Te reo, or not te reo?

Macbeth speaks Elizabethan English and te reo Maori in Waimea College's upcoming presentation of the Shakespeare play.

Luke Burke, 17, will take to the stage as Macbeth in the Tasman regional heats of the SGCNZ University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival this Saturday.

He appears in a scene where the ill-fated protagonist, who is fluent in the language of the Bard and te reo, gets his head cut off.

Luke will be among hundreds of students from the Nelson region competing this weekend, with more heats at Nayland College on Sunday.

Anne FitzSimon, the co-ordinator of the Tasman regionals, said audiences could also expect singing and dancing interpretations of Shakespeare's text.

Luke features in a 15-minute production of Macbeth: Act 5, where Macbeth's fate catches up with him.

The English army, led by Macduff, arrives at his castle to overthrow him. A battle ensues, and Macduff - played by 15-year-old Hone McQueen - beheads him.

Waimea College drama teacher Doug Brooks said Iriaka Epiha-Ferris at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia te Matangi helped translate the te reo sections of the play.

Mr Brooks said learning Shakespeare in both Elizabethan English and te reo Maori was a challenge for his students.

"It [the play] is like a marriage of the two, which I guess is what New Zealand tries to be."

Luke said one of his motivations for returning to Waimea College this year, repeating year 13, was being able to combine te reo Maori and Shakespeare on stage.

"It's pretty cool. It's just something I have never done before. We're pretty much the only group [in the competition] that's going to be doing that," he said.

Luke said people often didn't understand Shakespearean language, let alone te reo Maori, but audiences would be able to understand the scene if he and the rest of the 10-strong cast did their jobs properly.

Mr Brooks said: "Actors who understand what they're saying should be able to communicate that through their bodies, voices, and what they're bringing to the stage."

The winners of the regional heats will go through to the National SGCNZ University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival in Wellington at Queen's Birthday weekend.

The Tasman regional heats, with Waimea College, Garin College, and Motueka High School, are at Waimea College this Saturday.

The Nelson heats, with Nelson College, Nelson College for Girls, Nayland College, Nelson College for Girls Preparatory School, and Gaelynne Pound Studio, are at Nayland College this Sunday.

Sessions start at 10am and 2pm both days, tickets at the door, public welcome.