Play­wright ex­tracts lit­er­ary riches from the land­scape

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By CHE BAKER

A story of fight­ing the gov­ern­ment and try­ing to earn a liv­ing in the ‘‘bru­tal’’ Cen­tral Otago en­vi­ron­ment is to be por­trayed on­stage by the Auck­land The­atre Company.

The company will per­form for­mer Wanaka man Arthur Meek’s play Trees Be­neath The Lake, which fol­lows a fam­ily as they lose their bat­tle to save the fam­ily or­chard from be­ing flooded in the cre­ation of the Clyde Dam.

Meek said the play was a work of fic­tion but as Cen­tral Otago was sec­ond home for many years he felt it was a strong New Zealand story which needed to be told.

The play was based in Low­burn and took three years to cre­ate.

‘‘It [Cen­tral Otago] looks so beau­ti­ful but it’s de­cep­tively bru­tal,’’ Meek said.

Star­ring Michael Hurst, Theresa Healey and Cather­ine Wilkin the play in­cludes themes of greed, de­cep­tion, and fam­ily drama.

Meek wrote much of the play while in New York as part of the Har­riet Fried­lan­der New York Res­i­dency.

‘‘Cen­tral Otago is fa­mously beau­ti­ful but once you spend time there you re­alise it’s also de­cep­tively bru­tal.

‘‘Ev­ery­one who’s ever lived there comes face to face with its prom­ise of great riches and the prac­ti­cal dif­fi­culty of try­ing to ex­tract them.

‘‘As soon as I got to New York all my char­ac­ters made a whole new sense – what they wanted and what they were go­ing to get be­came clear,’’ Meek said.

He hoped to see the play per­formed in Cen­tral Otago in the fu­ture.

ATC artis­tic di­rec­tor Colin McColl said Meek was one of the bright stars of New Zealand play-writ­ing.

‘‘This smart, pow­er­ful and com­pelling new work we’ve com­mis­sioned from him ques­tions what hap­pens to the in­hab­i­tants of a small na­tion who risk ev­ery­thing to dream big,’’ McColl said.

The play will take place at the Maid­ment The­atre from Septem­ber 4 to 27.

What lies be­neath: For­mer Wanaka man Arthur Meek sits in front of a pro­duc­tion crew work­ing to pack-in the set of his play, TreesBe­neathTheLake, which will go on show in Auck­land this month. The play fol­lows the story of a Low­burn fam­ily who lose their or­chard when the Clyde dam was built.

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