May 21, 2022

Biographical Plays?

Shane M              posted 10 Sep 2020, 05:19 PM

Can anyone recommend a ‘biographical play text’ – a play written about someone’s life in New Zealand?

For my research I’m especially looking for ones that explore someone in their late teens/early twenties living post world war II Auckland.

Or if you know of a good play from another time period/place in New Zealand, please let me know.

Thank you!


John Smythe      posted 11 Sep 2020, 10:55 AM

I take it you have enquired through 

Shane M              posted 11 Sep 2020, 11:38 AM

Yes, I have, just looking for recommendations from the forum.

John Smythe      posted 11 Sep 2020, 12:40 PM

How about Bruce Mason’s The Hand on the Rail originally conceived in 1965 and recorded as a radio play in 1967 (then adapted for stage in 1967)? Rangi’s escape to Auckland, involvement with rugy and the trouble he gets into may fit your bill. Likewise Matt’s story within Awatea. Both involve young Maori men in conflict with the expectations of Maori society – but the central character in each is the boy’s father.  

Earlier, in the 1950s, there is Mason’s The Evening Paper which involves a very awkward relationship between a young woman, Winsome, and her critical English cousin, Philip. This is one of Mason’s social critiques of post-war New Zealand. 

Shane M              posted 11 Sep 2020, 01:27 PM

Thank you, John – very informative.



John Smythe      posted 11 Sep 2020, 03:43 PM / edited 16 Sep 2020, 10:39 AM

When you say ‘biographical’ do you mean based on a real life? 

I have just realised none of what I have suggested so far is biographical – however Bruce Mason’s solo play NOT CHRISTMAS BUT GUY FAWKES is autobiographical – the last part, ‘The Conch Shell’, may be what you are looking for, except it is pre war and post war. 

I have no idea what Ian Cross based THE GOD BOY ON …

Shane M              posted 11 Sep 2020, 03:48 PM / edited 11 Sep 2020, 03:52 PM

Yes, looking for plays written about a person’s real life, preferably someone living in Auckland late 1940s and in 1950s – could also be autobiographical or in another area of NZ. Focus of my study is fiction vs non-fiction in biographical play/script writing. Will take a look at some of your more recent suggestions, thanks!

John Smythe      posted 16 Sep 2020, 11:47 AM

Two plays by the late lamented Dean Parker may be worth looking at:



Please let us know when you have found what you are looking for.

Shane M              posted 16 Sep 2020, 12:35 PM

Fabulous, John, spot on! Very helpful! Cheers…

Thomas Clark     posted 18 May 2022, 09:35 PM / edited 27 May 2022, 09:27 PM

I’ve looked at the work offered here, like this one and I have a question – why is it so expensive $10??? I have 2 copies, 1 ready to keep, the other to sell if you live in Sydney.

John Smythe      posted 21 May 2022, 04:11 PM / edited 22 May 2022, 07:56 AM

I don’t think $10 is expensive, Thomas! 

Shane, if you are still looking, GIFTED by Patrick Evans is set in 1955 and profiles the relationship between Janet Frame and Frank Sargeson in Auckland.

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