The End Of The Golden Weather

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

03/09/2011 - 24/09/2011

Production Details

A Tale of Childhood, Vacations on the Beach and Innocence Lost   

"I invite you to join me, in a voyage into the past, to that territory of the heart we call childhood." –  Bruce Mason


New Zealand classic The End of the Golden Weather returns to the stage this September with a nine-strong cast led by Oscar-nominee Keisha Castle Hughes and Nic Sampson.

Auckland Theatre Company’s The End of the Golden Weather is at the Maidment Theatre from 1 September to 24 September.

Set in the Auckland suburb of Takapuna during an idyllic 1930s summer holiday, Bruce Mason’s tale chronicles the friendship between 12 year old Geoff Crome and the wild-limbed Firpo.  

Young Geoff is a daydreamer. Through his eyes we see the wonder of life on a perfect beach, in a perfect 1930’s New Zealand, during a perfect summer. It’s a world of magic and transformation, where anything can happen and miracles seem possible.

Firpo is a social outcast who dreams of winning an Olympic medal. Geoff sets out to help Firpo make his dream a reality, ignoring his father’s rebukes and community ridicule, inciting a battle between the eternal optimism of childhood and the harsh pragmatism of adulthood. 

Bruce Mason was one New Zealand’s pioneering and most prolific playwrights, having written more than 35 plays. The End of the Golden Weather was written by Bruce in the 1950s, inspired by his own boyhood spent in Te Parenga, and he performed it solo more than 986 times in theatres and village halls throughout New Zealand.

ATC Artistic Director, Colin McColl says the play is “perhaps our greatest rite-of-passage story, this ensemble version of Bruce Mason’s famous solo work is a lovingly orchestrated piece for nine actors that stays faithful to the text and spirit of the original.” 

Joining Keisha and Nick on stage are young talents Tim Carlsen (I love you bro), Fern Sutherland (The Almighty Johnsons), Dena Kennedy (Well Hung), Matariki Whatarau (Awhi Tapu), Byron Coll (Heat), Sophie Roberts (Woolf’s Lair) and Elliot Christensen-Yule (Red). 

Gliding effortlessly between flights of poetic fancy and blunt everyday speech, The End of the Golden Weather is iconic New Zealand storytelling at its very best. 

“Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! I enjoyed every minute of it!” – The Evening Post

The End of the Golden Weather
Maidment Theatre, Auckland  
1-24 September.

For more information visit  
or to book visit  
or phone 09 308 2383.

Tim Carlsen
Dena Kennedy
Matariki Whatarau
Sophie Roberts
Keisha Castle-Hughes
Byron Coll
Nic Sampson
Fern Sutherland
Elliot Christensen-Yule

As the show is an ensemble version of Bruce Mason's solo piece, the actors take turns playing the family, neighbours, voices of the boy, etc.  

Brian King: Set & Costume Designer
Nathan McKendry: Lighting Designer 

Young cast bask in Weather’s brilliance

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 09th Sep 2011

Rotation policy allows actors to shine but distracts from writers’ distinctive voice 

If a classic is defined as a work that stands the test of time,
 The End of the Golden Weather is doing a solid job of earning the accolade. Around 50 years after it was written, Bruce Mason’s masterpiece continues to astound, entertain and reveal deeper levels of meaning.

The subject matter seems an unlikely source for great drama: A young boy fishes up memories of a childhood marked by Christmas dinners, amateur theatrics and lazy days at the beach. But in the second act, all of the jumbled recollections coalesce into a strange encounter with a mentally retarded character who is a source of amusement for the beach-side community. [More]   
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.


Make a comment

A vital and vivid rendering of a great Kiwi classic

Review by John Smythe 05th Sep 2011

There is every reason to assume Bruce Mason would have approved whole heartedly of this ensemble rendering of The End of the Golden Weather. He had, after all, resorted to creating his now celebrated solo show in 1959 because his larger cast plays – The Pohutukawa Tree (written in 1955; workshopped by the NZ Players in 1957) and his award-winning Birds in the Wilderness (written and performed just once in 1958) – appeared doomed to moulder away unproduced in the foreseeable future.

