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London beckons for Laybourn

Tommy Laybourn as Simondes and Grace Voice as Thaisa in Pericles: The Prince of Tyre. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

By Jake Beleski

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Kuranui College head boy Tommy Laybourn has taken a giant step on the path to potentially performing Shakespeare in London next year.

Tommy was selected for the National Shakespeare School’s Production (NSSP) for 2017.

He has a chance to be one of the students to be picked to perform in the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand’s (SGCNZ) Young Shakespeare Company at the Globe in London.

At the recent Sheilah Winn Shakespeare national finals, Kuranui students were given the Assessors Award for the integration of tikanga Maori into their performance of Pericles: The Prince of Tyre.

Tommy was presented with an award for his outstanding performance in the supporting role of ‘Simondes’.

He had just 13 seconds of dialogue in this role, but had also performed as Hamlet in a five-minute scene in the regional competition.

Tommy came away with the Wairarapa Speech and Drama Association Trophy for Outstanding Delivery of Text for that performance.

He will now attend a workshop in October, from which performers will be selected to head to London in 2018.

Tommy said getting the cultural side of his performance right was a priority.

“I watched YouTube videos and I had researched and looked at karakias and taiaha before I went to the regionals but I didn’t really know it that well because I’d never been taught it.

“But between regionals and nationals we had an ex-Kuranui student come in and he taught me some taiaha moves — I practiced that so much.”

The ti tikanga Maori was important to get right because you didn’t want to do something that was not culturally authentic or accurate, he said.

Tommy’s performing career started when he was young, when he began dancing under the tutelage of Penny Griffin at age five.

He would be using the workshop to become a better actor and learn about the play they would be performing, he said.

“Performing will be awesome I just can’t wait to do that!”

Kuranui’s performance and arts teacher, Juanita McLellan, said it was always important to Tommy to get everything exactly right.

“When you see Tommy on stage in his role, he is 100 per cent committed to what’s going on, he’s never just standing there and we’ve had some students in the past who are very similar and they own it and they’re performing that whole time and it’s completely impossible to not watch them.

“He’s very enigmatic on stage and he’s very captivating.”

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