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A little touch of Willy in the night

The three young men who will, from tomorrow night, strut and fret for an hour-and-a-half on stage as they rollick through Shakespeare's comedies, romances, tragedies and histories in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) play a multitude of characters.

This show is a wildly irreverent attempt to condense Shakespeare into one madcap, high-speed train wreck of a show, says director Elizabeth Boyce in the programme notes.

“Our three actors have been tirelessly working since early January, fueled only by their love of theatre, their ignorance of Shakespeare and innumerable energy drinks.”

In case you don't recognise the actors in their various roles in the Evolution Theatre Company's production, here is a brief introduction.

Arthur Haereroa knows a thing or two about Shakespeare, writes director Elizabeth Boyce.

“That's not hyperbole. It is an exact figure. Having moved to Gisborne from Dunedin in 2006, Haereroa participated in the Shakespeare in Schools competition where he played ‘Portia or whatever her name is'.

“His love of theatre has caused him to give up a promising future in animation and take up acting full-time. His mother, as you can imagine, is thrilled.”

Haereroa is even more thrilled to be performing in his first full-length show.

“I'm a natural performer,” he says.

“It's a thrilling experience, performing for the first time in a theatre.”

Chaotic portrayals of mad, vengeful prince Hamlet, mad, vengeful general Titus Andronicus, and over-ambitious Scottish warrior Macbeth are among the characters Haereroa has taken on. In Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth's mortal battle is all clashing broadswords and fury. In the Complete Works, Macbeth and another character fight it out with golf clubs.

“I enjoy the physical side of the production. I got the hang of it because it's physical theatre. It feels like something that suits me.”

For a first-timer, Haereroa does not find the prospect of performing in front of a sea of upturned faces intimidating either. In fact, he embraces the dissolution of the fourth wall — the imaginary wall between stage and audience — and looks forward to interacting with patrons.

“It feels like we're not alone on stage,” he says.

“It gives the show more excitement.”

In the 2015 East Coast Shakespeare festival, Tyler Krutz played a slightly disturbing Iachimo in a self-directed scene from Shakespeare's Cymbeline.

“I wanted the audience to feel ‘that's strange and not quite right' because they will remember that. I heard people laugh and a few ‘oohs',” Krutz told the Guide of the performance that won him the best student director category.

The Complete Works that parodies both stuffy Shakespeare academics and the plays is very different from Cymbeline, says Krutz.

“Cymbeline was a dark take on Shakespeare. This is a more lightweight, goofy and fun take on Shakespeare.”

He has enjoyed rehearsals and director Elizabeth Boyce's process but he gets his biggest kick — possibly literally — from the fight scenes.

“The moment I heard there were fight scenes in this show I was excited. I'm a bit of a gamer where there's a lot of combat involved. In The Complete Works it's tightly choreographed because there are weapons involved.”

It's just as well Krutz enjoys the physicality of the production.

“A lot of my characters get thrown around. A favourite part of the show for me is being thrown around and falling over. I do a lot of the stunt-esque parts of the play.”

Shakespeare has some interesting tales Krutz says he wants to look into.

“I want to upgrade my acting into screen acting, but Shakespeare is helping me get there. In February I'm moving to Vancouver. I recently found all my favourite shows were shot in Vancouver so I thought why not move there? I'll try acting over there.”

The appeal of performance is the ability to be part of another world and to live another life, he says.

“It's daunting with the audience there, but the daunting feeling gets you through the play and when it's over, the sensation is amazing.”

Callum McConnochie was not available for an interview but you might remember him as the fly-screen shredding, eel jagging, wild tomcat Horse in Musical Theatre Gisborne's 2018 production of Footrot Flats, the musical. McConnochie has also had brushes with Shakespeare though and it was the sword fight scene from the last act of Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet that landed him and his team-mates a place in the 2017 National Shakespeare Schools Production.

More recently, he played an effervescent Mercutio in Unity Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet, and took on a non-Shakespearean role in Evolution Theatre's production of Our Town at ETC and Footrot Flats with MTG, among others. He also placed in the semi-finals of PACANZ (Performing Arts Competitions Association of New Zealand) last year against 20 other competitors.

“His love of Shakespeare's fierce and fiery women is the stuff of gastrointestinal legend,” says Boyce in the programme.

Which is just as well because he seems to spend considerable time dressed up as one in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) which opens tomorrow at Evolution Theatre, 71 Disraeli Street, March 6-21. Tickets $24-$34 from www.eventfinda.co.nz

Arthur Haereroa
Tyler Krutz
Callum McConnochie