On the eve of the Auckland Theatre Company's upcoming revival of Roger Hall’s classic You Can Always Hand Them Back playing at SKYCITY theatre from 31 March – 16 April, Glory Days Creative Director, Rose Jackson, was fortunate enough to interview playwright Roger Hall. With over forty plays in his oeuvre, Hall is one of the founding fathers of New Zealand theatre and we got to find out about what theatre life was like when he first began writing and the potential horrors of grandparenthood!
What got you into writing for theatre? I read that you started you career in Wellington.
Long story. So long in fact that I have a talk called “Fifteen Years to be an Overnight Success”. Suffice it to say I paid my dues: acting in revues and cabaret; writing sketches and performing them; writing plays for television and getting them rejected; writing plays for television and getting them accepted. Plays for The School Journal. Then finally writing my first stage play, Glide Time. Which was such a success, it changed my life. (Readers can find out almost everything in my autobiography, “Bums on Seats”. Out of print, alas, but in most libraries).
What was the creative mood of the time back when you started?
Professional theatre was just getting established. Downstage started in 1964 and clung on by its fingertips. Other theatres followed soon after: Court in Christchurch, Mercury in Auckland, Fortune in Dunedin, Centrepoint in Palmerston North, and even Wanganui (Four Seasons) and in Tauranga had professional theatre companies (now now).
Was there much financial and audience support for the arts and for theatre or were you having to run on the smell of an oily rag to small audiences?
No one made much money then. Ticket price for Circa’s opening night was $2.50 ($1.50 students). Actors did more shows per year then and, at Fortune for example, if they weren’t in the current show, they were helping back stage, or with publicity, props or wardrobe. No one was idle. And I think every theatre made sure they did shows for children every school holiday.
Was there a lot of collaboration in the creative arts 40 years ago? And how is that different or the same these days?
Not sure about collaboration, but in the late 70s and 80s there was a huge excitement about NZ plays throughout the country. “Glide Time” and “Middle Age Spread” helped, but “Foreskin’s Lament” was a sensation, as was, but in a different way, Renee’s “Wednesday to Come”. Now people take New Zealand plays for granted. (Which is how it should be.)
When I look back at older issues of Glory Days I cringe a little, as each time we significantly move forward in the quality of both the writing and the design. Does it feel the same way with a play you have written years ago or does it become a fresh new piece of work in the hands of new actors and directors with new sets to play in?
I don’t think the writing is any better than before. But the amount of writing and production these days is extraordinary. By mid-February this year, Theatreview’s website had reviewed one hundred productions. Auckland has so many theatres and productions. Civic, Q Theatre, ASB, The Herald, The Basement; those are the venues right in the heart of the city. (Soon, ATC’s brand new Waterfront Theare.) Add many throughout the suburbs. Auckland is the country’s theatre capital. It is like a drama festival all year round.
Playwright, Roger Hall
Is it hard to hand your work over to be played out by other people? Or can you easily let it go off and be it's own entity?
Rehearsals are where you hand it over, often rather slowly. If it’s a new play, then I go to a few rehearsals to check, suggest, and receive suggestions. But there comes a point when the cast needs to be free of the author and just get on with it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the work is then set in concrete. Often I change a script for the next production. Sometimes, even during the first production. For “Who Wants to be a 100? Anyone who’s 99” I realized the first half was too long, and the cast, bless them, after the second night, agreed to cut out two short scenes which improved it a lot.
How have NZ audiences changed over the years? Have they become more sophisticated in their tastes? Harder to please? More diverse?
In the 70s and 80s a lot of husbands had to be dragged to the theatre. Now a lot of them come more willingly. But God bless NZ women; they probably keep NZ theatres going.
Who and what do you look to for inspiration when you are writing?
The IRD. No... I just enjoy writing and like to put in an hour or two every day…
My mum has recently become a Grandma and it's been really interesting watching a completely different side of her personality come out! Was You Can Always Hand Them Back based on your own personal experience of becoming a grandparent?
Yes, but I did talk to a lot of other grandparents. People’s experiences are pretty universal, which is why audiences in other NZ centres –and in UK—enjoy it so much. They can identify with it completely.
Many of our readers are not yet at Grandparent stage... will they still enjoy the show?
Let’s say anyone who has children and who realise that grandparents are there to be exploited for baby-sitting purposes will enjoy it. The show goes through the whole range: from babysitting for an evening after the child has been put to bed to looking after them for two weeks. Each stage has its potential horrors.
Being a grandparent seems like such a magical role and a real treat after going through parenthood! Would you agree?
No comment. See above.
