The focus is on home-grown works at The Court Theatre this September as New Zealand Theatre Month, created to celebrate and elevate Aotearoa theatre, begins.
New Zealand Theatre Month is being championed by one of our most successful and well-loved playwrights, Roger Hall, who has been organising the celebration alongside Malcolm Calder and John Daly-Peoples.
“At the beginning of last year, I thought ‘bugger it, I’m going to do it!’ Because in my bones I felt this was something that should be done, needed to be done and could be done. We have a lot of theatre history to be proud of,” Hall says.
For Ross Gumbley, Artistic Director at The Court Theatre, the month is a fantastic way to commemorate and grow awareness of the breadth and quality of theatre that New Zealand produces.
“I think the fact that it is New Zealand Theatre Month is really important to celebrate. In many ways we’ve been going through a golden age of New Zealand playwrighting. In the last 15 to 20 years New Zealand plays have exploded onto our stage. There used to be a very set idea of what a New Zealand play was, but since then a New Zealand play can now celebrate not just New Zealand, but New Zealand’s place in the world. The colourfulness and the absolute kaleidoscope that New Zealand theatre has become is a great thing to celebrate.”
Here at The Court, the month will be acknowledged in a number of ways, with a range of events for both audiences and theatre practitioners running throughout September.
On The Court’s mainstage, heart-warming comedy Mum’s Choir will be running from September 15th, with Hansel and Gretel entertaining the kids in a silent-adaptation of the fairy-tale classic from September 29th. New Zealand’s longest running late-night comedy show Scared Scriptless will be hosting its own birthday party within the month, performing two very special 8pm shows on the 7th & 8th September – alongside its usual 10:15pm performances every other Friday and Saturday. To end New Zealand Theatre Month at The Court, Pacific Underground’s flagship production Fresh Off the Boat will be returning with a rehearsed reading of the play being performed on the 30th September.
Budding performers will be taking part in the month, with a range of The Court’s drama students (aged 7 – 16) performing a showcase of their work on the 16th September, followed by the Senior Theatresports™ Final on the 23rd September as The Court Jesters judge the South Island’s best young improvisors.
Stepping outside of The Shed in Addington, The Court will be bringing some theatrical magic into our libraries in The Court Theatre in the Shelves. On the 13th, 20th and 27th of September, local actors will be visiting 6 libraries across the city to perform monologues from their favourite New Zealand plays, explaining what they love about them and answering any questions audiences have.
For those who make their living in the industry, The Artists’ Tent will launch the month on the 6th September, giving the creative community of Christchurch a chance to come together and connect, followed by a Christchurch Hui for Women in Theatre on the 20th September.
For Mum’s Choir writer Alison Quigan, NZ Theatre Month is important as it provides an opportunity to focus on New Zealand written plays in an environment that can be crowded with international works.
“It’s a great chance to have the conversation about why we do theatre, who is it for & how is it different from televison and film? Can we truly be an asset to our community, tell our stories and celebrate our lifestyle if we are simply regurgitating someone else’s culture?”
Hall will certainly be welcoming those kind of questions as the month begins. For him, the state of New Zealand theatre is far different now than it was when he began his career – and with celebrations like New Zealand Theatre Month, is only getting better.
“I used to say when I first started that if it said ‘New Zealand play’ people avoided it. But now it makes no difference. We’ve come a long way - a New Zealand play isn’t a novelty now, it’s just another play. Which is how it should be.”