Is Shakespeare outdated and irrelevant in times of Twitter and Instagram? Young students throughout New Zealand say absolutely not. They’ll be proving that the Bard has a lot to teach us in the upcoming Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festivals (SGCNZ UOSWSF, if you prefer a long acronym).

In the capital, Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SGCNZ) will be presenting its 28th Wellington Regional University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival (UOSWSF) from 9-11 April, as one of 24 regional festivals around the country. In the Wellington festival, secondary students from Year 7-13 will perform 5- and 15-minute scenes from any of Shakespeare’s plays. Groups from throughout the Wellington region will perform in Wellington East Girls’ College Hall – performances that are open to the public. Two (or three, depending on the number of participants) of the most outstanding performances will have an encore at the Michael Fowler Centre over Queen’s Birthday weekend. 

Schools from all deciles and even home-schooled students are involved. Last year at the SGCNZ Wellington Regional UOSWSF, Wellington “home-schooler” Maddie Brooks Gillespie won direct entry into SGCNZ National Shakespeare Schools Production 2018. From there she has been selected to go to Shakespeare’s Globe in London as part of the SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company 2019, in July this year. The role that won her entry into these esteemed programmes was that of Brutus (yes, girls can play men) in a modern and topical interpretation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. 

This scene, and so many others in the SGCNZ UOSWSF, show how many parallels Shakespeare’s plays have with what is happening in politics and society right now (and we’re not just talking about Trump). This is why SGCNZ’s festivals are, for the students and audiences, more than a way to learn about theatre or tell a story. These “new takes” on the works of the Bard are also a medium to understand and interpret current socio-political events – and to provide a channel for their young voices. In their 5- and 15-minute scenes, they re-envisage the aggressors, the megalomaniacs, the despots, the abusers, the meek and many more identifiable personalities. 

“This expansive use of their imaginations can benefit their future lives in which innovation and creativity have never been more paramount,” says SGCNZ CEO Dawn Sanders. “There’s also the ever-constant need to encourage teenagers to communicate with each other in person, in a way that will enhance their self-esteem and confidence. 

The SGCNZ UOSWSF, often mislabelled as “the Sheilah Winn”, started with a humble seven regions in 1992 and has grown into a widely-known, diverse and inclusive event celebrating theatre, dance, music, literature – and, of course, Shakespeare. 

Performance information:

9, 10 and 11 April from 7.00pm  

Tickets available from iTicket

$14 Adults / $12 SGCNZ Adult Friends; $7 Students / $5 SGCNZ Student Friends

Enquiries: Dawn Sanders ONZM, QSM, SGCNZ CEO 04 384 1300 or 027 283 6016; dawn@sgcnz.org.nz     

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