Glory Days has a double pass to give away to You Can Always Hand Them Back on Monday 4th April at 6.30pm at SKYCITY Theatre. To enter the draw, tag a person who is or would be a great grandparent on our facebook page before Friday 1st April at 8pm!
About You Can Always Hand Them Back...
Maurice and Kath's kids have left home; the nest is finally empty and a life of gin, golf and overseas jaunts awaits. That is, until the grandchildren arrive. With grace and good humour (and a little song and dance), old rhythms are given new life as they embrace the delights and demands of bath time, babysitting and bundles of joy.
To celebrate forty years of smash-hit success, Roger Hall puts the grand into grandparenting in a charming and tuneful collaboration with UK musical legend Peter Skellern. Packed with laughter and tinged with tears, You Can Always Hand Them Back is a vintage Kiwicomedy with a heart of gold that no grandparent will want to miss and no would-be grandparent should.
Lucky Claire Gormly is on tour again! After enjoying Viva las Vegas she has headed off down the longest road in America, Route 66, and will be posting snippets of her trip for us. This week she visits the ruins of a town with an incredibly violent past. Welcome to Two Guns, we hope you have some weapons with you!
Something about driving down Interstate 40 always makes me ready for adventure. Maybe it's the massive plains on either side of the road or the abandoned towns and buildings you keep coming across. Whatever it is, after the glamour of Viva las Vegas, I was ready for a spooky story and the ruins of Two Guns and Canyon Diablo totally delivered.
Leaving the Interstate on the town's own exit ramp I came across what is left of Two Guns, originally a railroad town known as Canyon Diablo. Birthed in 1882, the town came into being to support work on the railroad that was prevented from crossing the canyon because the wrong dimensions had been used to create the first bridge. While waiting for the correct span to bridge the gorge, the wild town of Canyon Diablo sprang into life.
Two lines of buildings faced each other across the rocky road that became known as Hell Street. There were fourteen saloons, ten gambling dens, four brothels and two dance pavilions, the main one known as the Cootchy-Klatch. There were also some eating counters, a grocery and dry goods store. None of these buildings was substantial, just wooden frames covered with tin, tar paper, and canvas. Most of the early townsfolk were as wobbly as the buildings and there were drifters and killers among the many who flocked to the growing town.
Within a short time the town had 2,000 residents and murder on the street was common. Crazily, it was sometime before a lawman was employed but eventually the first marshall was sworn in. He took office at 3:00pm and was buried at 8:00pm that same night. Five more town marshals would follow, the longest lasting one month. All were killed in the line of duty. A cemetery sprouted up at the end of town, which in less than a decade had 35 graves, all of which had been filled by victims of violent deaths.
It was a wild place.
Long before the railroad arrived, however, the area had developed its gruesome reputation. Canyon Diablo was originally on the border of Apache and Navajo territory. The two tribes were notorious for their raids upon each other, but one of the final and most deadly was the one on which this town would rest its reputation on forever.
In 1878 the Apaches attacked the Navajo. All the men, women and children, except three young girls taken prisoner, were slain. Taking the girls prisoner they disappeared into the Canyon. Two Navajo scouts stumbled upon their hiding place in a cave in the canyon and after they discovered the girls had been tortured to death they lit fires at the entrance trapping them.
Altogether forty-two Apaches lost their lives in the cave. The bodies were stripped of valuables, and the remains of the men left. Navajo fighting men retreated from the cave quietly, awed by the terrible destruction they had wrought. The girl victims cruelly put to death had been avenged.
In 1925 a certain Harry Edgar 'Indian' Miller, who claimed to be a full-blooded Apache Indian, moved into town. Also known as "Two Guns" he is perhaps most famously remembered for giving his nickname to the town and he decided to profit from the death cave legend – turning it into a lurid tourist attraction, running tours through it, even creating a zoo on the rim of the canyon. He found Apache skulls in the cave and sold them to tourists and bones to a bone dealer.
The curse kicked in.
Miller was mauled many times by his wild animals, was robbed losing almost all his money and finally shot a rival, killing him. Miller left after only 5 years in 1930.
A murky story of two Mexicans going missing and their bodies being found nearby with a bullet hole in the skull also did the rounds.
In 1938 another zoo was built along with a trading post and the cave tours continued until 1950.
In its last incarnation a number of buildings were built, a camp, with a swimming pool, a gas station and shops, it all seemed to be going so well, even having its own off ramp from the motorway – until being destroyed by a huge inferno in 1971.
The remaining ruins are still standing, in their spooky glory – the newest buildings and the old stone houses, all with no fences and fully accessible. Allegedly the caves are still there too, but that was too much like tempting fate for my liking.
