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Projects for new year

Theatre: Classic Encounter on the Coast

With the production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame West Coast we enter a partnership with Christchurch based company, Free Theatre.

We have had on the agenda to produce a classic and the European notion of encounter has always attracted. We have also had the idea to rehearse something intensely for a week so that actors from off the coast can come and participate. 0n this occasion we welcome Emily Maunder, freshly graduated from NASDA. We also feel it is important for audiences to have the opportunity to encounter a classic, which become increasingly rarely staged in New Zealand.

Recently we had a dialogue with Free Theatre when they came to the Coast for their Erewhon project and the resultant video is worth a view, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfM5rQEaBcI&t=3s.  But as well Free Theatre artistic director, Peter Falkenberg was the supervisor for Paul’s PhD thesis on community-based theatre in New Zealand. These impulses have come together for this production of Samuel Beckett’s play, Endgame.which will be directed by Peter.

Endgame is now considered a Beckett masterpiece and was one of his two favourite works. Beckett was of course writing after WW11 when the knowledge of the death camps overwhelmed conscience, when nuclear threat hovered, and when Western civilisation was experiencing a crisis of faith. Commonly known as theatre of the absurd, certain plays began to refuse the simplistic ethics of the past and pursued instead the resulting despair and absurdity. This is what we encounter; and we bring our own knowledge of despair and absurdity  emanating from the climate crisis, species loss, populist politics and the inability of late capitalism.

We can empathise with these characters in a room, with an apocalyptic world outside, simultaneously  attempting and denying relationship, locked in a game of life which resembles chess. Stalemate? Checkmate? Humour? Rancour? One seems to be blind, the other crippled; the parents of one of them live in rubbish bins on stage. The end game of life is played out.

Kiwi/Possum have eyed the old bathhouse in Blackball as a performance venue for some time. The bathhouse used to be the place where miners washed up at the end of the day, but it was also the place of dialogue and playfulness. What better venue then to stage this classic. This will be a unique night at the theatre. Book by texting 0211063669.

For those coming from afar, The Blackball Inn and Café can offer a $100 bed, meal, breakfast and play deal in a variety of single or double formats: blackballinn@gmail.com; 021361397 or 037324888. Alternatively, Blackball Salami has fully self contained Tiny Homes at $60 a head with either a double bed or two singles in each: 0272564951. Or those on a budget camp at the museum for free.

Writer in residency

Thanks to a Creative NZ grant the Blackball Writers Residency in the Brian Wood Cottage has taken place. The resident writer, Stevan Eldred-Grigg wrote in his report:

I lived for the month at the Brian Wood Cottage in Blackball. The cottage is a charming, indeed magical, haven of quiet and peace. The front veranda and the back porch – lovely places to sit and think whether the sun is shining or the rain is teeming – the bush on Mount Kinsella, the sound of Ford Creek, the birdlife in the garden, have all been a big part of that magic. The quiet and privacy of the cottage meant that I succeeded in my plan of writing the final draft of my new memoir, Green Grey Rain.

I gave a talk about my book to audiences in Greymouth and Hokitika. At both talks the audience was interested, interactive and lively. I also conducted a three-hour workshop with seventeen school students, aged ten to thirteen, from primary schools in the Grey district. A big bonus of living and working in Blackball is that the village is not only quiet and peaceful but also convivial and friendly. A writer in Blackball feels supported by a kindly community, yet at the same time can choose to be solitary.

Apart from the residency An Evening of Story Telling was rehearsed and two previews given with good feedback. Diane Burns wrote: ‘ What a treat to find ourselves connected to the land and to our history in this powerful way. Through voice and heart and with a clear sense of purpose, we learnt important aspects of our histories and herstories.A tour of these stories to small towns on the Coast has now been scheduled for next year. To sample a story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laQLIe0xB6s

We have in mind for midyear, a play on the housing crisis and will be inviting new members into the group for the project. We will be exploring the style of theatre created by the Geheimagentur Group in Germany.

Finally, two hui have been held to discuss arts development on the coast and from the discussion Te Tai Poutini Arts Development Network formed. Each year the network will call for projects and a participatory democracy process will take place to create a strategic programme for which to seek funding. The above programme is an interim programme with the process kicking in in 2021. Network members and their area of interest are:

Alun Bollinger: Blacks Point. Film, Heritage, Youth; Becky Manawatu: Westport, Writers; Cassandra Struve: Greymouth, Galleries, Children; Heather Fletcher: Greymouth. Choir, Music and Well Being; Jason Johnson: Greymouth, Advocacy, Data base; Karamea Arts Council; Katie Hanson: Greymouth; Art in schools, Dance; Paul Maunder- Blackball, Writers and Theatre; Roger Ewer:  Coast Road, Gigs and Celebration; Rosamund Heney: Moana, Advocacy, Youth; Tessa Hunter: Reefton, Professional artists, Well being; Tony Manuel: Reefton, Maori arts; Westland Arts Inc Exec.: Hokitika– art, community, craft, arts on tour. (It should be noted that WAI do not wish to participate in the participatory democracy process.)

