A Baker’s Dozen

High Schools Tour 2010, from Invercargill to Warkworth

24/05/2010 - 25/06/2010

Production Details

13 New Zealand Plays | Four accomplished actors
At your school, touring May/June 2010
Available from Invercargill to Warkworth
50 minutes | $750

From the She’ll Be Write* people
A brand new show celebrating the best if Aoteroa. Featuring classics, new standards and some genuine cutting edge material. Presented by EnsembleImpact. It’s funny, it’s familiar, it’s new.

A Baker’s Dozen is a superb compilation of the outstanding talents of our own New Zealand playwrights, In English & Maori.

1.       Tortured by her high school past, Liz Meade comes up with a novel solution for the tenth high-school reunion – commit suicide in front of her classmates! From the very twisted (and very funny) Thomas Sainsbury, LOSER


2.      Makarel and Caroline aren’t taking the most recent environmental disaster very seriously. An early play from Gary Henderson, THE BIG BLUE PLANET EARTH SHOW features 4 actors and our own very endangered species: us.


3.      Inspired by a newspaper article, MAURI TU takes a look at where we’ve been and where we’re going in Aotearoa. This is “what it’s like” from Hone Kouka.


4.     You’re never far from home, even when home is at the bottom of the world. THE PERFUMED GARDEN, by Dean Parker, has us taking a look at Leo in the Hindu Kush…a Kiwi lad just miles from the geographic centre of the universe.


5.      Paloma and Taku have become unlikely members of the same whanau…and they each have a story to tell. Briar Grace-Smith’s play, HARURU MAI was commissioned for the 2000 NZ Festival.


6.     WAIORA. “They’re a bloody funny bunch, aren’t they,” says Steve of his foreman’s family. It’s 1965, we’re in the South Island and freshly formed identities are soon put to the test in this seminal work from Hone Kouka.


7.      It’s 1994. Kurt Cobain is dead but Eb, Mo, Arthur and Jordyn are seventeen years old, on the road and very much alive: so far. Vivienne Plumb’s, THE CAPE, marks a transition from childhood to some-thing like becoming an adult.


8.     RPM. Dave Armstrong presents a play about cars and the bored high school-ers who drive them. Meet Sam and Rose, two of the students, on Sam’s lucky night out.


9.     Getting married is the subject of Fiona Samuel’s play, THE WEDDING PARTY. Heather’s getting married to Bill. And it’s a far cry from when Heather’s folks, Peggy and Archie, got hitched.


10. Do you reap what you sow? In THE UNFORGIVEN HARVEST, playwright, actress and comedienne Jo Randerson takes a look at parenting and its consequences.


11.    Howard’s been trying to get thrown out of his private school since he got there. When he’s not in the Headmaster’s office, he’s confronted by the ghosts of the school’s most famous Old Boy, Jack Lovelock. Whimsy and history combine in David Geary’s, LOVELOCK’S DREAM RUN.


12.   Only one woman can be QUEEN B. Pip Hall takes a look at a not-too-distant future, where breeding confers status and power in a world gone infertile.


13.   Gerald and Grace meet at a Social Welfare department. Gerald says he’s the Son of God. Grace doesn’t believe him. Or should she? Duncan Sarkies presents SAVING GRACE, a 1995 Chapman Tripp award winner.    
These are snapshots of us – little pictures from the playwrights, their plays, the themes that fuel their work and ultimately…as every piece here is about growing up and confronting oneself…they are snapshots of us – now – living in New Zealand.

Whether dealing with high school or the complexities of dating, life, travelling abroad, being in love, deciding to marry or having children, the playwrights have taken aim on just what it means to be here.

Maori or pakeha, male or female, being a Kiwi, as seen through the lenses of these 13 playwrights highlights both the shared and the unique aspects of living in Aotearoa. Two girls act up at a school assembly, a lucky lad has his first sexual experience, a woman prepares for her wedding day, a traveller finds he’s never far away from home…these people are us and their stories are ours.

But you’ll have to pay attention. This is theatre, not television; these are snippets and not the whole play itself. It can be confusing. We’ll jump from character to character, play-to-play, using as a focal point either an unique personality or a shared experience.

There are 13 of them – moving from high school to life just beyond, from brown to white, from male to female, from best friends to new acquaintances. Nice guys, nerds, depressives, athletes, rebels, suck-ups, plastics: they’re us – and their stories are ours.

*Feedback of the 2009 show She’ll Be Write:

I totally loved the show. Kristina Walton, Thames High School

I also wanted to add my 2 cents worth in support of “She’ll be Write” – fantastic performance for my students! Morag Carter, Pukekohe

Lovely performance, accessible to all students. Just Magic. Elizabeth Grubb, Mountain View

Hosted the company today – great work, accessible and relevant. Gaenor Stoate, Spotswood College

We all really enjoyed sampling a wide range of NZ’s best plays with you. This in itself was a great opportunity; whetting our student’s appetite for the many great NZ plays out there. Perry Piercy, Kapiti College

See it now! Book them for next year, if you’ve missed out for this year! Louise Flynn, Awatapu College

A Baker’s Dozen is fifty minutes long, requires no advance set-up, and deliberately limits each audience to 150 students per showing. (We’re in the business of engaging with our audience, we’re not interested in killing time in the school hall).

Multiple showings for larger schools are available at a reduced price – just ask, we’re happy to help!