Ahead of the Waiheke International Jazz Festival this weekend, we profile one of our favourite picks of the line up, Greg Poppleton and the Bakelite Broadcasters, who we recently included in the pages of our Home Issue. Read on to find out more about their unique vintage jazz sound and how you can win a double pass!
Greg Poppleton and the Bakelite Broadcasters, Australia's only authentic 1920s-30s singer and band, is flying in from Sydney to play at the 2016 Waiheke International Jazz Festival, Friday 25 March - Sunday 27 March.
Greg Poppleton is, according to critics in the US and Australia, an uncannily authentic 1920s singer. Energetic and theatrical, he has more than 600,000 YouTube views for one video mix (left channel only at that!), making him by far Australia’s most listened to 1920s - 1930s style jazz singer. Word is spreading internationally about this unusual singer and his band.
Popular in Germany and the U.S, Greg is in growing demand in his hometown of Sydney. He is the resident 1920s singer in Sydney’s popular monthly Roaring ‘20s soiree, The Gin Mill Social, and has a stream of club, hotel, private and festival dates.
Greg has just recorded his fourth album, Back In Your Own Backyard. It’s full of songs from the 1920s and 1930s and due for release in June 2016. We have his third album "Doin' the Charleston" available for purchase in our Emporium.
Click here to find out the details for all six of the Bakelite Broadcasters performances at the Waiheke International Jazz Festival this weekend!
Glory Days contributor, Jimmy Vargas, interviewed Greg in our 2105 Home issue. Read on to find out more about this vintage jazz sensation and find out how you can win tickets to their show at the Waiheke International Jazz Festival this Friday 25th March at 8pm.
VARGAS: Why did you start a band that majored in the vernacular of 1920s and '30s entertainment, in the post-modern age of the 21st century?
POPPLETON: Ever since childhood, I loved swing. I loved the syncopation, the fun of it, swing moved me. Rock music I found to be so plodding in comparison, and the universality of the Tin Pan Alley lyrics of Broadway appealed as well.
VARGAS: How did you break into the swing biz?
POPPLETON: I first started as an emcee then got into acting. But it was a legendary Sydney vintage blues singer by the name of Kate Dunbar who connected me to my first love of jazz music of the ’20s. It was she who introduced me to likeminded musicians and from there, I started off in cafes, then onto clubs, and from thereon I got a bigger band which is now the Bakelite Broadcasters.
VARGAS: How long has it been?
POPPLETON: I got my first band together in 1994, and that was for the Pyrmont Festival, but my present six-piece is the Bakelite Broadcasters and we started around 2003. Some of the members of the band are pre-eminent international jazz performers like Paul Furness (reeds), Bob Barnard, Matt Baker, Graham Conlon (guitar / banjo).
VARGAS: You have also a bigger 1930s swing orchestra on the Poppleton payroll don't you?
POPPLETON: Yes. In 2012, Jeff Powers approached me and asked if I wanted to put together a 1920s orchestra with him. He had the original arrangements from the 1920s, and saw me as a good frontman. That eventuated pretty quickly and we became known as the Lounge Bar Lotharios. We've played the City of Canberra's Centenary 1920s Gala Ball, played the Winter Ball at the Art Deco hall in the Carrington Hotel Katoomba, and headlined the 60th anniversary of the Sydney Jazz Club. These are some of the highlights so far.
VARGAS: There's a definite cartoon element to your live performance. Would I be correct in assuming that vintage Warner Bros animation has inspired you greatly?
POPPLETON: Yes, you're spot on. The earliest and greatest influences I had were as a kid, cartoons like Krazy Kat, Felix the Cat, the Merrie Melodie cartoons and their soundtrack. Remember we had no access to this sort of music as kids, apart from the occasional programme on TV. One of the most memorable and influential cartoons for me was a Warner Bros 'toon of Cab Calloway called I Love a Singer.
VARGAS: Do you see yourself as a preservationist?
POPPLETON: No, I see myself as one taking this music into the 21st century I'm certainly not a nostalgist.
VARGAS: At a gig of yours, I observed some hip hop crewsters cut some amazing jazz urban moves to the musical dynamic that you were creating on stage. They locked into your infectious groove. It was a true cross-cultural osmosis.
POPPLETON: Well I've been told by a few people who listen to my 1920s and 1930s radio show, Phantom Dancer, that it’s big within the Australian hip hop community. So there is a connection. However I don't contemporise my music, don't sing it with an American accent. I see myself as an authentic purveyor of the art of 1920s swing.
For more information, visit Greg's website at: www.bakelitejazz.com
Greg Poppleton hosts his own weekly radio show, Phantom Dancer, on Sydney Radio station 2-SER every Tuesday at midday.
