Where­fore art thou, Jacinda?

Our Prime Min­is­ter has in­spired a new po­lit­i­cal play

Herald on Sunday - - WE SALUTE YOU - Dionne Chris­tian

She moved the pres­i­dent of Nauru to wel­come her with a song, po­ets penned verses to mark the birth of her daugh­ter, there’s been a chil­dren’s book about her new fam­ily life, and art that hon­ours her.

Now, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern has in­spired a play writ­ten by one of New Zealand’s most ex­cit­ing young play­wrights, Sam Brooks. Brooks, the win­ner of the Bruce Ma­son Award and Play­mar­ket’s b425 com­pe­ti­tion, has named his third pro­duc­tion of 2018, Jacinda.

But those ex­pect­ing to see the woman her­self por­trayed on stage maybe dis­ap­pointed be­cause the PM doesn’t fea­ture. In­stead, Brooks wanted a word to sum up the past elec­tion and says “Jacinda” felt like the best one.

“Her name was on every­body’s lips and it’s also dis­tinct enough to give your av­er­age passerby an ex­act idea of what the show is about. In say­ing that, it’s much more about the con­cept of Jacinda than it is the hu­man be­ing Jacinda,” he says.

“It’s about the ef­fect of the elec­tion

on the peo­ple of the coun­try. It’s not about the back­stage con­ver­sa­tions that went on, which I wouldn’t dare spec­u­late about and I fig­ure would be a bunch of peo­ple in board­rooms trad­ing poli­cies. I feel it’d be a pretty bleak and bor­ing po­lit­i­cal drama.”

Ardern told the Her­ald on Sun­day she had re­cently found out about the play named af­ter her and would try to see it per­formed.

“When I saw the play men­tioned on­line, I looked it up and read a bit more about it. A day or two af­ter that, I bumped into one of the ac­tors in a cafe, who was prac­tis­ing their lines and learned even more,” she said.

She said it was pleas­ing to see younger peo­ple mak­ing the­atre about New Zealand pol­i­tics.

“They’re fol­low­ing in a fine tra­di­tion of po­lit­i­cal satire like Pub­lic Ser­vice An­nounce­ments. Any­thing that gets young peo­ple talk­ing about pol­i­tics, or think­ing about pol­i­tics has to be a good thing.”

In July, Brooks caused a sen­sa­tion with the play Burn Her, which fo­cused on gen­der pol­i­tics, sold out Q The­atre’s Loft and had would-be au­di­ence mem­bers beg­ging for tick­ets and adding their names to wait­lists. It was di­rected by Sam Sned­den, who’s also at the helm of the new play.

He and Brooks say Jacinda,

per­formed by stu­dents from the Ac­tors’ Pro­gram class of 2018, is more a snap­shot of NZ as the coun­try waited for three weeks to find out which party would gov­ern.

“Like ev­ery snap­shot it car­ries with it the weight of what went be­fore and the po­ten­tial of what comes af­ter.”

A fan of po­lit­i­cal satire — Veep and The Thick of It are among his favourites — Brooks says it’s purely co­in­ci­den­tal he has writ­ten two plays about NZ pol­i­tics in the same year.

“I’m not some­one who con­sid­ers my­self co­cooned in pol­i­tics as such. I’m not in­ter­ested in writ­ing about that ech­e­lon of so­ci­ety; I’m more in­ter­ested in how peo­ple think and feel and ex­ist — not just politi­cians but peo­ple in gen­eral.

“I think it’s a high-stakes en­vi­ron­ment, though, and that makes it a good set­ting for a play. I write from in­stinct, I am an ob­server.”

So what has he ob­served about our third fe­male Prime Min­is­ter, who’s also the Min­is­ter of Arts, Cul­ture and Her­itage?

“I think she’s a real rar­ity in that she’s an in­cred­i­bly gifted politi­cian but also a gen­uine hu­man be­ing. It takes a lot of ef­fort to ex­ist in the world that she does but she makes it look ef­fort­less.”

Pho­tos / File; Sup­plied

Jacinda Ardern makes the job look ‘ef­fort­less’, says Sam Brooks (in­set).

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