BLONDE MOUNTAIN WOLF MAN
03/03/2019 - 05/03/2019
06/10/2018 - 07/10/2018
Craig Geenty performs stories of his ancestors: A ship-wrecked Jack- of-all-trades, two Victorian theatre artists, and a tale of alleged incest and murder
A 1921 murder mystery lies at the centre of Blonde Mountain Wolf Man, a new solo play by Craig Geenty. Geenty’s great-grandfather Joseph is still officially missing, and various theories for the cause of his disappearance have circulated between his fourteen children and multiple grandchildren.
Craig says, “The stories I’ve heard of my great-grandfather are wildly varied and contradictory. His children, all dead now, stayed tight-lipped, so the next generation relied on rumours and even clairvoyants. Did he run away and start another family in Australia, or was he murdered by his sons and buried in the back yard? If so why?”
One version of Joseph’s fate was printed in The New Truth in 1998, with the headline, “Deathbed Confession Dying Woman Names Dad’s Killer”. In response, his late grand-daughter, Doreen Lumsden made a complaint about its inaccuracy to The New Zealand Media Council, which was upheld. The details of the ruling are available on the council’s website: http://www.mediacouncil.org.nz/rulings/mrs-d-e-lumsden-against-new-truth
In Blonde Mountain Wolf Man Geenty presents Joseph’s story, along with the intriguing tale of Joseph’s wife. “Isabella, aged twelve, sailed to the other side of the world with her dad and brother, leaving mum in London to pursue her acting career. Her dad William had also been working as an actor, but brought the kids out to New Zealand for a better life,” says Geenty. “I found this out after becoming an actor myself, so it helps to explain where that urge comes from.”
Geenty is a Wellington based actor and director who appeared in Friday’s Flock at Circa Theatre last year, and travelled to Edinburgh with Tikapa Productions’ Not in Our Neighbourhood (acting) and The Moa Show (directing). Blonde Mountain Wolf Man is a fun and physical hour, taking a comic approach to looking at how our ancestors lives shape our own.
Saturday 6th October 6pm
Sunday 7th October 6pm
$20 Full, $15 Concession
Duration: 60 mins
BATS Theatre – Heyday Dome
3, 4, 5 March 2019
Fringe Addict: $14
Theatre , Solo ,
A fascinating historical plot dug over with ingenuity
Review by John Smythe 04th Mar 2019
Being handed a tasting tray of four very different beers as we enter BATS’ Heyday Dome space subverts my assumptions about what’s in store and what the title of this solo show – Blonde Mountain Wolf Man – actually stands for. Each beer is assigned one of those words, and those words also relate directly to Craig Connor Geenty’s names.
The challenge to resist tasting the beers until invited to during the show reminds me of those TV shows studying the behaviour for four year olds. Fortunately our mature self-discipline pays off.
Craig’s brown tights, check shirt with a belt at the waist and fur-lined trapper hat suggest a swash-buckling hero in the Robin Hood mode, or one of his Merry Men, but it turns out this garb owes more to Irish folklore and the Geenty’s dancing Irish King ancestor, Niall.
Traversing his own growth to maturity while reaching back through the family history, Craig performs with a gentle affability that accommodates whatever may happen and whoever is in the audience (a row of his countless relations are present this opening night).
An array of plant pots, each bearing an initial, is used to represent different generations of the family tree. As for the spade – its significance emerges at the end, in relation to a mystery that may or may not involve murder; a family secret that has gone to the graves of Graig’s forbears, concerning the fate of his paternal great-grandfather, Joseph.
Each of the tale’s four parts begins with a tasting, a description of the beer’s properties and the reason for its assigned name – a convivial way of bringing us together and refocussing our interest.
Although Part One begins in 1921, in the ‘untamed’ Hawkes Bay valley Joseph cleared with his own bare hands, and establishes the mystery of the patriarch’s disappearance, the back-story of how Joseph set forth of his adventure and only just made it to these shores in 1894 is revealed.
Part Two explores the maternal line which brings performing arts into the family. The romance between the touring actors who are destined to become parents of Craig’s great grandmother, Isabella, is played out as a silent melodrama. We learn why she too came to New Zealand, with her father and ‘black sheep’ brother. And Craig’s own OE, on a farm-working exchange to Denmark, allows him to consider the heritage of some of his personal traits, by way of ‘the tractor incident’.
The rugged bushman, Joseph – who now runs a horse-and-cart service and a blacksmith’s shop – and refined young pianist, Isabella, meet each other in Part Three, at a dance in Napier. Yearly pregnancies over 18 years see 14 children survive before Isabella dies at 41.
The small cup of pale ale we raise to herald the start of Part Four gives us a chance to toast Isabella and contemplate her fate. What follows – where the oldest daughter, Molly, becomes ‘mother’ to her siblings could, I feel, be dramatised better in the lead-up to Joseph’s disappearance and Craig’s canvassing of three possible explanations. Perhaps the plant pots could come into their own as a way of suggesting the possible family dynamics, and the above and below-ground dimensions. I do understand, however, that it’s sensitive territory that should not lapse into gossip and rumour.*
It’s an epic saga Craig Geenty shares in just 50 minutes and although he did a development season last year in Palmerston North, I sense he will become more fluent and playful as this short season continues. His creative ingenuity in digging over a fascinating historical plot is to be applauded.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Funny and engaging
Review by Alexandra Bellad-Ellis 07th Oct 2018
Blonde Mountain Wolf Man is Craig Geenty’s brand new solo comedy show, where he takes the audience for a romp through his family tree, from his genetic roots in England to his New Zealand pioneering stock with a little mystery, and the wreck of the SS Wairarapa, thrown in to boot.
Based around his great grandparents, Joseph and Isabella – one descended from the wool trade, the other from solid artistic stock – Craig Geenty’s story is funny and engaging; interesting enough to hold the audience’s attention all the way through.
Using props to mark each ancestor through the generations is a nice touch and they give the audience a visual representation of time passing. This is a great little show and well worth seeing.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer