IS IT YOU OR IS IT ME?
With a new musical about to bring our favourite soap to the stage, former Shortland Street actor Elisabeth Easther reflects on her murderous past.
As a new musical brings
Shortland Street to the stage, the soap’s first killer reflects on her deadly past.
Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the past 26 years, you’ll know Shortland Street is New Zealand’s longestrunning TV drama. Over the course of more than 6620 episodes set in the fictional suburb of Ferndale, there have been 53 deaths, 28 births, 47 weddings and eight major explosions.
Thanks to its enduring popularity, the soap has now been given a musical makeover, with source material taken from mid-90s episodes when ratings spiked like the pulse of a patient with tachycardia.
Considering the outlandish nature of some of those early storylines, it makes sense for that era to form the backbone of Shortland Street: The Musical. Songs like “Not in Guatemala Now” and “The Five Wives of Dr Warner” will surely set toes tapping with nostalgia. It’s dis- appointing we won’t also be hearing tunes with titles like “Get out of that Bed”, “She’s Your Sister” or “Please Tell Me That’s Not Your Penis”, but it’s impossible to stuff every classic moment into a single piece of theatre.
In spite of the show’s 7pm timeslot, grisly deaths have always found favour with viewers. To date, there have been a total of 30 murders committed by 22 killers – of which I was the first. It’s a dubious honour, but I’m confident it will be the focus of my obituary, even if I live to be 101 and find a cure for cancer.
In 1994, I was thrilled to be cast as nurse Carla because, back then, to be considered an actor in New Zealand you had to have made an appearance on Shortland Street. Seemingly sane in her opening scenes, Carla arrived at the clinic to take up a nursing position, but the look of horror on her sister Ellen’s face said it all: nurse Carla was not to be trusted. (Ellen Crozier was played by Robyn Malcolm, in her breakthrough role.)
Yet in spite of the scriptwriters’ villainous creation, I considered Carla to be misunderstood and tried to imagine reasons for her behaviour. I blamed family dynamics, because it was patently clear from the very start that Carla was the less-loved, less-successful Crozier sister. That had to hurt.
I’d just spent two years at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, and my only other acting gig had been playing Victoria the dinosaur on Australian children’s series Johnson and Friends. So Carla was a big step up and I was committed to milking every drop of drama from my time onscreen.
Over the course of two years, Carla Leach (née Crozier) stole her sister’s