Chance to stage Bard’s work a rare pleasure

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Loving it . . . Dunedin actors Julie Edwards (left) and Peter Hayden are enjoying being the senior actors in the Fortune Theatre's company, as they prepare for William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

In these days of tight arts budgets, opportunities for actors to perform Shakespeare’s plays have dwindled.

So it is a real pleasure for Dunedin actors Julie Edwards and Peter Hayden MNZM to play the comic roles of Maria and Sir Toby in the Fortune Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night

Fortune Theatre artistic director Jonathon Hendry is also performing, taking on the role of the stern and puritanical Malvolio.

Directed by Benjamin Henson, the production is a collaboration with University of Otago’s theatre studies programme, several of its students taking on roles and others working on set design and backstage.

“The collaboration with theatre studies has made the process really interesting – for our first read-through of the play there were 30 to 40 people in the room,” Edwards said.

“That was quite a different feeling, but it was a lot of fun.”

As senior members of the Fortune Theatre Company, brought together to present Twelfth Night and upcoming show Into the Woods, Edwards and Hayden are enjoying sharing their knowledge with the younger actors.

“We are moving fast to get the performance together, so there isn’t a lot of time for mentoring, but it’s great to be working with the students,” Hayden said.

“We have been hugely impressed and inspired by the way they have thrown themselves into it.”

Dunedin high schools had also taken advantage of teaching opportunities relating to Twelfth Night, watching actor interviews on Skype while rehearsals continued in the background, Edwards said.

“That has been a great way for them to get closer to the production, and to see it taking shape,” she said.

One of the Bard’s most popular comedies, Twelfth Night mixes shipwrecks, gender-bending disguises, traps, tricks and madness.

“Because the play is set in a new land, with a culture of its own, you are able to create your own universe,” Edwards said.

Henson’s imaginative concept for the play would be fascinating for the audience, she said.

The Fortune Theatre season of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night opens this Saturday and runs until July 22.