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Sheilah Winn Shakespeare

June 19, 2018

Josh Turner and Star Walker

Josh Turner and Star Walker

It was all on the menu for Hagley’s Macbeth cast in the Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival.

The annual Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival is a celebrated highlight of the New Zealand High School Drama calendar. This year, Hagley College entered the Canterbury round in April, with a strong student-directed 15-minute scene from Macbeth. The directors, Jessie Rickard and Toby Swann, took on the challenge of recreating Banquo’s murder and the banquet scene. Re-imagining Macbeth’s dark world, they set the scene as a 1920s prohibition era feast. This added layers and meaning to the Elizabethan text, as they explored the universal themes of ambition, treachery and remorse, themes that still resonate with audiences 400 years after the play was written.

Directing a dedicated cast of talented senior students, Rickard and Swann portrayed the iconic unraveling of the ambitious Macbeth, as he battled his paranoia and guilt. The first scene showed Macbeth’s hired murderers successfully kill Banquo, but fail to murder his son, Fleance, who escaped. The second scene showed Macbeth and his wife welcoming guests to a banquet. As Macbeth was about to toast his guests, he imagined seeing the ghost of Banquo, which suddenly propelled him into fits of despair and momentary madness. Lady Macbeth quickly managed damage control, asking the guests to leave so she could soothe her husband and help him regain his composure.

The cast consisted of Josh Turner as Macbeth, Astarcia Walker as Lady Macbeth, and Matt Tripp as Banquo. Freddie Gormack-Smith, Ffion Brewer and Travis Woffenden played the three murderers, and Zach Te Maari, Ben Gilling and Matt Tripp performed as the ghosts.

The young Hagley directors made a number of brave decisions through their interpretation of the script. This included a 1920s organised crime gathering, contraband whiskey drinking, and the appearance of three ghosts who terrorised the guilt-stricken Macbeth during the dinner party, rather than the traditional single ghost of Banquo. This cleverly symbolised the “unholy trinity” or the “power of three”, and exposed the social upheaval that the murder of King Duncan set in motion. The supporting actors also played multiple roles, changing character and costume seamlessly.

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