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New play

We continue to explore important Coast issues with our latest production, Helen & the Ferals.

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‘In Helen & the Ferals we tell the story of the battle for and against native logging on the Coast. The issue has been the one that has generated the most environmental controversy in the region and led, for a period, to an intense anti-Green feeling amongst many Coasters.

In the play, which is something of a musical, a local Punk Rock band called Helen & the Ferals (named after Helen Clark’s infamous description of Coasters) tell the story of the controversy, which spanned thirty years, beginning in 1970 with the National Government’s plan to chip a sizeable portion of the beech forest, continuing through to the Maruia Petition and the West Coast Accord, then to the saga of Timberland’s attempt to introduce a sustainable beech logging scheme, ending with the breaking of the Accord by the Labour Government at the turn of the century and the ban on native logging in state owned forest.

We call the play a tragi-comedy, for while the story has the elements of tragedy: all the parties sometimes challenging the gods of common sense and a hero (Timberlands) with a fatal flaw (its romance with a PR firm); there are elements of farce as well.

The play proposes a solution to the continuing conflict between extractivists and Greenies on the Coast by looking at the concept of extractive reserves developed in the Amazon by the rubber tappers and the indigenous tribes.

Each performance will be followed by a discussion with the audience.

It is extraordinary that as we began rehearsing Helen & the Ferals, the issue should rear its head again with the proposal by Grey District Council to allow sustainable logging in its forests receiving 14,000 submissions. Suddenly the story is absolutely topical.’

The cast of Kiwi/Possum regulars: Rose Blair, Francis Darwin, Mikaere Hanna, Jason Johnson, Paul Maunder, George Super, Elisa and Frank Wells, are joined by Hokitika musician, Vincent Best. Paul Kearns once again is the designer.

Helen & the Ferals (Helen by the way, having finished up at the UN, has joined the band) premiers at The Regent Theatre, Greymouth at 7.30pm, Thursday July 21- Saturday July 22nd. Tickets are $12.50 and $10 (unwaged). It is advisable to book at the theatre.

Thereafter, the production will tour to Hokitika’s Old Lodge, August 5th; Westport’s NBS Theatre, August 12th; Oddfellows Hall, Reefton, August 19th; with a Mapua performance scheduled in September.

The production is supported by Creative Communities.

Audience Survey

At a Labour Day picnic, at Greymouth/Mawhera town square, 2.00pm, October 24th, the results of our audience surveys re a transition economy for the Coast will be presented. If wet, we’ll transfer to the nearby cafe. A document will be available for people to sign before it is nailed to the doors of the Councils and DWC (maybe blue tacked).

Season begins

Three great nights in Greymouth/Mawhera. An astute review from Karen Grant: who found the play ‘rich and engaging’. A French woofer came along and insisted on videoing it the next night. ‘It needs to be out there on the net.’

The culture of the process: audience engagement through a simple whakapapa exercise, the performance as a provocation followed by further discussion with audience over supper proved to be a whole experience, reminding me of marae encounters.

Lovely having a choir involved, who all grew into the performance occasion.

Performance dates for The Measures Taken

Greymouth: Regent Theatre, August 26-28. 7.30pm/ $10. Book at theatre.

Hokitika: The Old Lodge, Sept 3, 7.30pm. $15/$10. Book at WestReap

Westport: NBS Theatre, September 10, 7.30pm. $10. Book at theatre.

Reefton: Oddfellows Hall, Bridge Street. September 17th. $10.

Press release:

Kiwi/Possum Productions new play, called The Measures Taken, focuses on the economic and cultural transition the Coast is having to make.

‘The West Coast has, for the last forty years, been searching for a sustainable economy,’ states writer, Paul Maunder. ‘This play is a provocation with regard to that so far, unsuccessful quest.’

Based on German playwright, Bertolt Brecht’s teaching plays, the story of The Measures Taken is simple. The Coast has elected a youngish, progressive woman mayor, who has come up with a new and startling agenda for the region. She is called before the people to justify her actions and uses a group of players and a local choir to assist, as she combs through Coast heritage to present her argument. The theatrical journey is interwoven with original songs from the choir, before we reach the present day and the debate begins.

‘The play is in some ways,’ states Maunder, ‘a West Coast musical.’

The performance will be followed by supper during which the audience members will be interviewed in order to gather their response to the issues uncovered.

