After losing loved ones to Alzheimer's disease Rio Tuson had the idea of using his experience to inspire Whangarei Boys' High School's Stage Challenge performance.

The year 13 student said it was tough directing the performance so when the school won the Whangarei heat on Tuesday, he couldn't believe it.

"It was incredible, I was just speechless. It was my first year directing Stage Challenge and I put my heart and soul into it. It worked out, and the judges loved it."

It is the first time in seven years the school has won the competition and Rio hoped the win would encourage more boys to get involved.


"There was about 30-odd performers which is the most we've had. Because it's an all boys school nobody really wants to do that kind of thing," he said.

"I don't think anyone expected us to win because we are a boys school and so I'm hoping lots more boys will come and enjoy it."

Rio said he started thinking about the theme, Alzheimer's is it your future, last year.

"I had the loss of a few grandparents and other family members and it inspired me to show people how it affects us and how the victims feel who have the disease. I wanted to pay tribute to those who have passed on and to let people with family members know to make sure they spend enough time with them before they're gone."

The performance highlighted that Alzheimer's affects one in 10 people over the age of 65, and more than half of those over 85 experience Alzheimer's.

Rio said the performance followed a main character, Zeff Jeeves, who was dressed in white.

The disease was represented by people dressed in black with their faces painted as skulls to represent the ghostly effect of Alzheimer's. As the disease came on they wiped black charcoal on the main character - by the end he was covered in black.

"By then you can tell he's pretty much turned into the disease," he said.

Seven schools took part in Stage Challenge while Tauraroa Area School was the only school to enter the non-competitive J Rock division for primary and intermediate pupils.

Whangarei Girls High School with The Right Of Life, a piece that focused on the debate around euthanasia, came second. Bream Bay College came third with He Tangata.

Videos of the finalists' performances will now be submitted into the national competition.