Awatea Shines Brightly [by Sharu Delilkan]
You knew the writing was on the wall the minute you walked into the theatre. I’m of course referring to the beautifully chalked letters that 'panoramically' filled the backdrop of the entire stage. So dramatic, intriguing and utterly effective was this device that you could not help reading some of the letters while the show was going on.
But on to the show.
Having produced both The Pohutukawa Tree and The End Of The Golden Weather, Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Awatea completes Bruce Mason's classic trilogy of powerful New Zealand dramas. And it is everything it promises to be – thrilling, heart-wrenching, morally tough - a fiercely realistic study of betrayal and disillusionment.
Awatea, based in and around Ngati Porou country, is the story about a remote township of Omoana that revolves around their ‘hero’ Dr Matt Paku (Te Kohe Tuhaka) who left the East Coast and now owns a successful practice in Auckland. Proudest of all is his old, blind father Werihe (George Henare), who basks in this success via his son's letters, read to him by the no-nonsense local postmistress Emma Gilhooly (Geraldine Brophy). Every New Year's Eve, Matt comes home and the whole community celebrates. But things are different this year: Gilhooly has devastating news which she must keep from old Werihe at all costs.
Q opens in triumph, Fringe overshadows Festival, Outfit Rise, Rugby, Rugby, Rugby, and the Death of the Theatre. [by James Wenley]
Attending the recent Hackman Theatre awards, Auckland Theatre circa 2011 would appear to be in rude health. Rude being the word, hosts Nic Sampson and Joseph Moore proudly observing it was a record year of nudity on stage, from the very brave Mr. Sam Seddon in The Only Child to the Dame bosoms of the Calendar Girls. It was certainly year that didn’t leave much to the imagination, containing everything from dildos to knitted phalluses, bath tubs to swimming pools.
The Hackmans were a big communal pat on the back for the industry, a brash and bold celebration of a huge year in theatre. As Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Robyn Malcom closed the awards night performing in a Thomas Sainsbury play that he had written under duress that very night, there was a sense that anything and everything was possible.
As a critic moving from Craccum to my own Theatre Scenes blog this year, I’ve welcomed the end-of-year theatre break. Throughout the year, I could often be heard to exclaim: ‘Auckland Theatre: There is too much of you!’. It’s been exhausting going to opening to opening night after night. And immensely rewarding. While containing some duds for sure, my impression of the year is one of great strength and eclectic activity. There was no shortage of things to write about at least. There was always something on. Between fellow blogger Sharu Delilkan and me, we reviewed or previewed 96 different shows, and even that barely scratched the surface.
Milk and Honey Dreams [by James Wenley]
The End of the Golden Weather has got to be one of the great New Zealand stories. As a play, it’s endured far beyond its intended lifespan. Playwright Bruce Mason wrote it partly as a platform for himself, performing the work solo across NZ in the decades for a staggering 986 performances, until his death in 1982.
But the Golden Weather was to continue. The play not only continued its solo tradition with a select few actors being entrusted with the play, but has been adapted for many actors – Raymond Hawthorne did a company version in the 80s, and Ian Mune directed the film in 1991.
Auckland Theatre Company’s production, part of the Real NZ Festival and just in time for the Rugby World Cup influx, is an ensemble version for 9 actors, which has its roots in similar productions Murray Lynch directed in 1987 and 1990. Interestingly, both Lynch and ATC’s artist director Colin McColl stage-managed the play for Bruce Mason himself early in their careers. This play looms large in our theatre history.