Youngest actors at Pop-Up Globe get stuck into Shakespeare

By Dionne Christian

Kierron Diaz-Campbell, Sam Meyerhoff, and Murdoch Keane in costumes  by  Chantelle Gerrard (back). Photo / Nick Reed
Kierron Diaz-Campbell, Sam Meyerhoff, and Murdoch Keane in costumes by Chantelle Gerrard (back). Photo / Nick Reed

They're wearing dresses made out of old curtains and duvets and their backs are taped to help them adopt the posture of genteel 16th century girls, but Kierron Diaz-Campbell, Sam Meyerhoff and Murdoch Keane don't mind a jot.

After all, it's not every day you get to make history before your 18th birthday. The trio are among a group of Auckland teenagers about to become the youngest actors at Pop-Up Globe, the world's first full-scale temporary working replica of the second Globe Theatre. It's being constructed in Auckland to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of playwright William Shakespeare.

Seven plays will be performed at Pop-Up Globe and the Young Auckland Shakespeare Company, a group of 14-25-year-olds, is the only youth theatre company booked to play there. Pop-Up Globe can hold an audience of 900 so it's a daunting prospect for any performer but for the cast of YASC's Much Adoe About Nothing (yes, with an "e"), it's a chance to experience something akin to time travel.

They're learning about how actors worked in Shakespeare's era as well as making do without many of the luxuries today's performers are used to, including artificial lighting, recorded sound, large-scale sets and elaborate props.

The actors will wear bespoke Elizabethan-style outfits, constructed by Chantelle Gerrard, an experienced historical costume designer and maker who had a stint in the Belfast workroom of Game of Thrones. Murdoch, 17, and doing his fourth show with YASC, says the opportunity to play a female character is welcome.

"I love Shakespeare's characters and the way he takes stereotypes and really messes with them so your first impression of a character can be completely different by the end of a play," he says.

Traditionally, men played all the roles in Shakespeare's plays but YSAC have put a contemporary spin on that with boys playing female characters and girls playing male roles.

YSAC will perform Much Adoe About Nothing firstly at Tapac, re-creating the atmosphere of a Jacobean playhouse, then move to the much larger Pop-Up Globe.

YSAC artistic director Rita Stone says it wasn't unusual for Shakespeare and his contemporaries to produce their plays privately at indoor venues before moving to outdoor playhouses such as the Globe.

"Actors have to be versatile in performing in both spaces and companies frequently had to tour between the two," she says.

When the weather allows, the group rehearses outside to get used to acting in bigger spaces.

Performance

What: Much Adoe About Nothing
Where & when: Tapac, January 26-30; Pop-Up Globe, February 21

- Weekend magazine

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