A year ago, Theo David was making his professional theatre debut and thinking he might train as a massage therapist once the show was over.

"I needed a plan B so I thought that could be a good one."

So far, there's been no need for that back-up plan; tomorrow he'll join members of the Pop-Up Globe cast and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra for a performance beyond his wildest dreams.

He's helping to celebrate the 401st anniversary of William Shakespeare's death with a one-off concert where APO musicians perform music inspired by the Bard's most famous plays. It's music Shakespeare may well have heard in Elizabethan and Jacobean England as well as that of later composers who were inspired by his writing.


Actors Jacque Drew, Adrian Hooke and Barry deLore will perform readings between musical numbers; David plays a young Henry V from Henry IV part one. While he doesn't have to sing, he says he'd willing do so if asked.

"I don't think of myself as a singer, but they tell me I can sing so if they tell me to sing, I'm sure not going to turn that down. Anything to perform!"

At 20, David is the youngest in the PuG's acting company. Since February, the rising star's been capturing hearts as Claudio, the romantic hero of Much Ado About Nothing, and with a smaller role in Othello.

But it nearly didn't happen because he was too late to register for PuG auditions. Then Much Ado About Nothing director Miriama McDowell called him to say one of the actors had pulled out and was he still available?

"I'd seen plays at Pop-up Globe last year and was completely blown away by what I'd seen so there was no way I was going to miss out again."

David's already had to make big changes to his life goals. He was focused on a rugby career - he'd even won a scholarship to top Auckland school St Kentigern's College - but repeated concussions meant he had to quit the game.

"The doctor said he would prefer me not to play, so that was that," he told the NZ Herald last year. "I trained and played in the morning, after school and on every weekend and suddenly it was gone. I had to reassess my whole life."

His uncle, actor Max Palamo, introduced told him to theatre group Massive Company and David eventually joined its Massive Nui Ensemble, for 14-25 year olds. He landed his first professional role, in a play called The Wholehearted, and was hooked.

"I haven't had any professional training, it was all through Massive and now Pop-up. I've really loved being a part of this because it's been a chance to learn more."

His love for Shakespeare stems from watching Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet at 14 wanting to learn how to speak to girls. However, he recalls buzzing over the detailed way Shakespeare had captured the beauty and brutality of the teenage heart.

Although he'd love to perform Shakespeare forever, his biggest dream is to portray a superhero on screen and watch it at his local movie theatre, Event Cinema Manukau.

• APO at the Pop-up Globe is tomorrow, Sunday April 23, at 4pm.