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Shakespeare dodged plague, pupils' festival beats Covid

Friday 25 September 2020 10:48pm

Queen’s High School pupil Juliette Bernard as Hecate, Queen of the Witches, surrounded by her familiars, in a 2016 performance of a scene from Macbeth. (Photo: Brian Scurfield)

At the end of a year marked by ‘contagion’, Dunedin is in for a very healthy dose of Shakespeare.

Between 26 September and 6 October 49 talented pupils from around New Zealand will attend the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand National Shakespeare Schools Production (SGCNZ NSSP) in Dunedin to act, rehearse and learn.

The pupils will attend workshops with high calibre tutors, including singing with Arlie McCormick, fencing with Dave Barson and Simon Marshall, space and body with Otago Performing Arts lecturer Ryan Hartigan and instruction on Shakespeare’s life and times with Dr Michael Cop.

SGCNZ CEO Dawn Sanders

On October 2 and 3 the pupils will hold 40-minute public performances of scenes from Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice and The Life and Times of King John.

Winners of the SGCNZ/Dawn Sanders Shakespeare Costume Design Competition and SGCNZ/Morrison Music Trust Music Composition Competition as Student Costumier and Composer will also attend.

Earlier in the year, about 2000 pupils from around the country filmed scenes of between 5 and 15 minutes for the e-Regional University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival, which was moved online this year due to lockdown restrictions.

SGCNZ CEO Dawn Sanders says holding regional and national finals for the University of Otago-back events was challenging during a “COVID-19 compromised this year.”
Sanders says holding the final events at Otago’s Dunedin campus gives the pupils time to bond, help each other learn lines and develop characters, and interact with their peers from all over New Zealand.

“Also, in addition to using Otago’s facilities, University staff always welcome us so warmly, assisting in very many ways, including providing a tour and other ‘add ons!’. We also get great feedback from the very supportive public and we hope to see many Dunedin residents at the performances to celebrate Shakespeare, our fine young actors, and an end to lockdown!”, Sanders says.

Half of the 49 students will be chosen to go to Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2021, if theatres in the UK return to Level 1.

The scenes from the three Shakespeare plays will be directed by Clare Adams, Katie Boyle and Alexander Sparrow and performed at the University of Otago’s College of Education Hall on Friday 2 October at 6:30pm and Saturday 3 October at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased through or by cash only door sales. Adults $15 / SGCNZ Adult Friends $12 Students $8 / SGCNZ Student Friends $6

(Below: Pupils rehearse at the College of Education Auditorium ahead of the 2018 public performances).