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The Full Story

HaBYT was established as a charitable trust in 2003 by director and teacher Ken Keys, also well known as the founder of the National Youth Drama School (NYDS).

Between 2003 and 2013, Ken produced and directed over 50 productions for HaBYT while teaching Hawkes Bay’s fresh young talent advanced theatre skills. A number of former HaBYT members have gone on to train as actors and technicians at Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School and other tertiary theatre training providers.

Ken retired as director in early 2013, passing directorship to Andy Brigden, while retaining a seat on the HaBYT Board of Trustees. 2015 saw the advent of the new face of HaBYT – well known Hawkes Bay drama teachers and actors, Peter & Juliet Cottrell, took the helm. In 2017 they were joined by movement director Champa J. Maciel.

As of 2021, Hawkes Bay Youth Theatre is administered and overseen by a board of trustees, each of whom are respected professionals in their relative fields. The future of HaBYT is very exciting as we connect with industry professionals locally, nationally and internationally to bring the very best of theatre experiences to young people in Hawkes Bay.


Recent Works

2016 Season

Tahi Ao

In July 2016, HaBYT commissioned Daniel Betty to write a play for our tour to Brisbane, Australia. We had a season in Hawkes Bay before presenting at UNITEC Auckland on our way to Brisbane.

When in Brisbane, we performed at a number of schools, youth theatres and education centres. The tour was immensely successful for both personal and professional growth for all concerned and we look forward to the 2017 tour with glee!


One World, right?

Is it really? Why is it that we continue to push not only each other but our world to its limits? Who is in control? Should we want to be in control?

Tahi Ao (One World) is a confronting but humorous morality play and explores these questions deeply. Twelve teenagers have worked collaboratively with Directors Daniel Betty and Peter Cottrell to discuss issues like; Surviving, consumerism, religion, refugees, ownership, narcissism, bullying and much more. These issues are explored with humility and humour and the actors are challenged to work with truth.


The Gods, Mother Earth and Father Sky have been pulled apart by their children. As their love has been challenged, light floods the Earth and life explodes. The Gods struggle with Human Existence and how they are affecting the world we live in. They observe the hardships and inner struggles through 15 characters telling their intimate confessions. This breaking of the fourth wall challenges the audience into questioning "why we do these things to ourselves, and why do the Gods allow it?"

Tahi Ao is a physical theatre piece and allows the chorus to enhance each character using a multitude of theatrical conventions. By using a mixture of poetry, prose, silence, and soundscape the audience are riveted as they are pulled along this emotional roller-coaster.

2017 Season


Over The Top, by Amanda Jackson

Over The Top is an ANZAC play that presents a theatrical insight into the lives of nine young people who enlisted in WW1 in 1915 and explores the effect on their families left behind.  The play follows the stories of six boy soldiers, Patrick, Jack, Edgar, Harry, Pura and Hoani, and three girls, Dora, Ruth and Madeleine. The young people, who have enlisted as soldiers and nurses, are fictional, but are based on the stories of real families residing in Napier in 1915 – 1918. First produced by The Drama Workshop for the centenary of Gallipoli in 2015, this re-write has been commissioned by HaBYT to tour Hawkes Bay, Christchurch, Brisbane, and Auckland over 2017/2018. The cast included 13 young people from a number of diverse secondary school environments across Hawke’s Bay, working alongside two adult actors. The play uses sign language, spoken word, song, physical theatre and imagery to bring the stories to life.

Writer: Amanda Jackson

Director: Peter Cottrell (Artistic Director of HaBYT).

Movement Director: Champa J. Maciel

Producer: Juliet Cottrell (Managing Director – HABYT)

Te Reo Consultant and Tutor: Whaia Tania Robin

Costumes: Angela Elliott


30 June, 2017 - Playhouse Theatre, Hastings.

Tailing the Gallipoli centennial commemorations, I must admit, I felt weary at the thought of Hawke’s Bay’s youth theatre troupe, HaBYT, staging true-life World War One stories and the risk of a glorifying ANZAC legend.  But the guiding hands of director Peter Cottrell, dramaturge Amanda Jackson and choreographer Champa Maciel are too astute to offer up clichéd, packaged sentiments, and I was treated to a theatrical engagement with the past that was powerful and surprisingly resonant.

