DIRECTOR Charlie Ward is returning for a second year at the helm of a historic Harrow tradition. The Old Harrovian Players was founded in 1952 and has put on a Shakespeare play at Harrow School every year since.

This year, Mr Ward – who was inspired as a school boy prompting for fellow Old Harrovian Benedict Cumberbatch in productions – will direct Romeo and Juliet for the public and pupils.

Mr Ward, who is associate director at the new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, directed Richard III in his spare time last year and is looking forward to this year’s production at the school.

The talented cast, which are mostly professional actors and have in the past been joined by high calibre cameo roles played by stars such as Joanna Lumley and Richard Curtis, have only four days of rehearsals.

Mr Ward, who is now 27, said: “My first experience of the theatre was at 13, when I was prompting for Benedict Cumberbatch.

“We used to have casts who were scarcely breathing they were so old, but now we are a fairly sprightly bunch. We range from 22, to north of 60 years old.

“There is a core of young professional actors and they take the lead role. The cameos are distributed to anyone who has been involved and would like a few lines.”

The group, set up by Herbert Harris and Lawrence Verney in 1952, is described as ‘a club for the unclubbable’.

The description continues: “The society has defied the conventions of amateur theatricals in generating a tradition that relishes the performance more than the plaudits, that saviours the catastrophes almost as much as the triumphs, that is dedicated to the enjoyment of drama both serious and hilarious, and that has been singularly free from the pettish, the smug or the self-congratulatory.”

Over the years, the society has covered all of Shakespeare’s wide and varied canon and this year, the 62nd, will see the majestic Speech Hall transformed once again.

Mr Ward said: “We have done all of them at some stage. The plays are being performed for the school boys and for some this could be the first time they see Shakespeare so we are looking for something with a strong narrative drive and a grabbing story. That will hopefully give them a great introduction to Shakespeare that captivates them and is exciting.”

This year, up-and-coming actor Tom Micklem plays Romeo, with professional actors Toby Deacon and Stuart Sessions as Mercutio as the Friar.

In addition to Old Harrovians, a number of actresses are roped in to fill the female parts.

Mr Ward said: “Many of them have been performing Shakespeare in that place for a long time and they are familiar with it.

“I managed to persuade some very talented female actresses to come and take part and we have Miranda Menzies, Kate Sawyer and Isabel Pollen – they are absolutely first-class actresses.

“The Old Harrovian Players have never inflicted cross-dressing on people but, saying that, I did perform as Ophelia in a production of Hamlet at school.”

The space itself is design for Shakespearean performances and is a reconstruction of how the original Globe would have looked.

Mr Ward said: “People from the school worked closely with the team responsible for the impressive reconstruction on the South Bank.

“This was as close as you could get to what it might have looked like.

“It is the main meeting place in the school and it is transformed for the play and there is a huge stage and a big set is put up at the back of the space, which gives us a balcony to work with.”

The production is on Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20, at 7.45pm.

Before Saturday’s performance there will be an opportunity to take a free guided tour of Harrow School’s famous Fourth Form Room, built in 1615, and the original classroom of the school.

More recently, the room was used as the set for Professor Flitwick’s classroom in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The tour starts at 6.45pm from the War Memorial building. Places are limited and can be reserved at the same time as booking seats for the performance.

Tickets for Romeo and Juliet are £10 for adults and £5 for students and concessions. They can be booked via Perena Shryane, by email at or by calling 020 8872 8200.