STUDENTS turned into budding actors last month to celebrate one of the country’s finest playwrights.

Pupils from Appleshaw St Peter’s CE Primary School, Icknield School and Testbourne Community School took to the stage at The Lights to perform shortened versions of William Shakespeare plays.

The sessions were part of the world’s largest youth drama festival which was brought to Andover by the Shakespeare Schools Foundation (SSF).

On November 27 Appleshaw primary took on The Tempest, while Icknield performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Testbourne showcased Much Ado About Nothing.

Actor and comedian Hugh Dennis, a patron of SSF, said he is amazed by the impact of the festival.

He added: “The enjoyment the children who take part shows and the sense of confidence they gained from both performing and working with the words is palpable, and will surely help them both now and in later life.”

The students joined nearing 900 schools from around the country to perform in the annual festival, which sees young people take on the challenge of performing abridged Shakespeare plays on professional stages.

Up to 30,000 students performed in one of 128 professional theatres across the UK between October and December.

SSF says it targets students and communities who stand to benefit the most from engagement with the arts. Instilling self-esteem, communication and teamwork skills, students are prepared for the next stage in their lives.

The organisation’s coordinator for the south west added: “From über cool teenagers to overly excited eight-year-olds, there is a metamorphosis that occurs, creating dedicated, committed and focused professionals.”