Students from across the country participate in national Shakespeare festival ‘with a twist’

Mon June 3, Cushla Norman

The language of William Shakespeare may not roll as comfortably off the tongue these days, but students from across the country are proving the themes of his prose are still relevant.

Students from 46 schools gathered in Wellington this weekend for the national Sheilah Winn Shakespeare festival, interpreting his work with a very 2019 twist.

The Marist College adaption of ‘As You Like It’ took the cross-dressing comedy a step further by giving characters no specific gender.

Student director Sylvie Pease said the gender-fluid adaption “felt more modern and real to us.”

As well as experimenting with gender, the students also experimented with culture.

Kuranui College set its take on Richard III in the time of the New Zealand wars.

The students replaced Richard with Queen Victoria and substituted Richmond for the second Maori King.

The all-female troupe then summoned Maori spirits with a karanga to haunt Richard/Queen Victoria.

“Especially in this day and age I think having an all-female cast is so inspiring to other women out there,” said student director Florence Cater.

Wellington College student director George Parker incorporated sign language into his silent adaption of Rome and Juliet. “I wanted something that sort of transcended the medium a little bit.”

The Sheilah Winn Shakespeare festival was started by Dawn Sanders 28 years ago.

She said this year’s entries are some of the most innovative she’s seen, and students are using the bard’s stories as a talking point for social problems.

“It’s a way to challenge themselves about bullying, about issues like suicide and they’re much more open, they’ll talk about it.”