Every year, teenagers from across New Zealand have the chance to bring to life the plays of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare: The great playwright, the talented poet, the famous actor. Schools participate in the National Sheilah Winn competition. They are to take one of William Shakespeare’s distinguished plays. Then cook it into an extraordinary piece of either five or 15 minutes in length. This year (2023) has unlocked the creativity hidden within 100’s of teenagers. Their talent and passion oozed through the 17 performances in the regional Botany Sheilah Winn competition. Snippets of plays such as Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice, were brought to life. Costumes, props, set design, and the unique visions each group aspired for provided for a diverse range of performances. 

Two groups were selected through the Regional Sheilah Winn competition. They are to fly to Wellington at the beginning of June and compete in the National Sheilah Winn competition. Both groups selected performed excerpts from the play Midsummer Night’s Dream. A group from Macleans College and Botany Downs Secondary College proved victorious. Then I wonder why? Why were these two groups chosen to advance to the Nationals? I realised it all tracked back to the core of the performance. The layers and understanding that each team had unravelled through the development of their piece. It depended on the chemistry of the team and the passion they had. These groups were able to successfully rebirth one of Shakespeare’s plays. They brought life to a play that was composed over 400 years ago. Midsummer night’s dream was reborn. Actors wore traditional costumes in both performances. The 15-minute performance had aspects of music and song, including a live cello performance, which enhanced the piece’s beauty. The five-minute performance entertained the use of lights in costuming and a very earthy-like aura behind each character. It felt fresh, connected to nature, and magical for the audience.

Each group successfully rebirthed Shakespeare’s plays. Every piece was unique, and everyone’s different personalities shone through. The two groups which rose to the top had a special spark behind them. They truly grasped the essence of Shakespeare’s plays and brought their visions together with Shakespeare’s. I think rebirth is magical, beautiful, and new. The two groups that won had more of this in their pieces than the others, allowing them to advance to the national competition.

Written by Nethra Tennakoon and edited by Shafquat Tabeeb. Published on 16/06/2023. Header image by Emma Li.

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