Play puts spot­light on Gum­boot Day

The Tribune (NZ) - - SEIS IMMIGRATION SOLUTIONS - RICHARD MAYS

REVIEW

The Bright Lights of Tai­hape Writ­ten and per­formed by Loren Ma­son Di­rected by Tr­ish Phe­lan The Dark Room, Palmer­ston North. Thurs­day Oc­to­ber 5 - Satur­day Oc­to­ber 7 Tai­hape - a star of na­tional ra­dio weather fore­casts where it of­ten gets a men­tion, is much less prom­i­nent when it comes to star­ring on stage.

Car­toon­ist and play­wright Tom Scott co-wrote a 1970s univer­sity re­vue called the Last Max­ina in Tai­hape (think The Last Tango in Paris), and gum­boot throw­ing aside, that’s been about it - un­til now.

For The Bright Lights of Tai­hape, Palmer­ston North-raised per­former and play­wright Loren Ma­son has in­vented ‘Tai­hape gothic’.

Re­layed us­ing quick-fire char­ac­ter changes, flash­backs and clever shad­ow­play, Ma­son’s quirky Twin Peaks style con­coc­tion of car­i­ca­ture and con­trived co­nun­drum makes for an at­ten­tion-hold­ing and en­gag­ing enough piece.

Its nine broadly sketched ar­che­typ­i­cal ru­ral char­ac­ters are deftly wo­ven into a 45-minute yarn based around a great gum­boot heist car­ried out dur­ing the leadup to Tai­hape’s an­nual Gum­boot Day.

Ma­son’s clutch of by­turns earthy, gos­sipy, tac­i­turn, se­duc­tive, chirpy, lispy and slightly loopy pro­tag­o­nists tum­ble about in a truth-is-stranger-than-fic­tion un­less fic­tion is just too frig­gin’ far­fetched even for truth, type tale.

Pub nar­ra­tor, squinny-eyed Crazy Kev kicks things off by re­call­ing an un­solved farm shoot­ing, and how it re­lates to cur­rent mys­te­ri­ous hap­pen­ings on Tai­hape’s back hill farms.

Ma­son’s other char­ac­ters each have their dis­tinc­tive at­tributes - from mayor Keith’s lisp to Lynette’s shock­ing pink G-string and Dou­gal’s ‘‘hose’’, in a romp that could al­most be sub­ti­tled Do Aliens Dream of Elec­tric Fences?.

While per­haps not help­ing the­mat­i­cally to bridge the ur­ban ru­ral di­vide, or over­turn city stereo­typ­i­cal per­cep­tions of coun­try folk, Ma­son’s play at­tracted ex­cel­lent houses and a pos­i­tive re­sponse dur­ing its short sea­son.

Ac­tor Loren Ma­son gives it a heave for her solo show The Bright Lights of Tai­hape.

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