Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e rangatahi ma, e huihui nei,
tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Bill Sheat and Dawn Sanders, Chair and CEO of the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand - tēnā korua.
It’s my great pleasure to welcome you all to Government House and to welcome those of you from other parts of New Zealand to Wellington, our country’s creative capital. There are many opportunities for young sportspeople to gather together at a national level but far fewer for those who participate in the arts, so I’m really delighted to see you all here.
Shakespeare’s plays have always been a playground for actors and directors looking to explore their craft. Shakespeare provided us with many wonderful words but very few of them explained how the work should be staged. Although there’s one memorable exception in The Winters Tale, where he gave the rather challenging direction: “exit, pursued by a bear”. Apart from that, with so few instructions to adhere to, imaginations can fly unfettered.
Shakespeare’s plays have been set in every conceivable timeframe and setting. 1930’s Germany, the Wild West, Outer Space and the New Zealand land Wars are just a few examples.
The success of the re-constructed Globe Theatre and initiatives like our own Pop-Up Globe, show that the traditional Shakespearean performance still has its place. However, alongside it has grown up a more freewheeling school of interpretation that modernises, while still retaining the beauty and meaning of the language.
It’s these two complementary strands that have enabled the work of Shakespeare to live on, keeping his works fresh and vibrant. There are very few playwrights who have stood the test of time in the same way. Yet audiences continue to enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, and actors and directors still want to stage them, which tells us that their themes and concerns remain of universal interest.
Shakespeare is not always easy but it is rewarding. As participants in the Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival, you will have developed your own unique connection to his work. I expect that you have spent many hours preparing your scenes, first for the regionals and now for the national contest.
I have no doubt that it’s been hard work preparing, but I’m sure it’s been worth it, particularly as you stand here amongst your peers from all around New Zealand.
You may be in competition with each other, but you also have much in common, actors, directors and non-performers alike. In amongst the nerves and excitement of competition I hope you find time to make friends, compare notes and learn new things.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet those who share the same interests. It’s also an opportunity to experience what Wellington’s theatre scene has to offer. Don’t forget that many of the professional actors appearing at Circa and Bats are Sheilah Winn alumni. Perhaps some of you will soon follow in their footsteps.
I wish you all well for a successful Festival.
And Break a leg!