The 2010 Ensemble 
K.C. KELLY – Director

55 mins

Simultaneously compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking: this is what theatre’s all about

Review by John Smythe 24th May 2010

“School sucks!” is a perfect line to start a high schools tour show with, especially in places where theatregoing as a relatively foreign concept. It’s from Thomas Sainsbury’s Loser and is the first extract from the 13 plays sampled to create A Baker’s Dozen: a veritable ‘taste treat’ smorgasbord of scenes to which the target audience cannot help but relate.

Directed by K.C. Kelly, a quartet of excellent actors – Matariki Whatarau, Yvette Reid, Elizabeth McMenamin and Fraser McLeod –play out 55 minutes of very human interactions in the simplest of dramatic forms: in the traverse, with the audience (150 max) sitting on the floor, a small collection of costume bits and props placed at either end, to be employed as the show progresses; no lighting or sound, just people in space engaging the imaginations of their audiences.

Produced and toured by EnsembleImpact, A Baker’s Dozen reminds us of – or introduces us to – contemporary New Zealand playwrights who have skilfully created strong characters in credible situations who grapple with the stuff that matters. And usually the more serious and insightful it is, the more humour plays a part, provoking the shocked laughter of recognition.

This extremely well crafted compilation is simultaneously compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking.

Loser’s bizarre depiction of a teenage girl trying to attract attention by ending it all in an apparently uncaring world is black humour at its best, compelling us to recognise the drama queen and/or sociopath in all of us and to ask ourselves where we stand when it comes to compassion for others.

In a world enveloped in dangerous smog, Gary Henderson’s The Big Blue Planet Earth Show finds two schoolgirls failing to take seriously the headmaster’s instructions on how to use a face mask, let alone his rallying cry for pride in a country that can afford to issue these masks to all while third world countries cannot.

A Mâori boy headed for prison, or a youth detention centre, is the focus for a father in Mauri Tu by Hone Kouka as he respectfully explains to us – the court, the hapu, a family group conference? – the need to hark back to the past in order to find our grounding now so we can move sure-footed into the future.  

When a sleeping Kiwi backpacker is woken by a French-speaking woman it turns out they are in Afghanistan and she’s just as fluent in English. She has met Kiwis in hostels and thinks the aChesdale Cheese commercial is a folk song. This inspired duologue by Dean Parker, and the next, between the Kiwi and the Californian girlfriend he claims to have tired of, go to the heart of freedom, responsibility, identity, ‘home’ and family in refreshing and challenging ways. It is a tantalising glimpse of Parker’s The Perfumed Garden, scheduled to premiere at the Court Theatre’s Forge in mid-July.

In Haruru Mai by Briar Grace-Smith, Paloma takes a stroppy and confrontational tack in trying to get to know Taku and discover his story. Why did an old man retrieve him from a ditch, after he’d been beaten up, and tell him he reminded him of the sea? The voice of contemporary New Zealand characters is captured perfectly and, as with all the scenes, this tantalising glimpse leaves you wanting to find out more.

A Pakeha perspective on the place of Mâori in the mid 1960s South Island is articulated by a boss character in Hone Kouka’s Waiora, truly nailing the entrenched, patronising and insidiously racist views of a man most would see as ‘a good bloke’ and a ‘decent’ employer.

As four mates on a road trip try to find their individual place in the world while making it as ‘one of the boys’, in The Cape by Vivienne Plumb, one discovers that another is battling cancer. This is a sensitive and powerful insight into a less-explored realm of male friendship.

From death we go to sex, as discussed between two girls, followed by a guy confiding his discovery that not bragging about how cool you are is a really cool way to pick up chicks. This is from Dave Armstrong’s Young & Hungry play RPM

By now the theatrical conventions are becoming less naturalistic and more sophisticated. In Fiona Samuel’s The Wedding Party, an insightfully true interaction between one girl making up another – “careful, your face is in my hands!” – is offset by a circling male, sharing his inner thoughts.

The domestic chore of folding washing is contrasted with a serious talk about justice, between a masters law student and the woman of the house he is boarding in. Jo Randerson also has them discussing the question of marital infidelity in this excerpt from The Unforgiven Harvest (which also explores parenting: do you reap what you sow?).  

In the boy’s boarding school David Geary has created for Lovelock’s Dream Run, two third formers – one in female drag and happily homosexual – negotiate terms with the headmaster for not letting ‘the incident’ go past the school. “House drama gets preference over rugby practice” is the priority for one boy. (Yes!)  

Pip Hall’s futuristic evocation of world where pervasive infertility has made breeding a matter of state control finds two very different young women answering invasive questions about their health records. The play is called Queen B.

The final scene – all seamlessly blended to the point where it is sometimes unclear we’re into a new play – is from Saving Grace by Duncan Sarkies. The enigmatic exchange between a man and young woman about trust, betrayal, love and choice brings together some of the key themes explored in this totally compelling 55 minutes of theatre.

A Baker’s Dozen follows last year’s She’ll Be Write, which extracted scenes from 16 plays to dramatise a history of NZ Theatre. I’d rate it as one of the most important things being done in the performing arts today, at any level. In the process of dramatising themes and topics that high school students relate too strongly, A Baker’s Dozen proves how relevant, accessible and efficacious theatre can be, while doubtless inspiring many to give it a go themselves.

Assuming our professional and community theatres want these young people to come to their shows too, and develop a lifelong theatre-going habit, all producers, directors, literary managers, dramaturgs and programming committee members active in theatres from North Cape to Bluff should make it their business to check it out at a high school near them.

Perhaps it will help them to realise – or remember – how may excellent playwrights we have in this country, and inspire them to produce more of their work, not least to attract a vast group of people who simply assume it’s not for them because it’s not about them.  

EnsembleImpact’s A Baker’s Dozen is a salutary reminder that this is what theatre’s all about.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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