Belfast Telegraph

Once more unto the breach... Amy bids for victory in Shakespeare final

By Amanda Poole

To be or not to be? That is the question which will be answered this Saturday, when TV viewers find out if a Co Down schoolgirl has has triumphed in the first national Shakespeare recital contest for teenagers.

Amy McAteer (15), from Holywood, is a GCSE pupil at Sullivan Upper and got involved in the ‘Off By Heart Shakespeare’ competition through school.

“A notice about the competition came around our English class and I thought, ‘Why not?’” she said.

“I’ve always liked acting, and I’ve been in every school play since first year, but I didn’t think I was any good at it.”

From more than 2,000 teenagers across the UK, Amy was selected as one of nine finalists to perform the words of William Shakespeare in front of a panel of esteemed judges and a live audience.

The keen speech and drama enthusiast had to recite a speech from either Romeo and Juliet or Henry V for actor and director Samuel West, actress and playwright Imogen Stubbs, and historian Simon Schama.

Amy has been polishing her performance with help from voice coaches, movement experts and theatre directors from the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the Bard’s home of Stafford-Upon-Avon.

Off By Heart Shakespeare, part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Unlocked season, is presented by tough-talking interviewer Jeremy Paxman.

“He’s lovely and not as scary as he looks on TV,” Amy said.

“The competition has given me new confidence and the workshop experiences made me think about what goes into a performance.

“I now think about the moment and breathing. I’m definitely more aware now.”

Amy hopes to go to university once she’s finished school and although undecided about her future is seriously considering an acting career.

She said other young people should embrace Shakespeare and if they feel tempted by acting, they “should just go for it”.

“I’m thinking about acting a lot at the moment, so who knows,” said Amy.

“Anyone can do it. It can be difficult, but when you put effort in it’s great. People should just go for it.”

Only three people go forward to deliver the most famous soliloquy in the English language — To be or not to be, from Hamlet — before one winner is declared.

To find out how Amy gets on, watch BBC2, at 9pm on Saturday.

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