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The play’s the thing, Mark Houlahan

Best Playwriting Book Ever
Roger Hall
Playmarket, $22.00,
ISBN 9780908607600

Shift
Alison Quigan, Vivienne Plumb and Lynda Chanwai-Earle
Playmarket, $35.00,
ISBN 9780908607617

Bats Plays
Ken Duncum and Rebecca Rodden
Playmarket, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776560899

To review Best Playwriting Book Ever, I broke the first rule of playwright club. In his prologue, Roger Hall advises: “To get the best out of this book, write a play (or as much as you can of one) before you read it.” I have never written a play, though I have been watching and performing plays on various stages for almost as long as people have been flocking to Hall’s plays, since his break-out hit, Glide Time (1976). He has now written 50 plays, alongside film scripts and TV series, so he has certainly earned the right to stake his claim in the title of this book. Ticket sales from Hall’s plays have helped fund so many of our theatres, and Hall himself has managed the still rare local feat of making a living as a playwright. He has told that story entertainingly in his autobiography, Bums on Seats (1998).

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Posted in Literature, Plays and Review

Courage, candour and bloody-mindedness, Frances Edmond

Playscripts
Victor Rodger: Black Faggot and Other Plays
Victoria University Press, $35.00
ISBN 9781776561032

“Life will always leave fiction for dead”: Victor Rodger, in the New Zealand Herald, summing up his life experience, thus far. Rodger’s upbringing is certainly uncommon – the stuff of fiction perhaps. The illegitimate son of a palagi teenage mother and an absent Samoan father, he grew up in “white” Christchurch in a Scottish born-again Christian family. His background is relevant in that he draws on it in many of his plays. His first, Sons, is a semi-autobiographical story of a young afakasi (half-caste) man in search of his origins and identity. In the same interview in the New Zealand Herald, Rodger says: “I can’t remember if I thanked him [his father] for my career because I’ve turned our fucked up relationship into an industry.” In contrast, Rodgers describes his mother as “all about love” and, indeed, in these plays the mother figures – Mama Letti in Black Faggot, Tahlz in Club Paradiso – are nurturing and forgiving, while the descriptions of dead Olivia in At the Wake are in similar vein.

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Posted in Literature, Plays and Review

Young, gifted, female and brown, Elizabeth Crayford

Fale Aitu|Spirit House
Tusiata Avia
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776560646

Tail of the Taniwha
Courtney Sina Meredith
Beatnik Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780992264895

Lucky Punch
Simone Kaho
Anahera Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473367510

Before Tusiata Avia’s Fale Aitu|Spirit House was published, she made a point of telling her mother what she’d written, to which her mother replied, “It all needs to come out.” Avia tells us this in an endnote, but it could stand as epigraph to all three books. Reading Avia’s work alongside Courtney Sina Meredith’s Tail of the Taniwha and Simone Kaho’s Lucky Punch is to be immersed, sometimes uncomfortably, in contemporary Pasifika culture from a female perspective. Each writer’s voice is distinctive, yet similar themes crop up again and again. Anyone who’s read Albert Wendt’s Leaves of the Banyan Tree, or Sia Figiel’s more recent Where We Once Belonged, both set in Samoa, will not be surprised by the level of violence in these new works. However, the “all” that Avia’s mother implies is alive and kicking in New Zealand in the 21st century.

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Posted in Literature, Plays, Poetry and Review

Stories on stage, Mark Houlahan

The Plays of Bruce Mason: A Survey John Smythe Playmarket and Victoria University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781776560554 Here/Now: 8 Plays by Award-Winning New Zealand Playwrights David O’Donnell (ed) Playmarket, $35.00, ISBN 9780908 607594 John Smythe’s survey of the plays of

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Theatre for life Lisa Warrington

Rebellious Mirrors: Community-based Theatre in Aotearoa/New Zealand Paul Maunder Canterbury University Press, $45.00, ISBN 9781927145456 Twenty New Zealand Playwrights Michelanne Forster and Vivienne Plumb Playmarket, $40.00, ISBN 9780908607471 Though differing in approach, tone and content, there are strong connections between

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Plays and Sociology

Lordania revisited, Laurie Atkinson

Three Plays  Robert Lord (Phillip Mann ed) Playmarket, $30.00, ISBN 9780908607464 The playwright Robert Lord died in Dunedin on January 7th, 1992. His last play, Joyful and Triumphant, was premiered seven weeks later at Circa Theatre on February 20th as

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Posted in Literature, Plays and Review

National theatrics, John Callen

Playmarket 40: 40 Years of Playwriting in New Zealand Laurie Atkinson (ed) Playmarket, $40.00, ISBN 9780908607457 Ask an actor or director to speak at a function or write something about theatre, and there’s a good chance they’ll presume it’s themselves

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Posted in History, Literature, Plays and Review

The one and the many, Helen Watson White

Urbanesia: Four Pasifika Plays Courtney Sina Meredith, Vela Manusaute, Victor Rodger, Oscar Kightley, David Fane, Nathaniel Lees Playmarket, $40.00, ISBN 9780908607433 Haruru Mai Briar Grace-Smith Strange Resting Places Paolo Rotondo and Rob Mokaraka Playmarket, $32.00, ISBN 9780908607440 In 2012, nearing

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Posted in Literature, Plays and Review

The peculiar business, Laurie Atkinson

Katydid  Lucy O’Brien Playmarket, $22.50, ISBN 9780908607419   No 8 Wire: Eight Plays, Eight Decades  Playmarket, $30.00, ISBN 9780908607426   Plays 2: London Calling: Blue Sky Boys/John, I’m Only Dancing/Waterloo Sunset Ken Duncum Victoria University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780864736840  

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Posted in Literature and Plays

Home and away, Hannah Smith

A Way of Life Roger Hall Playmarket, $26.50, ISBN 9780908607396   The Unforgiven Harvest/The Lead Wait Jo Randerson Playmarket, $26.50, ISBN 9780908607389   Urban Hymns Miria George Queen Bee Pip Hall Exchange Lauren Jackson Playmarket, $26.50, ISBN 9780908607402   We

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Posted in Literature, Plays and Review
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