Jason Johnson has directed the team of players: Rose Blair, Francis Darwin, Mikaere Hanna, George Super and Elisa Wells. Heather Fletcher, who plays the mayor, has written the music for the songs and rehearsed local choir, Waiata Koha. John Philips, Shona Preston and Maunder are spokespeople for the citizens.  Paul Kearns and Sam Gibbens deal with the technical side of the production, which will prove once again, to be a unique theatre experience.

As with the group’s last show, A Brief History of Madness, audience numbers for each performance will be limited, so it will be wise to book.

Rehearsals begin on new play

We have started work on this year’s play, called, after Brecht, The Measures Taken. It will become a theatrical provocation in terms of getting the audience to think outside the square, in terms of the transition economy. It also involves local community choir, Waiata Koha, singing songs with music composed by Heather Fletcher. Performances will begin at the end of August. Once again, we are grateful for support from Creative Communities.


2016 tour dates for A Brief History of Madness

group shot part oneWe will be returning to the Regent, Greymouth, for two nights, 19th and 20th February at 7.30pm for those who missed out because of the sold out season last year. Bookings once again at The Regent.

March 5th, Seaview Hall, Hokitika, 7.30pm.

March 19th, NBS Theatre, Westport, 7.30pm (book at theatre)

April 2nd, Motueka, Mapua Hall, 7.30pm (book at Sprig and Fern or email

Nelson Fringe Festival: Paul Maunder will run a workshop: From Boal to Castrillo, Wed May 4th, 10.00am – 1pm.


                                                        Scene from Hokitika performance

Successful season at Regent

A sell out season of the play was well received at The Regent, Greymouth. Karen Grant’s review for Theatre View is posted below.

Video excerpts can be seen at

The draft  touring schedule is as follows: Return season at Regent, February 19,20

Hokitika, Seaview Hall, March 5th

Westport NBS Theatre, March 16th

Motueka (venue to be decided), April 2nd.

And we hope to play the Nelson Fringe Festival, early in May.

“A Brief History of Madness” is the new theatre piece by Kiwi/Possum Productions. Playwright Paul Maunder is known for his style of intimate staging. In this production he further challenges his cast as they must explore the realms of madness with antics and complicated monologues delivered within touching distance of an audience of friends and others from the local community.
The stage is where the action is, and the audience follows to the spartan set that brings us into the Seaview Asylum in the 1930’s, a time when the mad and the inconvenient were hidden away from ‘normal’ society. In this production Paul explores this concept. We are the privileged onlookers, carefully escorted and allowed to observe Freudian psychoanalysis in action; the new technique to unlock and understand disorders of mind.
As the stories of each are revealed, the interest in these stories is deepened by knowing that they are drawn from the history of the West Coast. We hear of lives damaged by tortured pasts, and of freedom denied by others with power or money. And as we listen we become aware of the ravings and footsteps of others moving in, around and outside the room we are in. It all feels a bit claustrophobic and knotted sheets hanging around the set reinforce the thought of escape.
The second part of the production is set in a modern hospital and explores the “Seaview Project” where the insane are now seen as a commodity to invest in and to shape into a profitable workforce. The goal is no longer investigating and understanding the insane. Now the objective is to categorise the unwanted behavior and eventually hit on the right drug or fashionable treatment that will stupefy it out of existence.
I really enjoyed this production and while I thought all of the cast presented well, Mikaere Hanna and Jason Johnson deserve special mention as they were both outstanding in their roles. The action and dialogue held my interest throughout, there was a nice cup of tea at half-time, and from the stories that were told, I want to know more about the threads of history woven into them.
Chatting to others at half-time and after the show confirmed to me that many of us feel we have see-sawed out-of-kilter at some time or other. Accepting this should be the new norm. Why force ourselves to conform to a bland majority, devoid of independent thought or action? If we continue to pluck the fluff and stray threads from a rich tapestry, what would we have left?
Paul Maunder and his cast have examined madness and normality, and delivered a moving experience that makes you wonder at the morality of it all. The production finishes strongly with the entire cast singing beautifully. With spirits lifted again, we return our empty tea-cups to the trolley and head home.
Only two more shows to go this week at the Regent Theatre in Greymouth, tonight and Saturday night, 7:30pm start.
Script: Paul Maunder
Cast: Heather Fletcher, Jason Johnson, Frank Wells, Caroline Selwood, Paul Maunder, Elisa Wells, Mikaere Hanna, Francis Darwen and Stasha-lee Beukes.
Design and lighting: Paul Kearns.