Boys give new life to Shakespeare

By Imran Ali

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Fletcher Coutts plays Lion in A Midsummer Night's Dream with fellow cast members who scooped four awards in the national finals held in Wellington. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Fletcher Coutts plays Lion in A Midsummer Night's Dream with fellow cast members who scooped four awards in the national finals held in Wellington. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Eleven drama students from Northland may get the chance to represent their country at a global Shakespearean contest in London next year.

The Whangarei Boys' High School students scooped three individual and a group award at the national University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare festival held in Wellington last weekend.

Groups performed scenes from Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream in front of about 400 people during an unbelievable 16 hours of competitive Shakespeare performances by regional high school finalists from around the country.

The competitive categories consisted of five and 15-minute scenes from the works of the famous writer and playwright.

Austin Mills won the Most Innovative Interpretation Award (student directed) for a death scene of Mercutio, a character in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

The scene in which the characters were portrayed as rival sportsmen explores a comic side.

Stan Hallet-Pullen won an award for his role as Mercutio in a new title created by the assessors this year called "Finding New Naughty Bits in Shakespeare."

A Midsummer Nights' Dream - the Mechanicals was judged the winning 15-minute entry from Northland.

Played in the 1980s by a group of aspiring amateur thespians, the interpretation makes clever references to political issues and agendas prevalent in that era.

There was a subtle undertone coupled with a blatant slapstick rendition of a favourite comic scene. Assessor and Brisbane-based director Tama Matheson said it was the best version of that play he had ever seen.

The students received a standing ovation after being awarded the "Best Connection with the Audience" cup.

Year 13 student Tim Aitkins received the Best Individual Comic Role for playing Quince, a transgender director beset by difficulties.

"A lot of hard work has gone into preparing to compete and to actually obtaining these awards," Whangarei Boys' High School drama teacher Fiona Pope said.

The cast for both performances from Whangarei Boys' High School were Aitkins, Mills, Hallet-Pullen, Fletcher Coutts, Darcy Goodison, Jimmy Kay, Jonathan Leftley, Tamati Heke, Thomas Hayman, Robbie Mulligan and Connor McMurchy.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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