Stimulating variety in festival

By Barbara Frame, ODT | Posted: Saturday September 21, 2019

GOING to the Unesco Cities of Literature Short Play Festival is a little like opening a box of unfamiliar chocolates — you have no idea what awaits you in terms of taste, texture and variety.

The bracket of three that I attended last night was like that. First, Taking the High Ground, by Jan Bolwell, brings together women climbers Freda Du Faur and Lydia Bradley in a lively (and chronologically impossible) discussion of their ambitions and achievements — Du Faur was the first woman to climb Mt Cook, and Bradley the first woman to scale Mt Everest without oxygen. An historical snippet rather than a complete play, it’s an excerpt from a longer work.

Next is The Mica Pavilion, by David Howard, better known as a poet than a playwright. Set in Tuapeka County in 1874, it tells the story of a Chinese miner and a Maori woman who fall in love. Sensitively written and beautifully choreographed, it explores the pain of forbidden love and the possibility of a fruitful meeting of cultures, and has the balance and solemnity of a legend.

Abby Howells’ White Men follows the final three days of deliberations of the Commission to Discover Exactly What Is

Going On. As the tide (projected on a screen behind) grows higher and more threatening, they prevaricate, deny, bicker, score points, hold silly little celebrations and assume their wealth will protect them from the overwhelmingly obvious. This is biting satire with clear contemporary relevance.

The mostly young actors involved in these productions are too many to mention individually, but all performed to a good standard.

The theatre was full.

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