William Shakespeare is getting a shake down from Rotorua secondary school students this weekend with an annual festival celebrating his work.

According to John Paul College drama teacher Candice Visser, Shakespeare is as relevant today as he was 400 years ago, and getting students to understand how his themes are used in contemporary film and literature is one of the joys of teaching.

"The themes of Shakespeare are most definitely relevant today, and it is wonderful when a student has an 'aha' moment and it dawns on them that what they are doing has a common theme today," she said.

"We teach Shakespeare because the core values and themes are still the same. Some of the students get quite shocked when they realise the true meaning of what they are performing."


She said it was important students translated his work into today's language so they understood the themes of Shakespeare before they performed.

Waikato University English lecturer Mark Houlahan is judging the performances and he will be looking at how students understand the themes, whether they are connecting with the audience and whether they make the performances uniquely their own.

Performances will be family friendly entertainment where the enthusiasm of young talented students will leave audiences with a newly sparked love and passion for the Bard.

"It's for anyone who would like to be a little more enlightened and it is not just going to be traditional costumes, there are modernist themes, Bollywood and fairy themes - and because the scenes are short and sharp, it doesn't get too complicated."

The students will be giving their very best efforts to impress in the five and 15 minute pieces because winners will go through to the national finals in Wellington. From here judging will be on individual performance, rather than group performance. Sixty of the best students will go to a week long Shakespeare workshop, and from here 30 will be chosen to travel to London.

It doesn't matter "whether you are a tree waving in the background or have a speaking part" as all performers will have the chance to be chosen, said Miss Visser.

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The event is part of the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SGCNZ) University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival (UOSWSF).


* What: Rotorua/Lakes Regional University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival 2016

* Where: Casa Blanca Theatre

* When: Tomorrow from 12pm

* Tickets: At the door