He is just 18, but actor Ethan Hahunga already has a remarkable ability to portray older characters on stage.
The Tauranga Boys’ College Year 13 student’s most recent showing, as a cantankerous old man, came as part of the school’s outstanding performance at the Theatre in Paradise Festival, held on Norfolk Island last month.
Ethan’s characterisation of Peachum in the epic Beggar’s Opera, written in 1728 and set in London’s seedy under class, won him the Best Male Actor award ahead of many experienced thespians who have been treading the boards for decades.
It follows his equally dramatic portrayal of Shakespeare’s King Lear earlier this year.
“It is a lot more fun to play a character that you aren’t always yourself in real life,” says Ethan. “It is kind of normal for me to play someone like a crazy old man, someone who is losing their mind.
“It kind of shows a wider range of acting abilities and is a lot more fun to play.”
Tauranga Boys’ were up against ten other performance groups from Australia, New Zealand and Norfolk Island, including nine adult casts.
Ethan, student leader Damian Torwick, Tanner Devcich, Zac Hobbis, Reece Gander, Dyllan Crandle, Alfred Shum, Andre Moffat, Mitchell Sigley and Tobias Langdon put on an energetic and humorous 40-minute extract to claim the Runner-Up Best Production award and a cash prize of $540.
It was the first international success for the school’s drama department since Arts Faculty co-leader Zoe Creek became involved.
Having directed the performance, she says being up against adult groups was a real test of the boys’ skills.
“Seven of the team were Year 13,” says Zoe, “so in their last year it was a really good way to do something more challenging as a kind of final piece that they could act in together.
“It was good because all of the boys got their five minutes of fame. There were different sections for them to all take a lead in, and they could play multiple characters in the Beggar’s Opera.
“There were some big ensemble scenes where they could all perform together.”
Zoe is delighted to see Ethan’s talent finally showing through.
“He under sold himself for a number of years, and didn’t have much faith in his ability as an actor,” she says. “I think it was playing the lead in King Lear that gave him a sense that he was actually up there with the best of them.
“He emerged as a really talented actor in King Lear, so I gave him a role that was really difficult in Beggar’s Opera. He had to play an old man who was kind of a bit decrepit, and that is not easy for an 18-year-old to pull off, but he did.
“He has been pushed by the roles he has played this year.”
Ethan plans to study a Bachelor of Arts at Victoria University in Wellington from next year. After that he wants to study at Toi Whakaari, the New Zealand Drama School, and then hopefully study performing arts in England.
“I will just see where that takes me after that,” he says.