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Drama filled weekend

[From left] Kuranui College teacher Juanita McLellan and thespians, Florence Carter, Hayden Tankersley and Isabella Walker are part of the college’s largest-ever contingent to the University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival. PHOTOS/EMMA BROWN

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Pupils from Wairarapa and Kuranui colleges are heading to Wellington for a weekend full of dramatics.

The University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival had pupils enjoying a day of workshops and speakers yesterday before competition today and tomorrow.

More than 5500 pupils from around the country will be participating in the competition.

Kuranui comes to the festival with form, having had three pupils in the past five years make it to the Globe in London. They are taking more actors than ever before as they are performing two pieces.

School’s choose from a 15- or 5-minute performance, but Kuranui has found itself in a unique situation. After another school pulled out of the shorter version it filled the void, meaning it will perform twice.

First will be a 15-minute piece from The Tempest, and later a five-minute pupil-directed piece from Richard III.

It’s proved a monumental task, not only because the cast includes just three pupils who have been to the competition before. Also, Kuranui’s interpretation of The Tempest will be the first performance of the entire competition.

Teacher Juanita McLellan said, “Traditionally the first up is a big cast and something really epic – now knowing that it’s going to be us is kind of cool because our interpretations are always a bit different.”

Cast member Florence Carter said, “You set the standard for everyone. They all pay attention to the first one.”

Carter will be making her fourth visit to the competition, and her experience is being put to good use. She is not only a performer, but choreographer for The Tempest and director of the Richard III performance.

“I’ve always been a natural leader and I really wanted to try directing,” Carter said. “Then I got the opportunity and decided to go with it and the people in our group decided it was a good idea and I just went from there.”

Isabella Walker is one of four pupils who will be performing in both pieces. While the preparations and practices have been full on, she is excited ahead of the competition.

“It is all fun, I really enjoy it a lot,” Walker said.

Year 13 Hayden Tankersley, having performed Shakespeare since his first year at college, has found himself in one of his first leading roles.

“It’s the most lines I’ve ever had,” he said.

His goal is to follow in the footsteps of previous pupils and make it to the Globe in London.

Forty-eight pupils will be nominated for that honour by the end of the weekend, which will eventually be whittled down to 24 for the trip.

This is the fifth year teacher Juanita McLellan has guided the pupils.

Having three pupils go to the Globe previously, the group’s in-joke is “no pressure”.

Kuranui also has two pupils enjoying a unique experience working backstage with the Michael Fowler Centre crew.

Wairarapa College’s King Lear cast practising.

Wairarapa College will perform a Jackson Burling-directed five-minute performance of King Lear.

Head of Wairarapa College’s drama department Gavin McEwen says, “the chance to do workshops with authors and directors of high calibre will be a really good experience. The kids will learn so much .

“The hope is they come away inspired. It is a really good chance for students to be on a stage with their peers and show what they can do.”

Tickets to the performances are available online from ticketmaster.co.nz

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