"A DIY approach to theatre…”
The sense of New Zealanders as a nation of do-it-yourselfers pervades every sector of society, and the arts are no exception says David O’Donnell in his introduction.
Throughout New Zealand’s relatively short theatrical history there are countless examples of theatre practitioners with inadequate resources and funding applying a DIY approach to theatre production. This volume celebrates the No. 8 wire approach to playwriting and production by showcasing eight short plays over eight decades, from the amateur theatre groups of the 1930s to the professional fringe of the 21st century.
Violet Targuse and Isobel Andrews represent the long period in the mid-20th century where the theatrical torch was kept burning by amateur societies rather than professional companies. Often these amateur groups were run by women, particularly during the war years when most able-bodied men were on overseas service. The female orientation of the amateur groups is reﬂected in the themes of Rabbits and The Willing Horse, both of which focus on women’s issues in New Zealand society, though in contrasting ways.
When the modern professional era began in the 1960s and 1970s, Robert Lord was a key ﬁgure, both as a playwright and as one of the founders of Playmarket. His Balance of Payments represents the anarchic, satiric spirit of that era as playwrights became more conﬁdent in critiquing aspects of the Kiwi character.
Among the many voices to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, Stuart Hoar and Fiona Samuel stood out for their freshness and originality, demonstrated by the playful postmodernism of Scott of the Antarctic and the vibrant characterisations in One Flesh.
As devised theatre became more popular around the turn of the millennium, resulting scripts became more sophisticated and sometimes ground-breaking. This was the case with SEEyD, created using a methodical devising approach led by actor/director Tim Spite. SEEyD’s innovative staging and potent examination of the controversial debates around the genetic engineering of food spawned a devising theatre company which to date has produced ten original devised plays.
The younger generation of playwrights is represented in this collection by Kathryn van Beek and Thomas Sainsbury. Van Beek’s Indiscretions presents a radically different view of young Kiwi women from that portrayed in the plays of Targuse and Andrews, while Sainsbury’s Sunday Roast exempliﬁes his energetic and inventive No. 8 wire approach which has seen a proliﬁc output of self-produced work in a relatively short time period.