Wherefore art thou, Jacinda?
Our Prime Minister has inspired a new political play
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.”
Jacinda Ardern makes the job look ‘effortless’, says Sam Brooks (inset).