The world's largest youth drama festival

The Festival plays

Don't know your Banquo from your Bottom?

Don’t worry! The plot synopses below will tell you everything you need to know about the different plays that are being performed in the Festival.

Comedy

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    Comedy

    “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

    Demetrius and Lysander love Hermia, Hermia loves Lysander, Helena loves Demetrius and no-one loves Helena. All four flee to the woods when Hermia’s father and Duke Theseus order Hermia to marry Demetrius. There, Titania and Oberon, fairy monarchs, are quarrelling. Oberon orders his servant, Puck, to use a love potion to make Demetrius fall for Helena but, in the confusion, Puck causes Lysander and Demetrius to fall for Helena. Meanwhile, a band of labourers rehearsing a play become tangled-up in Oberon’s plot to make a fool of Titania. As dawn breaks, Oberon and Puck must sort everyone out…

  • As You Like It

    Comedy

    “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”

    Celia’s father, Duke Frederick, has overthrown cousin Rosalind’s father, Duke Senior, and exiled him and his men to the Forest of Arden. When Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind as well, Celia offers to go with her to the forest. For safety Rosalind disguises herself as a man called Ganymede. Orlando, with whom Rosalind is in love, also arrives in the forest, in flight from his murderous brother, Oliver. Naturally he does not recognise her, and ‘Ganymede’ offers to help him win Rosalind’s love. Meanwhile the shepherdess, Phebe, falls in love with ‘Ganymede’, spurning the attentions of Silvius. It falls to Rosalind to untangle the lovers and bring about a happy ending…

  • Measure for Measure

    Comedy

    “She speaks, and ’tis such sense, that my sense breeds with it.”

    Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, makes the straight-laced Angelo ruler of the city. Angelo orders Claudio’s execution for impregnating his girlfriend, Juliet. Isabella, Claudio’s sister, pleads to Angelo, but Angelo, desirous for Isabella, will only revoke the death sentence if she will sleep with him. Isabella refuses but meets a friar (actually Vincentio in disguise), who persuades her to send Angelo’s ex-girlfriend, Mariana, in her place. The bed-trick fools Angelo but he orders Claudio’s decapitation anyway. When Isabella hears of her brother’s execution she demands justice from the newly returned Duke Vincentio…

  • Much Ado About Nothing

    Comedy

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

    Beatrice and Benedick are lifelong adversaries but Don Pedro decides to trick the pair into believing each is in love with the other. Hero, Beatrice’s cousin, is engaged to Claudio, Benedick’s best friend. However Don John, Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother, orchestrates events, leading Claudio to believe he has seen Hero cheating on him. Claudio violently rejects Hero at the altar and she faints. Hero’s father, Leonato, pretends she has died, and when her name is cleared, Claudio is devastated. Meanwhile Beatrice accepts Benedick’s love on condition that he ‘kill Claudio’…

  • The Comedy of Errors

    Comedy

    “Am I in Earth, in Heaven, or in Hell?”

    Twin boys called Antipholus, from an aristocratic family, and twin boys called Dromio (their servants), were separated at a very young age when a storm wrecked their boat. A grown-up Antipholus and Dromio (who’ve lived most of their life in Syracuse) set out to find their brothers. After many years they arrive in Ephesus where they find themselves mistaken for inhabitants of that land. A day of farcical incidents of mistaken identity ensues…

  • The Merchant of Venice

    Comedy

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

    Bassanio gets his merchant friend, Antonio, to borrow money from Jewish moneylender Shylock to finance his courtship of Portia. Shylock sets one condition – if Antonio cannot pay him by a set date, he can take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Bassanio wins the hand of Portia but when Antonio’s ships are presumed lost at sea, Shylock demands the fatal compensation. Disguised as a lawyer and clerk, Portia and her maid Nerissa follow Bassanio to Venice, where Antonio’s case seems hopeless…

    Abridged by Sir Tom Stoppard

  • The Merry Wives of Windsor

    Comdey

    “Let’s consult together against this greasy knight.”

