Birmingham & Black Country

David Harewood give students a Shakespearean experience

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Media captionActor David Harewood has five days to take a group of inner city teenagers and turn them into Shakespearean actors.

He may have never worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), but British actor David Harewood has it as one of his ambitions.

Mr Harewood describes performing Shakespeare's work as a "profound experience" and recently used one of the bard's plays to help inspire pupils at his former school in Birmingham.

The 46-year-old knows only too well that it was acting that gave him a focus in life, and is grateful to a former teacher for helping him.

He said: "I was a real pain. I was constantly messing around and had too much energy.

"I never wanted to sit still so I was very lucky Eric Reader saw in me this talent for performance and steered me in the right direction."

Role models

Mr Harewood returned to Washwood Heath Technology College with the aim of transforming a group of inner city teenagers into Shakespearean actors.

He had just five days with the students to prepare them for a performance of a scene from Macbeth at the RSC's Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Having started with 25 pupils, the number was whittled down to just eight, and things did not always go according to plan.

"I kept losing them to exams," the actor continued.

"I kept feeling bad because there was me trying to tell them to learn this scene and at the same time they had to revise.

"I was really encouraged by the effort all of them put in."

Mr Harewood, famed for his roles in television shows like Homeland and Robin Hood, received an MBE earlier this year and believes he is among the role models for a new generation.

"I feel the cold hand of respectability descending upon me.

Image caption Students went from rehearsing at school to performing at The Swan Theatre

"When I was growing up and watching TV there weren't many black faces that I could look at who could inspire me.

"Kids growing up here can turn their TVs on and see artists like Wretch 32 or Bashy or me and really can see that they can breakthrough and make it in this country.

"I hope I inspire a generation of young British kids to break the ceiling and go for it."

As for Shakespeare, Mr Harewood wants the way it is taught in schools to change.

"It's unfortunate we have to cram it in to the normal school curriculum.

"It's a completely different experience when you get to read and perform it because you have to take it into your soul.

"You have to take it into your imagination, spin it around your mind and spit it back out again as a character."

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