Dra­matic group con­tin­ues to thrive

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By ABBY BROWN

The Mata­mata Dra­matic So­ci­ety en­cour­ages its mem­bers to be cre­ative in ways they could not be in their day job.

This is es­pe­cially true for the group’s trea­surer Richard Prevett.

The ac­coun­tant has been in­volved in the am­a­teur group for 30 years as an ac­tor and direc­tor.

‘‘ Well, if you do cre­ative ac­count­ing you go to jail, ‘‘ he laughed while sit­ting in the foyer the Mata­mata Theatre with the group’s pres­i­dent Irena Lead­beater.

The group was started when Prevett was 4 years old, by Mata­mata Col­lege se­nior mis­tress Vi­ola Bell, whose lover didn’t re­turn from World War II.

‘‘She was great for the col­lege and the town,’’ Prevett said. She also es­tab­lished Cen­ten­nial Drive.

Ini­tially the group per­formed English play­wrights but now per­form more New Zealand plays, in­clud­ing Prevett’s work.

‘‘I’ve been very lucky that the drama so­ci­ety has put them on. Nor­mally some­one like me stuck out on the edge of the world in Mata­mata writ­ing plays would write them and put them in the bot­tom drawer of the dress­ing ta­ble.’’

For­mer so­ci­ety mem­ber Simon Cole­man, who be­came a pro­fes­sional ac­tor and direc­tor, has also taken Prevett’s plays to Hamil­ton.

The so­ci­ety en­cour­ages lo­cal peo­ple to write plays through events like the re­cent Short and Sweet Fes­ti­val, which gives peo­ple a chance to write 10-minute plays which are then per­formed.

Some of the short plays have been ex­tended to full length.

Prevett said it was a source of sat­is­fac­tion that in a small town the group could put on a play with­out bring­ing in pro­fes­sion­als.

‘‘ We have writ­ten the play, di­rected it, acted in it, done all the techs, all the spe­cial ef­fects, light­ing, sound, some­times quite com­plex things, we have done the whole thing with­out any out­side help and that has as­ton­ished me as you don’t have many towns smaller than this.’’

The group has some­times worked with the Mata­mata Mu­si­cal Theatre on pro­duc­tions.

Lead­beater is proud the two groups have sur­vived when other small towns’ groups haven’t.

The so­ci­ety usu­ally puts on two plays a year.

Come­dies are the bums- on­seats money-mak­ers. The theatre also puts on a drama to in­dulge the ac­tors.

Over the years membership fees have waned in im­por­tance. ‘‘Be­cause we have been so suc­cess­ful we have been able to put on shows and make five grand so that sub­scrip­tion side is not so im­por­tant.’’

As the group has moved away from English play­wrights, the plays have re­flected a more lib­eral New Zealand. Prevett re­mem­bers the out­rage when the Mu­si­cal Theatre put on Je­sus Christ Su­per­star, with Rob Guest.

Let­ters to the Mata­mata Chron­i­cle said churchgoers should not go to the per­for­mance.

He also re­mem­bers per­form­ing a play that had one ‘‘f’’ word in the 1970s. Now the group can put on plays with as many swear words as they like and ‘‘a cou­ple un­der a blan­ket hump­ing up and down’’.

One of the ‘‘lit­tle bit naughty’’ plays was called Sex­tet, which was based in a boat and pro­duced a ‘‘hell of laugh’’ for Prevett and the crew. One of the fe­male char­ac­ters sun­bathed top­less in a scene, but the au­di­ence just saw her bare back.

At the ‘‘un­dress re­hearsal’’ an ac­tor was sup­posed to climb a lad­der and see the fe­male char­ac­ter’s breasts but he wouldn’t go up the lad­der. The ac­tor was an ‘‘English chap’’ who was self- con­scious and ‘‘he just flushed red’’.

Prevett said the group had also had many tal­ented ac­tresses like Faye Sharpe. The for­mer ball­room dancer had a pho­to­graphic mem­ory. By the sec­ond re­hearsal she wouldn’t need a script.

The drama so­ci­ety has also been slightly af­fected by other so­ci­etal changes. In the 1970s, when Prevett joined, women didn’t work so the group had a ‘‘won­der­ful re­source of mid­dle-aged women who could come down here and work four days a week get­ting a play pre­pared’’.

Now the work­ing women and men fit the play prepa­ra­tion around their sched­ules.

The so­ci­ety still benefits from both the stu­dents and staff from the col­lege, but could al­ways do with more be­cause most 18-yearolds leave the area and only come back in their late 20s early 30s to raise fam­i­lies, Prevett said.

Photo: ABBY BROWN

CRE­ATIVE CUR­TAIN: Mata­mata Dra­matic So­ci­ety trea­surer Richard Prevett and pres­i­dent Irena Lead­beater with the stage cur­tain her mum and other mem­bers made.

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