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.

North & South - - Contents - BY ELIS­A­BETH EASTHER

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

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