Actor, fight captain and chef Lyndon Katene is a consummate professional. How do I know? Because I just "slit his throat" a number of times, and then, misunderstanding instructions, sat on him without any warning. He accepted more than 50kg of unexpected weight to the heart with merely an "Oof" and complimented me afterwards on my professionalism. To borrow from Shakespeare, "The elements mixed so well in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, 'This was a man."
I started the day as a travel journalist but I've just had my first go at stage sword-fighting — first inexactly copying the ambidextrous Damian Hosken with my sinister, left-handed stance — along with the advanced students of the New Zealand Stage Combat School (NZSCS). NZSCS's founder, fight director Alexander Holloway, is there to lead the action and make sure nothing goes wrong. The swords are blunted, but heavy and made of steel; you don't want to be cracked in the head with them. The helmets are even heavier and I feel my posture is in danger, if not my head. Soon I am sweating and someone hands me a small knife and a blood bag to replace my sword. I'm going to kill the king.
As it transpires, playing with swords and killing a monarch is terribly thrilling and I come out of it covered in "blood" and feeling on top of the world. From the look of my co workers pressed up against their office windows, it's almost as exciting for the audience.
Pop Up Globe is behind this faux-violent spectacle at NZME central, generating buzz for the 2019 Winter Festival through the always-enlivening medium of swordplay. The season starts on July 8 and features a line-up of six shows including a brand new full-scale production of the comedy (with sword fights!) Twelfth Night.
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In another first for the theatre, Pop-up Globe has teamed up with The Stage Company to commission and co-produce The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream (probably no sword fights!), bringing the magic of Shakespeare to life for the kids.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Stage Combat School out in Mt Wellington offers stage-fighting classes for everyone, young and old. Inclusiveness is in the family, says founder Alexander Holloway of his Sunday classes for people with disabilities. His dad makes wheelchairs for children with cerebral palsy in England and his sister is a nurse; "Also, one of our fight captains has cerebral palsy and he teaches for us, too."
Over eight weeks students learn how to use their chosen weapon safely, learn choreography and work together to portray a realistic fight. I think I've found my new hobby — and a sly trick.
If all else fails, sit on their heart.