    Sir John Falstaff sets out to woo two married women, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. His intentions become known to the ‘merry wives’ and they set out to ridicule him by making him dress as a woman, and dumping him in the Thames in a laundry basket. Meanwhile the Pages’ daughter, Anne, is embroiled in a war of love with three men, each vying for her affections. A grand plan is hatched so that Anne Page can marry her true love, the merry wives keep their virtue, and Falstaff be roundly ridiculed…

  • The Taming of the Shrew

    Comedy

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

    Bianca’s wealthy father tells her many suitors that she may marry only when her elder sister, Katherina, has found a husband. 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. Petruchio sets about ‘taming’ her by being more awkward than she has ever been. Whether he succeeds is open to interpretation…

  • The Tempest

    Comedy

    “O brave new world…”

    Twelve years have passed since Prospero, previously Duke of Milan, was wrongfully usurped by his brother Antonio, and Alonso, King of Naples. When Prospero’s enemies sail by the island on which he and his daughter Miranda were shipwrecked, he conjures a storm. All are unharmed, but Alonso and his son Ferdinand are separated and assume each other dead. Antonio persuades Sebastian to attempt to murder his own brother, Alonso, thereby making Sebastian king of Naples. Meanwhile two drunken servants, Stephano and Trinculo, conspire with Caliban, an island creature, to usurp Prospero. With the aid of Ariel, a spirit, Prospero brings all characters together to orchestrate the ending…

  • The Winter’s Tale

    Comedy

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

    Leontes, King of Sicilia, is jealous and mistakenly accuses his pregnant wife, Hermione, of adultery with his friend Polixenes of Bohemia. Hermione gives birth in jail and appears to die of a broken heart when her new-born daughter, Perdita, and her son Mamilius are taken from her. Perdita is abandoned in Bohemia where she grows up a shepherd’s daughter and falls in love with Polixenes’ son, Florizel. Polixenes discovers and threatens Perdita with death. The young couple elope to Sicilia and seek shelter at the court of Leontes…

  • Twelfth Night

    Comedy

    “If music be the food of love, play on...”

    Twins, Viola and Sebastian, are separated when their ship is wrecked at sea. Viola, disguising herself as a man (Cesario), enters the service of Duke Orsino. She’s tasked with making the widow Olivia love Orsino, but Olivia falls for ‘Cesario’ whilst Viola falls for Orsino. Malvolio, a steward also in love with Olivia, is tricked by his “friends” into making a fool of himself. The chaos is finally untangled when Sebastian arrives and the truth becomes clear…

Tragedy

  • Antony & Cleopatra

    Tragedy

    “O, never was there queen so mightily betrayed.”

    The Roman Empire is ruled by three men, Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus. Antony’s adulterous affair with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, brings his loyalty into question, and Lepidus and Octavius Caesar fall out. When Antony’s wife dies, he marries Caesar’s sister, Octavia, and there’s temporary stability. But when Antony continues his affair with Cleopatra, Caesar wages war on Antony and the Egyptian navy is defeated. Finally, Cleopatra devises an ultimate test of Antony’s love…

  • Hamlet

    Tragedy

    “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

    Hamlet’s father is dead and his mother, Gertrude, has married his uncle Claudius. After encountering his father’s ghost, Hamlet is intent on vengeance against his father’s murderer, Claudius. Feigning madness, Hamlet commissions a play to lure Claudius into revealing his guilt. Polonius is killed by Hamlet, and Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest and Polonius’ daughter, loses her mind and drowns. Persuaded by Claudius, Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, challenges Hamlet to a rigged duel. To ensure Hamlet’s death, Claudius also prepares a poisoned cup of wine and the principal characters gather to watch the duel…

  • Julius Caesar

    Tragedy

    “The evil that men do lives after them…”

    Senators fear that Caesar wants to be king and destroy the republic. They persuade his friend Brutus to join a plot to kill him at the Senate. Ignoring the warnings of a sooth-sayer and his wife, Calpurnia, Caesar goes to the Senate where he is indeed murdered. Caesar’s friend, Mark Antony, persuades Brutus to let him speak at Caesar’s funeral where he stirs the crowd to civil war. Emotional strain leads Portia, Brutus’ wife, to commit suicide. Antony joins with Caesar’s nephew, Octavius, to crush the conspirators, who have fled Rome, and to prepare for the final battle…

  • King Lear

    Tragedy

    “Love, and be silent.”

