FALLOUT: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

20/05/2015 - 30/05/2015

Production Details

Two blasts disturb the winter night and a ship lies submerged in Auckland Harbour. A ship dedicated to peace. 

The world-premiere of ‘FALLOUT’ commemorates the 30th anniversary of an event that changed a nation. 

‘FALLOUT’ – a joint venture between The Large Group (‘Threepenny Opera’, ‘Between The Sheets’) and Last Tapes Theatre Company (‘Verbatim’, ‘Earnest’), brings this culturally significant event into the spotlight to examine its contribution to New Zealand’s national identity. ‘FALLOUT’ boasts a celebrated creative team of industry leaders who will bring a powerhouse combination of AV, soundscape, and lighting design to The Basement Theatre main stage from May 20th – 30th.

In addition to public shows, this production will educate a new generation of young New Zealanders about the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior through The Basement Schools Programme, matinee performances exclusively for schools, and specialised education packs.

“The tenth of July 1985 was the day I grew up … That was the day I learned that if you want to fight for something you put your life at risk… I think it was when New Zealand came of age”.

Photo credit: Gil Hanly

Performed by
Fasitua Amosa (‘Auckland Daze’, ‘Harry’)
Luanne Gordon (‘Interrogation’, ‘Hope and Wire’)
Toby Leach (‘Hillary’, ‘Harry’)
Kerry Warkia
(‘Flat 3’, ‘Find Me a Maori Bride’).

Design by
Sean Lynch, Paul McLaney (Fly My Pretties, The Impending Adorations),
Jeremy Fern.

Brought to you with support from Creative New Zealand, The Greenpeace Trust, PADET Trust, and the Lealand Family.

FALLOUT: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior  
May 20-30, The Basement Theatre, Auckland  
BOOK: https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2015/may/fallout

Theatre ,

Deserves a more thorough investigation

Review by Matt Baker 25th May 2015

On the international stage New Zealand is a young country with a comparatively less violent history than the birth lands of its colonial forefathers, but violence is violence, and even the smallest act can reverberate across the globe. The death of Fernando Pereira, son, husband, father, may not have directly affected the lives of those outside his Dunbar number, but the cause of it was an unquestionable blow to the nation. The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior has been explored in books, film, and television, but not to the extent one would expect such a significant source of drama to be. 

Enter The Large Group and Last Tapes Theatre Company in a joint venture to produce playwright Bronwyn Elsmore’s Fallout, six years after it was written and 30 years since the event that inspired it. It begins with a beautiful and provocative monologue by Kerry Warkia, accompanied by hypnotic projections by Jeremy Fern that continue throughout to give literal background to the play, before launching into the infamous incident and the people caught in its wake. [More]


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Is this the right way to remember …?

Review by James Wenley 25th May 2015

One of the most affecting moments comes at the beginning. Kerry Warika steps out of the darkness to describe the day her people saw two suns, and the “year we all got sick.” Warika represents one of the 300 Marshall islanders evacuated by the Rainbow Warrior from Rongelap Atoll prior to the ship docking in Auckland. The “snow” that fell on their homeland had devastating effects. This is an element that is danger of getting lost through the passing of years. To many New Zealanders, the attack on the Rainbow Warrior became a symbol of our sovereignty. Which is more outrageous? State-sanctioned terrorism in New Zealand territory, or nuclear testing in the Pacific, by the French and Americans, causing environmental and social disaster for those caught in the radius? Fallout does not let us forget both of the meanings in the show’s title.

A Greenpeace activist calls it “R Dub”. Another reckons it is “the most recognized ship in the world”. “That’s our ship” says Warika’s character. On 10 July 1985, the Rainbow Warrior crew were preparing to lead a protest campaign to Mururoa Atoll against French testing. An activist is interviewed: isn’t it risky to oppose governments? “We oppose policy” he says. Nothing ever happens in New Zealand. The gate was open. As a news report put it at the time, “Rainbow Warrior didn’t go to a warrior’s death; she sank in her sleep just after midnight, tied up at an Auckland wharf.” [More]


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Vivid reminder of terrorism in NZ

Review by Janet McAllister 22nd May 2015

It’s worth being reminded, by this semi-fictionalised oral history, how unbelievably insolent and sordid “Underwatergate” was. As Bronwyn Elsmore’s straight-talking, wonderfully-illustrated show outlines clearly and simply, the killer-agents of a supposedly friendly nation carried out state terrorism in downtown Auckland. They didn’t even bother to hide their tracks, and they mostly got away with it.

