Spotlight falls again on Bay actress who took giant leap to stardom

Yesterday the team put the finishing touches on our newest exhibition “Nyree Dawn Porter: from local stage to global stardom”. This display explores Hawkes Bay local, Nyree Dawn Porter, looking at her first love and early roots – ballet. At the age of 18 Nyree passed the required qualifications to set up her own ballet studio, which she did in the front room of her mother’s house. There she drew portraits of ballerinas on the walls, purposely elongating elements of the figures to inspire grace and elegance in her students.

In between teaching Nyree pursued acting with the Napier Operatic Society and then “The New Zealand Players”, a travelling group founded by Richard and Edith Campion. Born Ngaire in 1936, she changed the spelling of her name to Nyree when she moved to England in the 1950s. There she shot to fame as Irene in the Forsyte Saga, television’s first soap opera, and Nyree quickly became a household name.

We put out a call to the community to help gather information and items about Nyree’s life and were overwhelmed with the support received. The collective knowledge of a community is a powerful tool – thank you for sharing your stories and treasures with us.

In the exhibition design for Nyree Dawn Porter we have endeavoured to create a sense of the theatre scene which Nyree so loved and also the time period in which she was, literally, the ‘star of the show’. With beautiful stage curtains setting the scene and ballet costumes, designed by Karina Blogg, to try on, along with a ballet barre and mirror, this small exhibition aims to be an immersive experience.

Nyree received a Bafta Award, an OBE, was portrayed on stamps, featured on ‘This is Your Life’ and had ships named after her, truly achieving global stardom.  If you’re a fan of Nyree, a ballet lover, a follower of the Forstye Saga, or interested in stage and film we hope you will enjoy this story.

We, as always, debate and discuss the best mix of exhibitions, stories and objects to showcase. Some exhibitions are important in terms of the current social issues they explore, others focus on sharing the collection, some on telling local histories, and yet more on celebrating different cultures and so on. Getting the mix of exhibitions right is complex, with our target audience the entire community of Hawke’s Bay plus visitors to the region. Everyone wants different things – some are only interested in art, others solely in history, some primarily in design and the list goes on.

We need to find a balance between providing a bit of something for everyone and at the same time playing one of the important roles that museums have within communities – to reflect and explore current social issues and to challenge and unpack current paradigms. When at our very best changing minds and opening hearts.

Nyree photos - Carine (4)


  • The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, one of the most beloved operas of all time, presented by Wanderlust. Century Theatre, Wednesday 28 March, 7:30-9:30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.
  • Embroidery workshops with Jo Dixey, 7-8 April, 10:30am – 4pm, $50 per workshop. To book call MTG 835 7781 or email


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 17th March 2018


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