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More Than 26,000 Students Around the UK Log On to First Live ReadThrough Event

ReadThrough offers online play readings and school workshops.

More Than 26,000 Students Around the UK Log On to First Live ReadThrough Event

More than 26,000 students logged on for the first-ever live ReadThrough event held on Thursday 11th Feb, with a cast including Joe Lycett, Pearl Mackie, Remmie Milner and Esther Smith performing Macbeth to aide student's comprehension of the curriculum text.

ReadThrough was set up by a group of professionals from television, film and theatre and launched earlier this week, offering online play readings and school workshops designed to improve the comprehension of exam-body English plays for students across the UK, with a particular focus on students from less privileged backgrounds.

The team were inundated with sign-ups for the first live reading, with 624 schools signing up (students had to sign up via their schools for safeguarding and performance rights purposes). The organisation will hold regular live readings as well as running tailored workshops for individual schools, and the next live reading, of Romeo & Juliet, will take place in March with Simon Callow among the cast.

The cast for Macbeth were: Nari Blair-Mangat (Macbeth), Pearl Mackie (Lady Macbeth), Esther Smith (Malcolm / Second Witch), Remmie Milner (Banquo / Gentlewoman / Siward), Josh Williams (Macduff / Third Witch / Murderer / Messenger), Alasdair Buchan (Duncan, Lennox, Doctor), Edward Franklin (First witch / Ross / Seyton) and Caitlin Albery Beavan (stage directions), with a special appearance from Joe Lycett as The Porter. The reading was directed by award-winning director Hannah Price.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on both education and the arts. With the UK in lockdown many students are now struggling with studying at home and any access that previously existed to live, in-person learning, either at a theatre or via theatre-in-education, has been impeded. ReadThrough is built on the belief that seeing a story brought to life enriches the learning process and gives far greater insight into themes, context and characters within the text. The team behind ReadThrough have seen first-hand how the live reading of exam texts can enhance students' understanding of curriculum texts and enrich their learning experience.

Theatre can be inaccessible to some, not least during a pandemic, and ReadThrough wants to help level the playing field regardless of a school or student's personal circumstances, supporting their progress in English, Drama and other relevant studies. ReadThrough will work with schools across the country to offer full readings of curriculum texts, performed live via digital platforms for as many students as possible, using professional actors and directors. The organisation also offers bespoke workshop sessions where they can take over English/Drama lessons and concentrate on a selection of scenes with the students that are performed, dissected and discussed, and there is the additional possibility for students to read in for parts. The team ran a bespoke workshop for Morpeth School in East London this week, featuring Kellie Shirley (In The Long Run, Death in Paradise), Alasdair Buchan, Edward Franklin, Anne Odeke, and Nari Blair-Mangat.

ReadThrough will bring together a diverse range of talent to participate in their workshops. Some of the core actors who will be regularly participating include: Esther Smith (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre & Apple TV+'s Trying), Nari Blair-Mangat (Macbeth, Manchester International Festival / Park Avenue Armoury, New York - winner of the Ian Charleson Award commendation), Alasdair Buchan (An Inspector Calls, UK tour, Richard III, West End), Edward Franklin (Valhalla, Netflix & Shakespeare In Love, Noel Coward Theatre), Elisabeth Hopper (BBC's Ghosts, Theatre Royal Haymarket's The Tempest alongside Ralph Fiennes) and Mark Weinman (The Salisbury Poisonings, I May Destroy You).

ReadThrough has also received the support of a number of high-profile figures from across the industry, including Dame Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Simon Callow, Amma Asante and Shazad Latif.

On the launch of ReadThrough, Dame Emma Thompson said: 'As remote learning has become a necessity of our current situation, I can think of no better or more engaging use of it than what ReadThrough are doing. With this in mind, I whole-heartedly endorse ReadThrough's mission - that if schools can't go to the theatre, then they will bring the theatre to them, regardless of the school they attend or the part of the country they live in.' Stephen Fry added: 'Sometimes you hear about an idea and you find the only correct response is to smack your forehead. Of course! ReadThrough is just such a winner of an idea. Please do everything you can to help us all make ReadThrough a living reality.' Amma Asante commented: 'I'm delighted to voice my support for ReadThrough, a fantastic idea that can hopefully help inspire students without access to theatre and live performance. I know from my own childhood how vital it is to see texts brought to life by readings and performance, and I sincerely hope ReadThrough will offer young people a way to enjoy and better comprehend the texts they're studying.'

ReadThrough has received an initial tranche of funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which will allow them to offer their services to of some of the most disadvantaged comprehensive schools for free. However, they continue to seek funding so that they can roll out the programme to many more schools across the UK. As well as seeking funding from companies, funds and benefactors they have launched a KickStarter campaign open to the general public. As a gift, some of the KickStarter tier levels allow the donor to nominate a school for ReadThrough to work with.

In addition to helping students, ReadThrough will provide paid opportunities for actors, many of whom have struggled due to the pandemic's effect on their industry.

The ReadThrough founders said: "We have been overwhelmed by the level of interest, which has been quite something for our small team to manage. To have more than 26,000 students and teachers tuning in was incredibly exciting, and the feedback we have already received from students and schools has been phenomenal. Our aim is to hold regular live readings for all students to attend as they please, and we hope to raise enough money to run individual workshops for as many schools as possible."

To support the ReadThrough Kickstarter campaign, click here.

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