    In return for a share of his kingdom, King Lear demands his daughters declare their love for him. His youngest, Cordelia, refuses to speak, is banished and travels to France with her fiancé, the King of France. The Duke of Kent, Lear’s friend, is exiled but remains at his side disguised as a servant. Gloucester’s illegitimate son, Edmund, tricks him into believing his legitimate son, Edgar, plans to murder him. Goneril and Regan, Lear’s eldest daughters, drive him onto a heath, where he meets Edgar, disguised as a madman, and finally cracks. The Duke of Gloucester is tortured for supporting Lear and led to Dover by Edgar, where their hopes rest on Cordelia’s waiting army...

  • Macbeth

    Tragedy

    “What’s done cannot be undone.”

    Macbeth and Banquo meet three witches who prophesise that Macbeth shall be king. Encouraged by his wife, Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan and is crowned King. Concerned that Banquo suspects him, Macbeth arranges for Banquo and his son Fleance to be assassinated but Fleance escapes. Fearful of discovery and deposition, Macbeth revisits the witches who convince him he is virtually invincible. Meanwhile, Malcolm, Duncan’s son, travels to England, raises an army and is joined by Macduff, a Scottish nobleman. Guilt-stricken, Lady Macbeth descends into madness as Malcolm’s army prepares to march on the castle…

  • Othello

    Tragedy

    “Oh beware, my lord, of Jealousy...”

    Iago, jealous because Othello has promoted Cassio over himself, discloses Othello’s love for Desdemona to Brabantio, her father. Brabantio’s initial fury is allayed and the two marry. Othello, commander of the Venetian army, is posted to Cyprus. There, Iago persuades Emilia to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief, which he leaves in Cassio’s chambers. For Othello, with Iago rousing his suspicions, the handkerchief is the conclusive evidence that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio and he determines to take action…

  • Romeo & Juliet

    Tragedy

    “My only love sprung from my only hate...”

    The Montagues and Capulets are sworn enemies. At a ball, Romeo (Montague) and Juliet (Capulet) fall in love, and are subsequently married by Friar Lawrence. Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, furious with the Montagues, fights Mercutio, Romeo’s friend. Tybalt kills Mercutio and Romeo kills Tybalt. Meanwhile, Juliet is being forced into marrying Paris. To prevent this, the friar gives her a potion which makes her appear dead and sends a message to Romeo to retrieve Juliet when she awakes. The message informing him goes astray and Romeo, believing Juliet dead, hurries to her tomb…

History

  • Henry V

    History

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

    A playboy prince in his youth, young Henry V has grown up and is intent upon reviving his claim to the French throne. A present of tennis balls from the French dauphin, a deliberate comment on Henry’s louche reputation, is the perfect excuse for war. Henry is an inspirational military leader and the night before the battle wanders the English camp in disguise. The next day, morale and numbers are low as the English prepare for battle at Agincourt, and victory looks unlikely…

    Abridged by Sir Arnold Wesker

  • Richard III

    History

    “I am determined to prove a villain.”

    King Edward is dying and his youngest brother, Richard (encouraged by his cousin Buckingham), is intent on the throne. After having his older brother Clarence murdered in a butt of wine, Richard strengthens his claim to the throne by marrying Anne, whose royal father and husband Richard had himself killed. His nephews, the ‘princes in the tower’, are his next victims and Buckingham’s hesitancy at this point signs his own death warrant. To free himself to marry Edward’s daughter Elizabeth, Richard sacrifices Anne. On the eve of his battle against the Earl of Richmond, the ghosts of Richard’s many victims forecast his demise. Despite his guilty conscience, Richard rides into battle determined to emerge victorious…

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95%
of teachers reported that their students were better able to empathise with each other

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
99%
of teachers said that their students increased in confidence

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
97%
of teachers agreed that their students were better at working together as a team

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
94%
of students are more likely to seek out new opportunities

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

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