Hamilton actress homebound for play
When Robyn Paterson wrote a play based on her parents, she decided not to tell them.
Instead, the Hamilton actress let them see for themselves how the story of their immigration from South Africa was translated to the stage.
Paterson’s solo show The South Afreakins arrives in Hamilton next week, and the monologue - performed as a dualogue - critically unpicks what happens to immigrants when the head seeks safety and security, while the heart seeks home.
‘‘I know I can play my parents really well; it’s been a 30 year case study,’’ Paterson said.
‘‘I had written a play that was based on my grandparents’ town in South Africa, and there was a tiny excerpt where you hear my parents but you don’t see them.
‘‘I took that excerpt and started working with it to create a 10-minute piece for the New Zealand Short and Sweet Festival.
‘‘I didn’t actually tell my parents that I was creating it, it just kind of evolved,’’ she said.
‘‘Then they came to the festival and that’s when the nerves kicked in. It dawned on me that they might actually think I was legitimately taking the piss out of them.’’
Paterson switches between the roles of Helene and Gordon 350 times throughout the play.
She said she was looking forward to performing the show for the first time in Hamilton, where the story was conceived.
The family relocated to Hamilton in 1994 and Paterson immediately integrated herself into the city’s theatre scene.
The former Hillcrest Primary School and Waikato Diocesan student performed on stage at Riverlea Theatre and with Hamilton Operatic.
She then went on to graduate from the Unitec School of Dramatic Art in Auckland in 2009 and studied at The Neighbourhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York two years later.
She’s recognisable from New Zealand television shows Anzac Girls, Shortland Street, The Blue Rose and Go Girls.
‘‘It really feels like I’ve come full circle. I wrote a lot of the show with Hamilton in mind.
‘‘There’s a lot of creative licenses that have been taken, but they are based on events that happened to my parents,’’ Paterson said.
‘‘For me it feels quite comforting to perform it back in the fold.’’
Though the show touches on themes of intentional displacement and the struggles of adapting into a new culture, Paterson said the show was erring on the side of comedy.
‘‘I would say it’s a dramacomedy. There are underlying themes of loss and displacement and the search for home but there’s got to be humour,’’ she said.
‘‘I’m not one to create theatre with a heavy message that I insist people take away with them.
‘‘I enjoy creating theatre that is quite light but has scenes in which people can feel something.’’
The South Afreakins’ 65 minute version debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016, enjoying a month-long, sell-out season. It was then invited to the 2017 London Vault Festival where it had another sell-out season and then to Auckland’s Basement theatre where it sold out again.
Robyn Paterson switches between the roles of Helene and Gordon 350 times throughout the play.