WIN A DOUBLE PASS FOR YOU AND A FRIEND TO GO AND SEE GREG POPPLETON AND THE BAKELITE BROADCASTERS THIS WEEKEND AT THE WAIHEKE JAZZ FESTIVAL ON FRIDAY THE 25TH MARCH AT THE ARTWORKS THEATRE 8PM.
TO ENTER PLEASE TAG THE PERSON YOU'D LIKE TO TAKE ALONG ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE.
THE WINNER WILL BE DRAWN THURSDAY 24TH MARCH AT 9PM.
Today, in honour of this being International Women's Day, we're going to remember a very special woman from the past, Anais Nin.
We recently celebrated her life and work in our TEXT issue which you can still buy here. The piece we published was very kindly written for us by a knowledgeable chap called Paul Herron who knows everything about Nin and runs a publishing company called Sky Blue Press. He set the company up after accumulating over 500 pages of content from more than 60 contributors for the book Anais Nin: A Book of Mirrors, an anthology of reactions to Nin's life and work. Paul decided that, rather than letting a zealous editor hack the work about, it'd be better if he published it himself. And so he did.
That was in 1996 and since then Sky Blue Press has published the long lost original version of The Winter of Artiface, an anthology entitled The Portable Anais Nin along with digital versions of Nin's fiction and, since 2003, has produced A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal. In 2013, Sky Blue Press partnered with Swallow Press and brought out Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947. The book is available both in print and digital versions but you can enter our competition here and potentially win yourself one for nothing but a little effort.
For those of you who haven't yet bought the issue we'll summarise briefly here what you've missed. Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell was born on the 21st February 1903 in Neuilly, France. A small, sickly child, she was called 'ugly' by her father, Joaquín, and quickly abandoned by him. She and her two brothers were shuttled off to America and lived a difficult life.
A young Anais Nin
She dropped out of school at 16, taught herself English, quit the Catholic Church and in 1923 married Hugh Guiler, an insecure young man with a promising future in banking. In 1924, Hugh was offered a job in Paris so the couple returned to the land of Anais' birth. This was not a happy situation to start with but she soon realised that she was a very attractive woman and, armed with her new erotic confidence, started 'testing the waters'.
She was a voracious lover and in 1931 met Henry Miller, the notorious writer of Tropic of Cancer, with whom she started an intense affair. She was also working on her fist book and the two spurred each other on in their literary ambitions. Henry was married to June, who was having an affair with someone else in New York and when Anais' father Joaquín turned up in 1933, Anais had an affair with him too. Then the war intervened and Anais and Hugh, who was still around, returned to America where she added another chapter to her 'erotic madness' by marrying Rupert Pole without divorcing Hugh.
Nin with first husband Hugh (left) and Nin's father, Joaquin (right)
Despite being a prolific writer it was not until the release of her heavily edited diaries in 1966 that she became a celebrity. She was to many, particularly young women, a guru who had done what they were all trying to do, to find themselves. You can read an extended mix of this summary in the TEXT issue and see how it all ended. You could also have a look at all the information you could get from Sky Blue Press. In conversation with Paul we decided it would be a great idea to create a podcast together, looking at some of the music that was important to Anais in her lifetime and include some short readings of Anais' work.
We were so busy post-Christmas with our summer event season that we couldn't find the time to close ourselves away in a studio and record our first podcast but the ever industrious Paul went ahead and did the podcast himself and then he sent it to us to share with you. We're sorry we're not on it but we love it all the same.
Click on the audio file below to hear more...
In our final instalment of our fabulous four picks from the Auckland Arts Festival we selected Waves - a one woman play created by Alice Mary Cooper that tells the story of young Aussie Elizabeth Moncello, daughter of immigrants, and unofficial inventor of the famous Butterfly stroke. An intimate theatrical event set in present day Edinburgh and 1930s Australia, Waves is a piece of storytelling has beguiled audiences from eight to 80.
We interviewed creator of Waves, Alice Mary Cooper, ahead of the New Zealand premiere season at the Auckland Arts Festival and are lucky enough to have a double pass to give away to the performance on Wednesday 9th March at the Q Loft Theatre. Read on for all the details!
Hi Mary Alice, could you please share a little of your background and where your idea for the show Waves originated?
I can't say exactly where it originated but I have always been a swimmer and in particular Butterfly was my stroke when I was young. When I lived in Sydney, before I moved to Edinburgh, I swam at the Fanny Durack pool in Summer Hill so I'm sure that was what got me thinking about pioneering female Australian swimmers.