The Network are beginning an advocacy process in order to create local stakeholders.

Creative NZ Grant

We were pleased to receive a resilience grant from CNZ. This covers the holding of the first Blackball Writers Residency and provides money to prepare for a range of work:

  • a story telling tour of the Coast;
  • a summer Shakespeare ( to be mounted in a partnership with Free Theatre);
  • the filming of A Brief History of Madness;
  • a tour of Coast centres by Waita Koha choir and
  • the holding of hui to discuss a possible Regional Arts Strategy.

This means a looking outwards from just doing out own projects to forming wider partnerships with the community. Meanwhile we have the luxury of being paid a little for doing some of the work.

By the end of September we will be in the position to apply for funding for the above projects.

There’s no planet b

Waiting for Greta  in Christchurch

We are pleased to be able to bring this production to Christchurch, thanks to the new popup theatre that has opened there.

The play was premiered on the Coast last year, toured to Motueka for a sell out performance and Christchurch performances will take place at Little Andromeda, Level 1, 130 Oxford Tce, Christchurch,  March 27,28,7pm, $15/$10 Bookings 0508484253

‘Samuel and Harold hold on to their lives through companionship, see-sawing from ribaldry to languor on their driftwood stump precipice out on the edge of the world… in this important exploration of the issue of our time,’ wrote Greymouth reviewer, Catherine Woollett.

Greta Chch poster

Book launching

A lovely night at Red Books in Greymouth/Mawhera for the launching of the Collected Plays. Carol Dawber, who has written a great introduction putting the plays into the historical context of West Coast community theatre was there, together with cast members and friends.  James Print have done a great job with the printing and it was a night of great conversation. Copies are available from wkcultur@gmail.com. $20 plus postage.

Waiting for Greta in Motueka

We are pleased to be offering Waiting for Greta to Top of the South audiences  at the Imagine Theatre, Motueka, Nov 9th at 7.30pm. Bookings text 0211063669,

On the night cash only. $15/$10

Greta motueka poster

Thereafter we’ll be performing the piece in Hokitika at The Old Lodge, November 18th and in Greymouth at The Regent on Nov 20th, 7pm.

Meanwhile, here’s a review from Catherine Woollett.

Grab your oilskin and gumboots and row, walk, bike or even drive into Old Town Mawhera/Greymouth to see Waiting for Greta. This heated dystopian drama is showing at The Left Bank (of the flood wall) as part of next month’s Loud Mouth Festival. Waiting for Greta, written by Paul Maunder is Community Theatre at its best. The inaugural performance on the Spring Equinox was very well received by a large local audience who braved the deluge to attend. Again, Kiwi Possum Productions succeeded at facilitating dialogue around the omnipresent problems we face as a community, this time the subject being of course Global Warming.

Two old cobbers played by Paul Maunder and Frank Wells anxiously await the arrival of Greta, a force that they have no evidence will show up or even exists. While they wait, they reflect on their life. Their existential searching is situated in a not too distant future where Climate Change has wreaked havoc on the environment and the habitus they grapple to survive and exist in. The rich dialogue, a cacophony of griping, whinging, howling, bickering and bullying punctuated with poignant sighs and silences fills the spartan and cleverly constructed set, staged and managed by Elisa Wells. Samuel and Harold hold on to their lives through companionship, see-sawing from ribaldry to languor on their driftwood stump precipice out on the edge of the world. They share the last apple in existence, reminding me of a story where a green fingered Moody Creek miner succeeded in growing an apple tree on top of the mine from a seed of a particularly delicious crib time apple.  Paul Kearns and Coban McBride are dynamic in utilising the intimate staging to maximise their important secondary roles as the town’s Mayor and his Personal Trainer. As momentum for Greta builds, we ask who or what is Greta? Another flood, a whirlwind, a cyclone, a wildfire fire, all we know as we wait is that this is the big one. And then Greta arrives…

A flaxroots, contemporary and West Coast take on Samuel Beckett’s influential Theatre of the Absurd Waiting for Godot, Waiting for Greta impressed this audience member with its importance in exploring the issue of our time.

