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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.

Performances of A Brief History of Madness

Stasha-lee Beukes and Heather Fletcher

Initial performances of A Brief History of Madness will take place at
The Regent Theatre, Greymouth/Mawhera, September 17-19, 7.30pm.
The mad (people who are ‘out of their minds’) have always been an uncomfortable presence for ‘normal society’, for they judge that normality and penetrate its facades.
In Medieval times they were seen as part of the continuum of society and were part of the conversation. They are regulars in Shakespeare’s tragedies (Lear, Ophelia, Lady MacBeth…), and every court had its fool.doctors3 caroline2 Mikaere jimmy
But then the mad were incarcerated in asylums and isolated from ‘normal society’. Then Freud and the talking cure appeared and it was believed that madness could reveal the mechanics of human society and human personality formation.
That in turn went out of fashion as modern medications dulled the wild impulses and people could be managed into performing normality. The mad no longer have anything to teach us.
Except that it is currently proposed to consider their employment future as a commodity to be invested in and speculated upon via social impact bonds, which would seem to indicate a society truly out of its mind.
These are the themes we explore in this theatre piece, written by Paul Maunder. Our motivation? In an increasingly moderated and compliant society, when all and nothing is possible, the very concept of subjectivity seems politically charged, as the realities of climate change, inequality and barbarism penetrate the unconscious.
The structure of the piece is simple. We take some typical Coast stories and run them through different settings: In Part One, Seaview in the early 1930s; in Part Two, a current hospital.
Cast: Heather Fletcher, Jason Johnson, Frank Wells, Caroline Selwood, Elisa Wells, Mikaere Hana, Francis Darwen and Stasha-lee Beukes. Design: Paul Kearns.
Because of the setting, audience numbers for each performance are limited so it will be wise to book at The Regent.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of Creative Communities.

Rehearsals begin

Rehearsals have begun for our new play, A brief history of madness. Set in a fictional Seaview Asylum it investigates the treatment of ‘the insane’ in two different periods. Performances are set for September 17,18,19. Pictured: Stasha, Caroline, Frank and Mikaere.


Tour for March, April, 2015

Schedule: Hokitika Repertory Theatre, Revell Street, March 7th, 7.30pm

Riverside Community Hall, Motueka, March 21, 4.00pm, 8.00pm

Naval Point Club, Erskine Point, Lyttelton, April 11, 8.00pm, $15/$10

NBS Theatre, Westport, April 18th, 7.30pmOn tour in Motueka. Photo: Jane Wells

Ted, Poppy and World War Two review

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

Premier of Ted, Poppy and World War Two – stories from Greymouth/Mawhera.

This year’s production focuses on heritage. ‘We discovered two interesting people,’ states Paul Maunder, the group’s playwright. ‘Ted Kehoe, a teacher at Grey Tech, was an early conservationist, who gave a weekly radio talk on native birds, the bush and Maori culture.

‘Transcripts of his talks were found in a box in the Grey District Library. And then we discovered that one of the Greymouth-based Sisters of Mercy, during this same period, was the sister of famous Irish writer, James Joyce, who had nick-named her, Poppy.

‘Given that this was also the period of World War Two, it was possible to bring in some war stories, and tie it all together by creating a fictional relationship between Ted and Poppy. ’
It is then, a piece of collective story-telling, with the theme of heritage, a current topic of controversy. Each performance, will be followed by a discussion on heritage: what is it and how do we value it? – facilitated by a local leader in the area.
The play involves returning to an earlier era technologically, a time when listening to the radio of an evening was an essential recreational activity. Audience members are encouraged to bring some knitting, crosswords etc, to help recreate that time.
Cast: Heather Fletcher, Paul Maunder, Caroline Selwood, Francis Darwen, Mikaere Hanna, Frank Wells and Elisa Wells.
Technical: Paul Kearns and Jason Johnson.
Supported by Creative Communities.
Enquiries and bookings: 732 401 0 or final-page001 The production is supported by Creative Communities.