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Article Excerpts

"The Consummate Mr Michael Hurst," Metro (1985) "Michael Hurst generates high energy.  It ensures that even while he's standing still, he draws attention.  Close up, his face is perceptive, expressive--a mouth curved in readiness.  When the salvo of words breaks out, a divergent, mercurial man begins to show.

"Uppermost amongst the many characters harboured in Hurst's personality is a clown: a legacy from his northern English origins.  Like a jack-in-the box it springs out frequently and you catch your breath with its brightness."

"Roger McGill, director at Theatre Corporate, respects Hurst as 'one of the few actors who make a maximum commitment to his art and his theatre.  He's also got that intense and rare quality of watchability.  You only achieve that through hard work, good training and in his particular case, wonderful enthusiasm and energy towards whatever he does.'"

"Prince of Darkness," NZ Herald (2003)  "Hurst, unquestionably our finest and most versatile actor, has established himself as one of the most adventurous and exciting directors of Shakespeare.  And to watch him at work is to see instinct and intellect combine in a way which makes effort seem effortless.  He may look like one who's making it up as he goes along--in a sense he is--but his invention is underpinned by a sure sense of stagecraft and driven by a love for the grandly theatrical."

Macbeth review, NZ Herald (2004)  "Hurst shows--as he did in his magnificent Hamlet--his unparalleled ability to speak the poetry.  Words, snatches of phrase, sometimes whole passages, explode into life as if never heard before.

"I, for one, can't wait until this man decides to shoulder King Lear."


Michael Hurst was born on September 20, 1957 in Lancashire, England. He was eight years old when his family moved to Christchurch, New Zealand where he attended Papanui High School. He has three younger brothers: Mark, Stuart, and Nicholas (half-brother).

Michael began getting involved in school drama projects when he was about fourteen, developing an interest in everything from acting and directing to painting sets. When he was nineteen, after a year at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, he joined the Court Theatre on a two-year training programme.

At twenty-two he was accepted into Theatre Corporate in Auckland. He was there for seven years, ending up as Chair in 1985. He joined the Mercury Theatre, performing in or directing over twenty plays there between 1982 and 1991. In 1987 he became the first New Zealand actor to be contracted to Australia when he won the role of D’Artagnan in the Melbourne Theatre Company production of The Three Musketeers.

By the early nineties Michael had become something of a Shakespearian authority in New Zealand, both interpreting and teaching the works of the bard. In 1991 he was a co-founder of the Watershed Theatre, and in 2003 became co-founder and Artistic Director of The Large Group. 

In 1993 he was the first actor cast for the Renaissance Pictures production of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, in which he starred for six years as Iolaus, Hercules' sidekick and best friend.

As both actor and director, he has a very long list of theatre, film, television, and radio work to his name.  He has received awards for both acting and directing, as well as the prestigious Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand and an appointment as Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit "for services to film and the theatre".  He is Chair of the AUSA Outdoor Shakespeare Trust.

Michael is happily married to award-winning New Zealand actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand, and they have two sons, Jack Louis Ward Hurst (born 25 January 1997) and Cameron Lane Ward Hurst (born 2 December 1999).  He and Jennifer are the Patrons of The Auckland Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC), and in 2005 became Champions of Auckland's New Theatre Initiative (now Q Theatre).  In 2010 they were named the Patrons of Q Theatre.

Michael's skills include acting, directing, writing, dancing, and singing, and stage fight and fencing choreography. He was also a fencing champion.

Michael Interviewed for New Zealand On Screen

Michael did the ScreenTalk interview below for the website New Zealand Onscreen.  The site celebrates New Zealand films and tv shows and the people who make them.  Michael talks about his career, from his first tv role in a show called "Tinkling Brass" to the upcoming feature film Bitch Slap.

New Zealand On Screen also has a feature page on Michael's screen career, including clips from films and tv shows.


Michael is represented by Johnson & Laird Management; please address professional enquiries to them.

For website problems or comments, contact .