Cleverly, the play starts with the reason for the wider conflict. In a satisfying, poetic and deceptively peaceful prologue, we see blue waves in slow-motion, on screens that glide across the blacked-out stage to hopeful music. The waves turn orange, and what at first looks like a sunset turns out to be a nuclear test. [More]


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Fresh telling a timely reminder

Review by Kathryn van Beek 22nd May 2015

They say all stories have been told before – it’s how you tell them that matters. This is particularly true when it comes to the legend of The Rainbow Warrior, a tale that has been told in news reports, films, documentaries, books and songs – but not, until now, in a play: FALLOUT: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior

The Rainbow Warrior was a Greenpeace ship dedicated to peaceful protest against nuclear testing. During the 1950s the US Navy tested hydrogen bombs near Rongelap Atoll. In the decades that followed residents were plagued with miscarriages, stillbirths, thyroid tumours and birth defects. In May 1985 Greenpeace volunteers evacuated 300 people from the polluted region.

The Rainbow Warrior’s next port of call was New Zealand. The intention was for the ship to lead a flotilla of yachts to the Moruroa Atoll to protest against French nuclear testing in the area – but she never got there. On 10 July 1985 she was bombed and sunk at Downtown Auckland’s Marsden Wharf, killing photographer Fernando Pereira, who drowned in his cabin. 

That was thirty years ago now, and many New Zealanders weren’t yet born when the ship went down. But the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior is too important an event to forget – so how do you bring it to life for the people who didn’t experience it first-hand? 

Writer Bronwyn Elsmore’s new play is the answer to that question. It pulls you into the events by following four people whose lives were changed by the Rainbow Warrior in different ways. 

Kerry Warkia as a Rongelap Atoll mother evokes a powerful image of white, irradiated debris drifting down onto the island like ash – and the horror that was to follow. Luanne Gordon, as a peppy Greenpeace supporter, is one of an earnest group of volunteers doing what they think is right and accepting help from anyone who offers it.

An aspiring news hound, played by Toby Leach, gives a media insight into the story that was a journalist’s dream, and Fasitua Amosa, as a police investigator, brings home how trusting New Zealand was before the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. We didn’t think we needed security – we didn’t even lock the doors to our homes. 

And then it hits. The explosion. Someone in the audience yelps as a bomb goes off – well, that’s what it feels like. All of a sudden the Rainbow Warrior is sinking – and with it, the innocence of our nation. The characters express the shock and disbelief that was felt by New Zealanders at the time. The Rainbow Warrior helped save whales from extinction. It rescued people from radioactive fallout. It was committed to peace. Who would want to sink a ship that was such a powerful symbol of good? 

The focus of the play changes and we dive into the second act: the investigation. It becomes a whodunnit and we follow sightings of suspicious French nationals from the far North down to Auckland. A picture of a group of tidy but not overly sneaky French suspects emerges. The actors delight in switching between characters, bringing small town New Zealanders to life in rich and amusing ways. Fasitua Amosa has the audience hooting with laughter as he evokes several different types of quintessential Kiwi blokes. 

Director Jennifer Ward-Lealand takes the documentary vibe of the play and runs with it. The production is sleek and pared-back; she lets the characters do the talking. Three screens add depth to the drama by showing documentary footage, photos, video of waves and other scene-setting images.

The Rainbow Warrior only took four minutes to sink, but the effects of ‘underwater gate’ will be with us forever. This fresh telling of the legend recalls a united New Zealand working together to catch the bad guys. It’s a timely reminder that for a small country we punch well above our weight – when we want to.


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