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Woman to play Hamlet as Wellington Summer Shakespeare returns to Dell

This week, the director of Auckland’s Shakespeare sensation the Pop-Up Globe faced fire for the tone-deaf decision to cast an all-male production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, and using #metoo branding.

In Wellington, the 36th Summer Shakespeare will take a different stance by staging a contemporary production of Hamlet, exploring the universality and relevance of the play by featuring by a woman at the head of a large, multi-gendered cast. Auditions for the role are now open.

It’s the first time Hamlet has been performed by Wellington Summer Shakespeare, and the the large-cast 2019 production of Shakespeare’s most famous play returns to the Dell as part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Wellington Botanic Gardens.

Fittingly, the epic story of Hamlet and her dysfunctional family will be directed by award-winning theatre practitioner David O’Donnell, who was the first director to stage Wellington Summer Shakespeare at the Botanical Gardens in 1991.

O’Donnell (above) is Associate Professor in Theatre at Victoria University of Wellington, and was Head of the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at Victoria University for the last three years.

He constantly advocates for new voices onstage, having directed premiere productions of plays by Lynda Chanwai-Earle, Briar Grace-Smith, Jo Randerson, Albert Belz, Ken Duncum and Arthur Meek as well as frequently championing Māori and Pacific work in his writing for The Theatre Times. His book, Floating Islanders, co-authored with Lisa Warrington, won the Rob Jordan Prize for Best Performance Studies Book in June 2018.

Dramaturgs for the production are Lori Leigh (Shakespeare and the Embodied Heroine) and David Carnegie, and the project will be overseen by Summer Shakespeare producer Sally Thorburn.

Female performers are invited to audition for the unpaid role of Hamlet, with slots in early August. Rehearsals start in October, with production dates from Friday 15 February to Saturday 2 March 2019.

Further details, including descriptions of other Summer Shakesepare jobs, are now available at The Big Idea: