, Duncan, with the help of Lady Macbeth and is crowned King. When Banquo becomes suspicious, Macbeth orders his death and that of his son Fleance, who escapes. Unsettled, Macbeth revisits the witches who tell him to fear “no man born of woman”. As Duncan’s son Malcolm raises an army against Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, overcome with guilt, takes her own life. In the final battle, Macbeth meets Macduff, a man “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb, who kills Macbeth and Malcolm is crowned King.


Antony & Cleopatra*

“O, never was there queen

so mightily betrayed.”

The Roman Empire is ruled by a triumvirate of Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus but Antony (a married man) is criticised for spending his time in Egypt with the beautiful Cleopatra. When Antony returns to Rome for his wife’s funeral he is forced to marry Caesar’s sister, Octavia, whom he uses as his emissary whilst sneaking back to Egypt to be with Cleopatra. Caesar, incensed, wages war on Antony who ignores advice from friend Enobarbus not to fight the Romans at sea. The battle is lost when Cleopatra leaves with her fleet. Enobarbus deserts Antony for Caesar and dies of grief when a repentant Antony sends his treasure after him. To test Antony’s love, Cleopatra fakes her own death. Antony takes his own life and dies in her arms. Cleopatra, now Caesar’s prisoner, fears being led in triumph, and has venomous snakes smuggled in a basket of figs. She and her maids all die from their bites.



“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll

catch the conscience of the King.”

Following the death of his father and the swift marriage of his uncle Claudius to his mother Gertrude, Hamlet sees his father’s ghost who confirms that Claudius murdered him. Intent on revenge, Hamlet fakes madness to confuse the court but accidentally kills Ophelia’s father. Ophelia, in love with Hamlet, loses her wits and drowns. Her brother, Laertes, at the instigation of Claudius, challenges Hamlet to a duel using a poison-tipped sword. When Hamlet’s mother is poisoned by a drink meant for her son, Laertes strikes Hamlet in the confusion. Hamlet kills Laertes and has final revenge on Claudius, before he too dies.


Julius Caesar*

“The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones.”

Senators fear Julius Caesar wants to be King and plot to kill him, persuading his friend Brutus to join them. Ignoring the warnings of a sooth-sayer and of his wife, Caesar goes to the Senate where he is indeed murdered. Mark Antony, Caesar’s friend, persuades Brutus to allow him to speak at the funeral at which he stirs the crowd to unleash civil war. In the final battle between Antony and Caesar’s nephew on the one side, and Brutus and Cassius on the other, Brutus and Cassius kill themselves before they can be captured.


King Lear

“Nothing will come of nothing…”

Lear decides to relinquish his crown and divide Britain amongst his three daughters.When his favourite, Cordelia, fails to declare her love publicly, he disinherits her and banishes old Kent for protesting. Daughters Goneril and Regan and their husbands, Albany and Cornwall, inherit. Edmund, the Earl of Gloucester’s illegitimate son, deceives his father into believing that his legitimate son, Edgar, plots against him. Edgar is disinherited and flees. Goneril and Regan force Lear, his Fool and loyal Kent in disguise out into a storm. In a hovel they meet Edgar in the guise of a mad beggar. Lear’s sanity cracks. Gloucester hopes to reunite Lear with the good Cordelia, but is betrayed by Edmund to Regan who cuts out his eyes. Edgar, disguising his voice, guides his blind father towards Cordelia’s army at Dover. The repentant fathers and wronged children are reconciled before Lear and Cordelia are captured, and sentenced to death by Edmund. Edmund is fatally wounded by a disguised Edgar. Goneril and Regan, both in love with Edmund, end their lives. Lear emerges with the hanged Cordelia and dies of grief.



“O beware, my lord, of jealousy…”

Othello, Commander of the Venetian army, promotes Cassio over Iago. Iago plots to have his revenge by convincing Othello that his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful with Cassio. Iago gets his wife Emilia to steal a handkerchief from Desdemona and he drops it in Cassio’s quarters. For Othello, Cassio’s possession of the handkerchief is final proof of Desdemona’s infidelity, and he smothers her with a pillow. Too late, Emilia admits the truth. Iago, furious, stabs Emilia and is arrested. Unable to live with his mistake, Othello takes his own life.


Romeo & Juliet*

“My only love sprung from my only hate…”

The Capulets and the Montagues are arch enemies. Romeo Montague falls in love with Juliet, Capulet’s daughter, and they are married in secret. Soon after, Juliet discovers her father plans to marry her to Paris. To help her escape, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a potion to make her appear dead for 48 hours, and sends word to Romeo of the plan. But the message does not reach Romeo, who assumes she has died and buys poison to die beside her. Juliet awakes, realises the plan has gone tragically wrong, and stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger. The families are finally reunited by their grief.