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Ted, Poppy and World War Two review

November 22, 2014

Ted, Poppy and World War Two
written and directed by Paul Maunder
presented by Kiwi/Possum Productions
at The Regent Theatre, Greymouth
August 28-30. 2014
Reviewed by Karen Grant, 28 August, 2014
A rich tapestry
Last night’s production of Ted, Poppy and World War Two was most enjoyable, and it was a step back in time to be welcomed into the “hall” in the ritual manner (I’m not giving it away – you need to experience it).
Kiwi-Possum Production’s set layout brings the audience into a shared space; like a community coming together. The cast moving freely within the central space were not directing their performance at me, so, like a fly on the wall, I felt I was witnessing the stories being told.
Paul Maunder re-enacts the weekly radio talks from actual transcripts of Ted Kehoe’s eloquent and interesting observations on many of our beautiful birds, on Rata and Kowhai, and of his dismay at the native bush being “blindly burnt” to provide poor farmland. I found these parts of the production most engrossing and educational, my eyes gazing but not seeing as I focused on listening to the ‘radio’.
The play intersperses slices of Ted Kehoe’s radio shows with the story of Greymouth- based Sister “Poppy”, the sister of James Joyce played brilliantly by Heather Fletcher. These lesser known elements of Greymouth’s rich history are further interlinked with moving vignettes of true stories from the war; Elisa Wells throwing herself with passion into her many roles. Tying the whole together is the fictional interplay between Ted Kehoe and Poppy. The play moves along at a cracking good pace, cutting from one story to another and maintaining audience interest well.
The set is very simple with minimal props but this is quite appropriate to the story-telling. Sound effects were used well, subtly enhancing the scene, be it the bird-filled bush, the sea-side cave of the Punakaiki conscientious objector, or fighter planes and bombs. The costuming is convincing and the cast all performed very well on this, their first night.
So I followed the threads of these stories as they were chopped and interrupted by the next until at the end, with birdsong ringing clear over the beautiful Albinoni Adagio in G, the stories were complete and a rich tapestry woven.
After the play Stewart Nimmo facilitated a good group discussion on what heritage is and what it means to people. Some common themes emerged, reiterating Paul Maunder’s play. What I took away from this night was that heritage is the connection maintained by telling the story. If we don’t tell our stories to keep them alive, we lose the meaning and history of the things around us. We forget their value and we lose our heritage.
Two more showings are to run at the Greymouth Regent Theatre, tonight and Saturday night, with each show starting at 7:30pm and closing with a facilitated discussion. A tour of Ted, Poppy and World War Two is being planned for early 2015.
Cast: Heather Fletcher, Paul Maunder, Caroline Selwood, Frank Wells, Francis Darwen, Elisa Wells, Mikaere Hanna.
Design: Paul Kearns
Sound: Jason Johnson
Operators: Mike Hutson, Helyn Beveridge

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