Over the Top offers a multifaceted perspective on the young men and women who enlisted for a war on the other side of the world 100 years ago, exploring the nuance and implication of individual decision within the close familial, social weave, and framed by a wider historical context. Nine local interwoven lives and multiple voices (both representative of the different war experiences and biographically specific) collectively tell the story, conveyed with evocative, breath-taking artistry; simple, minimalist stage design; and sustained by compelling, focused performances.

In their yearning for adventure, for meaningful work, for the “big, brave world” beyond the safe, familiar shore, the need to go their own way, the infectious pull of their peer group, the young ‘heroes’ of this play have an identifiable immediacy. There’s a sobering poignancy in the sense that all that stands between them and the same-aged actors who embody them is a century’s remove. Likewise, in the various responses of the parental figures – from pride and pressure, to foreboding, worry, fierce opposition, to plain annoyance (“we need you for the lambing”) – there’s a human complexity and dynamic that is universal, timeless, transcending History and the play’s own carefully anchored period.


Amusing quips and animated exchange between characters generates a sense of their ‘aliveness’ and proximity, gradually giving way to more stylistic, tableau-like interactions as the realities of war sink in, and ultimately a more abstracted distance, silence. Folded into the script are cultural references, from totemic figures of the time (Banjo Patterson, Rupert Brooke) to oft-heard NZ-familiar refrains (“home for Christmas”) and recognisable descriptors (“a living hell”), to, finally, the commemorative act: the Last Post, which morphs from an authentically enacted memorial, into the national ritual by which we collectively remember, gently returning the audience in the process to our historically-conscious present.

While these narrative elements accomplish a satisfying arc, what gives the play its vital force, is the incorporation of physical theatre, stunningly choreographed movement, and the effective use of music, sound, song – most profoundly towards the end in the clear, pure singing of a Māori waiata as it melds into English folk song, underscoring a united grief.

I was particularly impressed with the seamless, almost magical transitions between scenes. In one, a screen-printed sheet held taut as a propaganda-backdrop for enlistment is folded up by the actor holding it as if bringing in washing, as the play smoothly shifts into a busy domestic scene. In another, a sheet with a black and white photo of soldiers – their backs – marching, creates the set for intersecting narratives in the first letters home, to then be draped over living bodies, creating, in the next scene, a craggy landscape, trenches; an actor stretched out across, his eyes open, the sound of artillery fire. It’s incredibly effective and all we need to conjure, visually, the horror. 

‘Over the Top’ is a superbly crafted and impeccably delivered theatre piece, and I very much look forward to what HaBYT, under the directorship of Peter Cottrell and the Drama Workshop production team, come up with next.

                                                                        -Bridie Freeman, The Hook





“As the play progressed I kept hoping there would be things my critical self could latch onto to prevent the emotional overload I was experiencing. Unfortunately there was quite simply a plethora of stunning performances. I do have a strong emotional response to anything related to war that highlights the waste of young lives. The last time my reaction was so intense was when I went to the war cemetery at Monte Cassino in Italy. Row upon row of white crosses right near where the loss of young lives occurred day after day, is quite overwhelming. This production is outstanding in so  many ways. The writing of it is superb. Amanda is one clever cookie!!  I think you know me well enough to know I am not easily impressed with written material or productions. This is an amazing piece of theatre on both counts.This is written work with high impact that your students did great justice too. Please pass on to them all my ‘enjoyment’ of their dress rehearsal.

