A world-record attempt at staging a non-stop Shakespeare marathon at the University of Leicester has received a boost from one of Britain's leading film and theatre personalities, Lord Attenborough.
The distinguished thespian, who cut his acting teeth while at Leicester, has written to Leicester University Theatre praising it as 'a splendid and extravagant folly.'
Lord Attenborough voiced his support for the University's theatrical marathon, which is due to begin on May 1 and will carry on 24 hours a day lasting approximately five days.
He said: "It takes vision, planning and meticulous organisation. It requires leadership - but also rock-solid teamwork. It demands enthusiasm and a readiness to take on the sheer hard slog of seeing the thing through.
"These are qualities which we need our young people to develop if they are going to fulfil their potential in the workplace and in society."
As well as his natural interest in things theatrical Lord Attenborough, along with his equally famous brother David, has extremely close ties with the University of Leicester. Their father was a former Principal of University College and the boys grew up in College House, which now houses the University's careers service. David and Richard were awarded honorary degrees and the Attenborough building was opened by the youngest brother, John, in 1970.
In recent times Lord Attenborough is perhaps most famous for his part in Jurassic Park, the futuristic tale of the rebirth of dinosaurs from trapped DNA. However, his portrayal of a tragic English officer in The Great Escape and his exquisite directorship of the epic, Gandhi, helped him secure an impregnable position in our national heritage and popular culture.
Roger Scoppie, who is masterminding the Shakespeare marathon commented on the effect of Lord Attenborough's letter of support: This gives us all a huge boost and reinvigorates our enthusiasm for what promises to be a rewarding but tiring few days. As well as being a colossus in the British film industry, Lord Attenborough remains a close friend of the University.
Leicester University Theatre is due to take a production of As You Like It to Vilnius in the summer as part of the international festival, Shakespeare Youth 2000. It is hoped, therefore, that Lord Attenborough's letter of support will not only give a much needed fillip during the nocturnal stanzas of Romeo and Juliet and the sonnets of Hamlet but also that it will help in the search for commercial sponsorship for the students' trip.
Additional funds will be donated to the Leicester-based Institute for Cancer Research.
The text of Lord Attenborough's letter follows.
NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please contact Dr Roger Scoppie on 0116 252 2416.
To stage a play under any circumstances is an act of folly and an act of faith. But to put on 40 plays the complete Shakespeare canon in a non-stop test of endurance to raise money for a good cause: that is a splendid and extravagant folly on a grand scale and it takes more than faith to pull it off.
It takes vision and the ability to communicate that vision but it also takes planning and meticulous organisation. It requires leadership, but also rock-solid teamwork. It demands enthusiasm and a readiness to take on the sheer hard slog of seeing the thing through. These are qualities which we need our young people to develop if they are going to fulfil their potential in the workplace and in society.
That is why it is so gratifying to see the students of Leicester University Theatre undertaking this project. It will enable them to represent Britain in an international exchange at a time when, more than ever before, we need young people to build global understanding. Just as importantly, they will also be assisting the Institute for Cancer Research, which is doing vital work on their very doorstep. But perhaps most crucially of all, they will be learning a whole host of skills which will stand them and all of us in good stead for the future.
I wish them well in their folly and I commend them to you for your support.
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