The cast of King John are headed for the National TheatreFest finals. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED

CAL ROBERTS
cal.roberts@age.co.nz

Masterton’s Harlequin Youth Theatre is a national finalist in a competition designed to grow young talent, and with each performance moves from strength to strength.

The group has made it to the last leg of the TheatreFest competition with finals happening in Wellington on September 15-16.

The competition is run by Theatre New Zealand, which mentors community theatre and youth groups in performance, production, staging, design and script-writing, through the event and workshops.

Harlequin Youth Theatre will be competing with groups from Christchurch, Auckland, Queenstown and Napier.

Their play, ‘King John’, is a dramatic and historically accurate production about the rule of the king of England, before the signing of the Magna Carta.

It was written by Paul Percy and is being directed by Linda Voice.

Actor Braedan Gare plays the title character. The production is his first lead role, and first time playing an on-stage character with lines.

But it looks like Gare is a natural, as he and his fellow performer, Charlie Butler, were given excellence in acting awards during the regional leg of the competition.

“That was a real confidence booster, it took just about all night to sink in,” Gare said.

The 14-year-old Chanel College student said the first step was learning the historical context surrounding the play’s setting.

“We have to not only read the script and think about our lines, but we need to understand what the characters are talking about.”

Aged from 10 to 16 years old, the cast played to their individual strengths.

“We all have different experiences acting,” Gare said.

Gare said there was no chance of the group getting complacent ahead of the national final.

“While we are incredibly proud of ourselves, all the awards we’ve picked up and getting this far, we are holding regular rehearsals, because the competition is always getting better.”

The group are still tweaking lines and choreography, taking feedback from each stage of the competition onboard to make the next outing even stronger.

“We’re not going to let our egos take over,” Gare said.

President of Harlequin Theatre Carol Buck, said the group travelled to two regional finals, where they received awards for excellence in acting and best overall production, best youth play, and an award for technical excellence.

“We’ve been pretty busy.”

Buck said it was difficult to predict how the nationals would play out, but the regionals and subsequent awards had put the group on a good footing.

“But the way they have been performing, there’s every chance of taking out some awards.”

The National TheatreFest finals are spread across two days at Wellington’s Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre on September 15-16.