Jacquie Hills,Theatre Hawkes Bay

As brief as it was on your flying visit(!), it was just wonderful to have you, Peter, Champa and the HaBYT students here to perform Amanda’s powerful piece ‘Over the Top’ in the Gloucester Room, followed by an insightful Q&A. I really enjoyed hearing the heartfelt responses from some of the senior audience members invited from the local RSA, as well as the school children in the room (and their teachers). It was very interesting to hear the perspectives of the HaBYT students in tackling the play, the personal stories of young HB characters having so much more relevance to them – oh the power of theatre, I so love it!!

Andrea Brigden, Artistic and Business Development, Isaac Theatre, Christchurch

I just wanted to thank you for coming to The Gap and congratulate you (and all of the group) on another fantastic performance! My students absolutely LOVED IT! My year 11 students are just about to start working on a class performance and they are already full of ideas based off things they saw in your performance.

I also have to commend you all on your behaviour – so well behaved and polite and friendly.

Looking forward to hear about your next project!


- Melissa Handley, The Gap High School, Brisbane



Australian Tours

In the years leading up to the COVID outbreak, HaBYT periodically took the senior touring company on a performance tour of Brisbane, Australia. In 2016 we took Tahi Ao, in 2017 Over the Top, and in 2019 Romeo and Juliet.  The company visited Christchurch (2017) and Auckland (2019) on the way to Brisbane to perform, and visited Wellington to participate in a professional theatre workshop with Young and Hungry (2019). We hope to continue this touring tradition as soon as international travel once more becomes safe. 


2018 Season

Skellig by David Almond

“Truth and dreams are always getting muddled”


Michael and his family have moved into a new house that is in bad repair. He and his parents are anxious, as his new baby sister has been born prematurely and her life is merely holding on by a thread. When Michael goes into the garage, amid all the boxes, debris and dead insects he finds something . . . strange. Something else.

Michael meets a girl named Mina who lives opposite his house. She is homeschooled and is interested in nature, drawing and poems by William Blake. She likes to look after some baby birds who live in her yard and teaches Michael to listen to their tiny sounds. 

Skellig is suitable for Primary aged students.

Our two HaBYT groups, Hastings and Napier, came together to present Skellig in September 2018, in our Napier Studio. The set for Skellig was custom built from Acrow Scaffolding.  HaBYT Havelock North performed Act 1, directed by Peter Cottrell and HaBYT Napier performed Act 2, directed by Kate Tarrant.

Movement Director: Champa J. Maciel


Monday 24 September 7pm

Tuesday 25 September 7pm

Where: Napier Studio, 6a Hastings St, Napier


2020 Season

Everyman - Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2020

In October 2020, HABYT performed Carol Ann Duffy’s Everyman at the Hawkes Bay Arts Festival. Previously performed by the National Theatre in London, the season spanned five performances between October 13 – 17 at Keirunga Theatre. A sixth performance was scheduled on the Saturday due to a completely sold out season.

Promotional material

From the expansive hub of London’s National Theatre, to Heretaunga, Aotearoa, Hawke’s Bay Youth

Theatre transplants this new, energetic, and visceral production of Carol Ann Duffy’s

Everyman. Originally the cornerstone of 15th century English morality plays, Poet Laureate

Carol Ann Duffy’s re-imagining of the script brings a startling relevance to modern life.

Rhyme, rhythm and colourful cadences create an exciting and enticing web around 21st

century culture. Alongside the direction of Peter Cottrell and the co-direction and movement

direction of Champa J. Maciel, the actors of Hawke’s Bay Youth Theatre bring this story

roaring and rumbling into 2020.

Amidst climate strikes, social unrest and pandemic, young voices are itching to be heard, and the incredible actors of Hawke’s Bay’s own youth company tenaciously grasp this story with maturity and immense energy. From open to close, the audience will be swept on a dynamic and intimate journey that questions values of belonging, of family, of the individual, and of accountability.

It is an experience that leaves viewers moved and breathless. Everyman is a heartfelt, physical, and utterly unapologetic exploration of the forces that have shaped the world around us.

13, 14, 16, 17 October, 6pm

15 October 7.30pm

Keirunga Theatre 90 minutes no interval,

16+, contains strong language and adult references. 

Admission: Adult $29, Concession $24


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