There was a lovely performance of The Survival of Thomas Brunner at the Blackball Writers’ Retreat held over Labour Weekend. This piece will also be performed, late afternoon at The Old Lodge on Nov 18th.

Previews

The Left Bank to host preview of two new theatre ventures.

Greta posterfinal

There’s no Planet B

“The world in which we live appears illusory and fictitious… human behaviour reveals its absurdity and all history its absolute uselessness…what else can one do but laugh at it?” So wrote the Italian playwright, Pirandello.

This despairing post World War 11 world of absurdity inspired many playwrights including Samuel Beckett, writer of the most famous theatre of the absurd play, Waiting for Godot.

We’ve reinterpreted the play as a response to the climate crisis. Samuel and Warren, two lost souls wait for the flood which will wash them away. They talk, joke, taunt, reminisce and accuse, with occasionally the mayor and his trainer passing through, intent on escape. They are not waiting for Godot but waiting for Greta (Thunberg) the young climate change activist.

But is it too late?

Waiting for Greta has been written by Paul Maunder, directed by Jason Johnson, designed by Elisa Wells and is acted by Paul Maunder, Frank Wells, Paul Kearns and Coban McBride.

It will be previewed at the Left Bank Gallery, Saturday September 14th at 7.30pm. Admission $10 ($5 unwaged).

Brunner poster

Story telling session on the theme of Journeys.

Story telling sessions are proving a popular form of community gathering and Talltales Co-op, a subsidiary of Kiwi/Possum have been set up to investigate the genre. On this occasion the session will start with the Co-op presenting their version of the Thomas Brunner (and his Maori help mates) journeys to the Coast in the 1840s – The Survival of Thomas Brunner. George Super, Coban McBride and Paul Maunder tell the story, directed by Caroline Selwood  After a cuppa audience members will be invited to tell their significant journey stories (5-10mins each).

Join us for this unique initiative. Left Bank Gallery, Sunday September 15th, 2pm. Admission $10 ($5 unwaged)

Whenua season finishes

A trip to Nelson and a performance to Mayday guests in Blackball saw the completion of performances of Whenua/DP4Lot173, although there was a tentative enquiry re a Dunedin season. People have been impressed both with the topicality and the many layers of the play.

IMG_1595

Meanwhile the collected plays have been sent to the publisher and we wait to receive the first copies.

cover collected plays

Rehearsals have begun on a new piece: Waiting for Greta, a remake of Waiting for Godot, set now in the era of climate change.

We are also forming a story telling co-op Tall Tales Co-op which will be telling local stories as a provocation for the audience in turn telling their stories on a particular theme. A piece based on Thomas Brunner and Kehu’s famous journey through the Buller will for example provoke stories of journeys. The story of educationalist Edward Darracott and the letters of Mary Williams are further projects.

We have welcomed Karen Grant and Coban McBride to the group.

The season opens

The Greymouth season of Whenua saw two full houses with lovely feedback. The complex play strikes a chord with the audience and we are looking forward to Hokitika and Motueka.

stills collage

Meanwhile the Sunday afternoon premier of Goodnight Irene was well attended and the film also opened in Westport on the same day with a Hokikita premier on September 2nd.

premier

Two new projects

We’re pleased to announce two new projects coming to fruition in August. The first project is performances of our new play: WHENUA/DP 74, LOT 123.

poster for printing

The author, Paul Maunder, writes: Provoked by a comment from an audience member after a performance of our last piece on native logging, Helen and the Ferals, we started with the idea of a play about the land, dairying, water, that sort of thing. But instead of a play with a simple referencing to community and social relations, it has taken us into a more aesthetically complex space, as if that is the only way to articulate the complexity of the issues: land as whenua/placenta (the womb which nurtures); land as signified by the rates demand: DP74 ,LOT 123 – surveyors having divided up of the land into a commodity to be bought and sold and speculated upon; the family farm turning into investment property; globalisation; technology; agribusiness; environmental issues – soil and water health;  industrial revolution in Asia and its impact here; tourism; migrant labour; generations; belonging; memory; alienation…

How to hold onto form when faced with multiple contradictions, has been the task. For the land is everything. There is something of Harold Pinter in this piece, but as well, it has in a way, taken us back to our first play on 1080, Poison and Purity.

Cast: Francis Darwen, Karen Grant, Jason Johnson, Caroline Selwood, George Super, Elisa Wells, Frank Wells.

Performances: Greymouth – Upstairs at the Regent, August 24&25, 7.30pm (book at The Regent).

