Mastering the art of performance, dealing with nerves, being competitive and learning the beauty of Shakespeare were all part of the challenge for high school students battling for the title of regional winner of the Shelia Winn Shakespeare competition at the weekend.

Nine groups took to the stage at Rotorua Lakes High School on Saturday.

One Western Heights High School group chose a 15-minute excerpt from act one, scene one of Much Ado About Nothing.

Teacher Keely Bell had an interest in Shakespeare and decided to direct the scene.

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"I really wanted to do a play with a strong female character, which Beatrice is, and that I know Denva [Graves] herself could play really well, and I know Tamahou [Smith] can bring his sass to his character, Benedick."

The scene centres around Beatrice as the young woman of the house. A group of men are staying after their time in the war, but friends and foes are reunited and sparks threaten to fly.

Western Heights High School students including Denva Graves, (left) and Tamahou Smith (far right) perform during the Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Rotorua Regional Festival. Photo / Ben Fraser
Western Heights High School students including Denva Graves, (left) and Tamahou Smith (far right) perform during the Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Rotorua Regional Festival. Photo / Ben Fraser

The Shelia Winn Shakespeare competition is designed to encourage critical thought, historical curiosity, an exploration of human behaviour and a love of literature and language.

The winner of the regional competition will travel to Wellington for the national competition but Bell said it was less about the competition for her group.

"We have had a big focus on the process . . . the competition can be really unhealthy."

Year 13 student Tamahou Smith played the witty and charismatic character of Benedict and hopes one day to grace our television screens as an actor.

"I forgot one part of my chant though, I was trying to memorise it before because I had a little block. I felt myself panicking a bit."

Smith and fellow actor and classmate Denva Graves had both performed in the Shelia Winn competition in Year 11 but found this time easier because of their growing confidence on the stage.

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"We didn't do it for the competition we did it for the experience," Graves said.

"There is almost a beauty of it, I like the rhythm and the learning of Shakespeare.

"Because it is real, you actually have to learn it, I'd like to do television as well but you can just retake. I like the nerves that keep you going on the stage."