Dark script earns top mark

Nick Swindells is the author of a "real schizophrenic sort of play". Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Nick Swindells is the author of a "real schizophrenic sort of play". Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Delving into the deepest recesses of Jack the Ripper's mind has helped a former Kavanagh College pupil win top marks in last year's NZQA Scholarship drama exam.

Nick Swindells received an Outstanding Scholarship award this week for scoring 24 out of 24 in the exam.

He was one of only six secondary pupils to achieve the perfect score and was in the top 1% of the 1700 pupils across the country who sat it.

As part of the exam, Nick wrote a drama script about Walter Sickert - an English painter believed to be Jack the Ripper - and was surprised to look back on what he had written in the exam.

"My script was about being inside the mind of Walter Sickert. It was a real schizophrenic sort of play. It even scared me to see what I came up with."

While he was surprised at the depths to which he descended to build the character for his script, he said it did not come close to the shock he experienced when he found out he had scored full marks in the exam.

"It's quite unbelievable because I had been talking about whether I would even get a scholarship for so long."

The 2008 Class Act award recipient was one of the 121 pupils awarded scholarships in Otago and one of 11 who received outstanding scholarships.

Almost 9000 pupils across the country sat scholarship exams and 2038 will receive a total of more than $3.2 million over the next three years.

Payments ranged from a one-off payment of $500 for a single subject exam pass to $30,000 over three years for premier award winners.

Despite his flair for drama, Nick has no plans to drift off to Hollywood in pursuit of a career in film.

Instead, he is studying business management at the Dunedin Polytechnic and hopes to own his own restaurant one day.

In the meantime, he will continue acting and plans to do his first audition for a role in this year's Dunedin Operatic production.

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