Hokitika- The Old Lodge, Sept 1&2, 7.30pm, (book through WestREAP)

Reefton- RSA, Sept 15, 7.30pm

We are also going to do a house performance at Jane Wells and Pat Kennedy’s home in Motueka. The prospect of transgressing the comfortable domestic space with theatre is an exciting challenge.

The second project has been the filming of Goodnight Irene, the play that was our response to Pike.

poster-film

This has been a no budget 60 minute film. Creative Communities did give us $2300, but it depended on the absolute generosity of cast and crew. We were extremely lucky to have Alun Bollinger, arguably NZ’s foremost cinematographer commit to the project. Patrick McBride provided the gear and operated, and Natalia, Oswka and Francis made up the crew. It was fun, but then the really hard work began; much more difficult to do post production for nothing. But Daimon Scwharger stepped in and we can now hit Coast cinemas before targeting further afield.

The Greymouth premier takes place Sunday 26th August, 4pm at The Regent; the hokitika premier on September 3rd, 4.30pm.

We hope to see you in the near future

Helen and the Ferals Review

With an explosion of punk, the premier performance of Helen and the Ferals kicks off. Held in Greymouth’s Regent Theatre the multitalented Kiwi/ Possum Productions troupe stage a wry comic tragedy, a politically retrospective tale of the Saga of West Coast native timber logging between 1970-2000. Helen and the Ferals is an original written by local playwright Paul Maunder who once again examines important historical and contemporary issues that contest and shape life on the West Coast. The play uses a punk anti-establishment theme to try and tear down the distance between performers and the audience and also the dichotomy that has long existed between conservationists and those who make their living from extractive resources.

Having Helen Clark (played to the strident hilt by Elisa Wells) join the West Coast’s last punk band, The Ferals, characterises this play’s ambitions. Interspersed with punk numbers such as Vinnie (Vincent Best) belting out a comic tirade against our national icon, the audience are carried at breakneck speed though the first act. Largely set in the offices of the many National and Labour Prime Ministers of the 1970’s-1980’s the Ferals impress as they transform into a densely canopied stand of political characters. Norman Kirk is played in a life and death performance by Jason Johnson. Surrounding the set fringes and moving to occupy centre stage the cast members play a variety of protestor parts such as when Robert Muldoon, sneeringly played by George Super, batons invading Springbok tour protestors.

In act two there is a musical shift into the blues, reflecting community sentiment in the 1990’s. Timberlands tries to secure itself a future, hiring a PR firm smoothly portrayed by Elisa and Frank Wells to promote a sustainable ethic. Francis Darwen convincingly acts the invested Timberlands manger and Paul Maunder delivers an impressive rant as a Timberlands executive who has had a gutsful of green “birds and bees people” manipulation. The standoff between protestors and loggers is cleverly portrayed in a scene mimicking the Charleston site of protestors camping in trees to highlight their environmental cause. The conflicting sounds of birds and chainsaw set the scene. Rose Blair shines in her part as Gaia an eco-warrior. Helicopter sounds herald the arrival of Jenny Shipley played by George Super, with an intensity which matches her shade of magenta lipstick. Helen Clark’s government come into power ending the Accord.

Through the political smoke and mirrors of this play emerges Mikaere Hanna, doing a superb job in acting the ghost of Chico Mendes Filho, the murdered Brazilian rubber tapper whose actions led to the setting up of Extractive Reserves where forests were returned to the guardianship of local people. Chico disappears into the mist as Helen Clark leads the Ferals in the show’s climactic finale.

The clever set design by Paul Kearns constructed from scaffolding with a backdrop of graffitied slogans plays a large part in this play’s success. The lighting by Shona Preston and sound production by Paul Kearns are also critical to the gelling together of the many and varied set changes. Costume details and props work well to situate the actors in a definable place and time. I was very impressed by the depth of talent from this diversely talented band of actors and crew.

Community performance art like this is a lens for seeing our place in both history and the present and this can open us into future possibilities. Jane Goodall, the environmental activist recently said, change will not be created by confronting something head on but by telling stories, meeting with people, listening to each other and then trying to find a way to the heart so we begin to think locally and get together with like-minded people to take action. The discussion around Extractive Reserves as an alternative to old thinking may inspire us. Go see Helen and the Ferals for the entertainment, it’s an immensely fun night out but also go for the regenerative discourse.

 

21/7/2017-Reviewed by Catherine Woollett for Greymouth Star and theatreview.org.nz

A video of the play can be seen at Helen and the Ferals You Tube