Hamil­ton ac­tress home­bound for play

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE - KEL­LEY TANTAU

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.

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