I wrote a short story for a French magazine Jean Marie about a woman who grew up on Gabo island. Thinking about the island and how difficult, but exciting, it would have been to live there in the 1920's I began to get a strong sense of the kind of person who would thrive in that environment. Thus Elizabeth was born and the story grew from there, from her.
What made you decide to time hop between Australia of the 1930s and modern day Edinburgh and was it a challenge to stage this?
It came naturally during the development. I was living in Edinburgh while writing it and clearly influenced by my surroundings. I also wanted to make a point about how easily stories/people can be forgotten because- Liz's story was forgotten because she moved overseas and her story was thus lost.
The history of swimming is very interesting in the 1920's and 30's, you had a lot of experimentation and Butterfly was there in pieces (different swimmers did the kick or the arms but not together). There is a great Youtube clip from the 1936 Olympics where the three first place getters all do different styles of breastroke, which would later combine to make the Butterfly.
Staging wise it was a challenge initially when I was on my own- but then Gill Robertson came on board (my director) and everything became much easier!
When you wrote the short story, did you see it eventually becoming a play or did you see that possibility later on?
I think I write everything as a potential performance piece because I don't see myself as a writer, it's easier to write if I imagine I'm saying the words rather than writing them down- if that makes any sense?! To explain a bit further, when I first performed Waves at the Edinburgh Fringe I didn't have a script- I had 14 images in my mind and just told the story of them- it would have made me nervous to try and remember it as a script at that stage.
Within the pages of our magazine Glory Days we love to remember the past, champion long forgotten people and things and acknowledge how they have shaped the world we live in today. Was that some of your motivation for creating Waves?
You're magazine sounds great! Absolutely, yes. I love history. I love researching and discovering people and stories. I took real pleasure from learning all about early female swimmers in Australia, the development of all the strokes, the Olympics...it's was very hard to stop researching and start making a show!
What can the audience expect from your show? Will people laugh, cry, think or all three?!
Ooh, yes, possibly all three. It's not a sad story, but a number of people have cried in it. I hope it touches people in some way and they enjoy themselves.
Glory Days have a double pass to give away to the Waves show on Wednesday 9th March, 6.30pm at Q Theatre Loft, courtesy of Auckland Arts Festival.
To enter the draw, fill out your details below! Entries close Tuesday 1st March at 8pm.
Our third fabulous pick from the Auckland Arts Festival is Dust to Dusky. In this world premiere performance, Tami Neilson, Bella Kalolo and Anna Coddington will pay tribute to the iconic Dusty Springfield, putting their Aotearoa spin on one of the most unique voices in the history of pop music.
We interviewed one of our favourite Glory Days coverstars, Tami Neilson, about the stories behind the songs and we give you the chance to win a double pass to the show on the 5th March at the Spiegeltent in Aotea Square.
1. Hi Tami! Can you please tell us a little about the background to this show and working with Bella and Anna?
I was so excited when Tama Waipara from Auckland Arts Festival rang me to ask if I'd like to be a part of a show celebrating the music of Dusty Springfield...and when he mentioned that Bella and Anna were the other artists in the cast, I was SOLD. I love and admire both those girls and have never had the opportunity to work with them. Bella was the very first muso I ever met when I landed in NZ 10 years ago. We met at choir practice!
2. How do you prepare to perform songs as a tribute to such an iconic singer? I can imagine it must feel like big boots to fill!
I am a bit of a geek, so I read a biography on Dusty, watched a doco and a lot of concert footage and bought a bunch of her albums to really dive into who she was as an artist. It helps that I already adored her music and the 60s era where she reigned supreme.
3. What is your favourite Dusty period and why? For example, do you like early 60s period or prefer her collaborations with the Pet Shop Boys in the 90s or another?
60s, 60s and more 60s! The music, the hair, the eye make-up, the dresses...it makes my heart hurt, how much I love it. She was the embodiment of class and elegance.
4. Tell us about one of the songs that you are performing at the show and how you have reimagined it in your own style.
One of my favourite songs is "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself", I begged them to let me perform it. Nobody can touch the original, so, I'll just do what I can. Dusty didn't raise the bar, she WAS the bar.
5. What is your favourite Dusty Springfield song and why?
I cannot choose one. I love "Anyone Who Had a Heart" for it's ache, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" for it's vocal swoop and drama, "Son of A Preacher" for it's sexy, husky sass, "Spooky" for it's cooler than cool groove...I could go on and on, but, I might make you late for the show, so, stop reading and grab your tickets before they're gone!
Glory Days have a double pass to give away to the Dust to Dusky show on Saturday 5th March, 7pm courtesy of Auckland Arts Festival.
To enter the draw, fill out your details below! Entries close Tuesday 1st March at 8pm.