Shakespeare in the Park was a triumph on Wednesday, but attendees say it easily could have been a tragedy due to bad weather and Covid.
Around 100 people attended the Tai Tokerau Regional Shakespeare Festival, including 50 student performers who were able to join the audience in between plays.
The festival was held outdoors for the first time in nearly 20 years, and a thunderstorm a few hours before the performance was due to begin almost spelled disaster, but the weather cleared and the show went on.
The Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SGCNZ) co-ordinator for the Tai Tokerau Regional Festival, Debi Walters-Brown, said the outdoor setting was a surprise win and the show was a success.
"Everybody loved it, the atmosphere was great."
As well as the beautiful costumes and colours of the plays, the views of the Hātea River were on offer this year as the festival was held on the grass banks next to the Riverbank Centre, home to Whangārei Theatre Company.
"The students that performed were excellent, the calibre was really high," said Walters-Brown.
Kyran Andrews was picked this year's winner of a direct entry to the national competition in Wellington.
Andrews played Richmond in his excerpt of Richard III, and his concept was to show the difference between a tyrannical leader and a strong leader.
Tauraroa Area School won the trophy for the best 15-minute scene for their performance of King Lear.
"The judges said it was powerful, the ensemble work was really connected," said Walters-Brown, who is also the head of drama at Tauraroa Area School.
Whangārei Boys' High School's comical turn from A Midsummer Night's Dream had the audience "laughing from the first minute", said Walters-Brown.
The performances were so good that both Tauraroa and Whangārei Boys' will be heading to the national competitions this year, despite there traditionally being only one spot.
Pompallier Catholic College head of drama Adam Thornton said his students spent five weeks preparing for the 15-minute performance.
"We had so many kids out with Covid at different times that our rehearsal time got cut short."
Thornton said some entries from other schools had to pull out altogether because Covid meant they did not have enough time to practise.
"I felt the students did really well, I was really happy with their performance, especially because it was the first time that we've done it outside."
Thornton said the festival being outside for the first time meant students had to focus on projecting their voices as well as other considerations that are different from performing on a stage inside.
"We focused on making sure the audience could actually hear them."
The festival has been running for nearly 20 years in Whangārei, and Thornton said he doesn't see Shakespeare tales getting old any time soon.
"I can remember going through high school and actually being a performer myself.
"We do it because a lot of the Shakespeare stories are relevant still, in terms of plot devices, characters ... the situations are obviously different but the interactions with characters and motivations are still relevant.
"You often get a great variety of creativity happening between different schools, but [also] different generations."