Henrietta Barnett students in Shakespeare-themed world record attempt

Henrietta Barnett School pupils in Shakespearean get-up ahead of their record attempt. Picture: Henr

Henrietta Barnett School pupils in Shakespearean get-up ahead of their record attempt. Picture: Henrietta Barnett School - Credit: Archant

“To be or not to be”, that’s the question almost three hundred pupils at the Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb are asking with their fingers crossed: Their Shakespeare knowledge might just have bagged them a Guinness World Record.

To celebrate the bard’s birthday on April 23, the school’s Head of English Samantha Kay persuaded 292 eager students to recite five minutes’ worth of his most famous dramatic speeches.

Wearing ruffs designed by the school’s art department, the students – and four members of staff – stood and recited lines from As You Like It, Macbeth, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet for five minutes,

The speeches included the well-known “to be or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet.

Samantha told this newspaper: “It went really well. It’s actually quite a lot of text to learn for five minutes!

“We had the whole school watching – the school got really behind it. People said it sounded a bit like a church recital, even.”

One year 10 student, Angelette Mendonca, didn’t shy away from a pun in discussing the experience. She said: “To be or not to be... a HBS world record!

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“It has been such an exciting experience to see girls from every year come together through Shakespeare, be it learning lines or making paper ruffs, to finally achieve this!”

Students found learning five minutes worth of speech a challenge, with teachers reporting that even in the minutes before the attempt, many were sceptical of pulling it off.

Samantha added that students for across the school got involved, with budding artists spending weeks making the ruffs – although she explained “I’m not sure they all knew how to wear one” – and the whole school turning out to cheer on their peers.

She said: “They got really behind it and we had a great big audience. Only four staff managed it in the end, most of them found learning it all quite hard!”

The staff and students are now hoping to submit enough evidence to Guinness in order to get the record approved, but might be waiting several months as they were not able to afford to accomodate and expensive adjudicator on the day itself.