“I just wanted to feel I had a calling for theatre and that this calling would at length be recognised, so that I could give my life and best energies to it,” he wrote in his 1970 note to the second published edition. “But you can’t work in a vacuum. A man won’t write symphonies, if there is no orchestra to play them. There was no solid theatrical framework here, no ladder to climb so that, feet on the first rung, you could go upwards to the second. You created no mana, no reputation or authority to justify your work. In fact, to most people, it wasn’t work at all, just pretentious frivolity.”

Aware that he could not claim to have opened up a career for himself, despite having worked in every sector of the theatre, he confronted his desperation thus: “I’m a Kiwi, born and bred. We’re at our best in a corner: good improvisers, bad experts, as an American critic once said of us. No theatrical framework? Right, then, I would create my own. Touring a play is expensive? Then cut to the minimum, table and chair. Scenery is costly to make and cumbersome to cart around? Do it all with words: appeal directly to the audience’s imagination. Casts are expensive? Be your own. Do all forty parts. Play anywhere, in any circumstances, to any audience.” 

He found his theme and title in a Thomas Wolfe story (The Web and the Rock) in which the narrator speaks of a novel he wants to write, but never does. It would involve a boy’s vision of life over a ten-month period, between his twelfth and thirteenth birthdays, and the title would be The End of the Golden Weather. Mason had already written and delivered a series of radio talks that recalled the characters who had populated his childhood summers at Auckland’s Takapuna beach. “These [talks] I adapted and wrote another: I had my first half,” he wrote in a Listener article (29 July 1960). The rest came from his story Summer’s End, published in Landfall in 1949: “A study of a man alone, as it were, a variation on the theme that John Mulgan has set down with classic precision for us – the psychosis, as I don’t hesitate to call it, which makes physical prowess the summit of all human endeavour. I rewrote it in the first person to make it coherent with the rest of the programme and called it The Made Man.

Mason performed The End of the Golden Weather, solo, 250 times in the first two years and 986 times throughout his busy and productive life, in small halls and sometimes in established theatres all over the country until cancer curtailed his capacity to travel. As it happens both Murray Lynch (at Centrepoint Theatre) and Colin McColl (at Downstage) stage managed seasons in Palmerston North and Wellington respectively.

Mason’s final rendering of it was in March and April 1981, when he recorded it with Radio New Zealand, holding up the sagging side of his face in order to articulate his words with customary clarity. He died on the last day of 1982, having worked with Ian Mune on the film version that would finally reach the big screen in 1991.

An ensemble stage version, then, in which nine actors share the multitudinous roles, including the narrator recalling and reliving his boyhood, might just as easily have been its natural form had the convention been current and the resources available in 1959. But unlike the multi-character radio plays which Mason later adapted for the stage, some of which could also be performed ensemble-style, The End of the Golden Weather uses ‘prose poem’ narration to paint its word pictures of Te Parenga (the model being Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood; indeed Mason acknowledged eminent actor and playwright Emlyn Williams, touring the world on the shoulders of Charles Dickens and Thomas, as an inspiration – although Williams apparently expressed astonishment that an unknown performer at the backyard of the world should dare to assume he could hold an audience for two hours, not only with words alone but with his own script!).

While it made sense to transpose the highly descriptive solo text entirely into ‘present action’ for the film adaptation, this ‘company version’ developed by Murray Lynch with his Tantrum Theatre group in 1987 – and revived at Downstage in 1990 (when Colin McColl was artistic director) with Lynch directing again – retains the script as writ by Mason. The richness of the language, sprinkled as it is with witty observation and perception, fully justifies that choice. And now nine new actors revitalise the quintessentially Kiwi yet timeless and universal ‘loss of innocence/ rite of passage/ coming of age’ story.

Set mostly over the summer of 1933-34, at Te Parenga, this is the fictionalised Takapuna which Mason had already created for The Pohutukawa Tree (which is set about 15 years later, a few years after WWII). Both plays, incidentally, feature Sergeant Robinson, the local policeman, and members of the “filthy rich” Atkinson family that purchased most of Te Parenga from the local iwi (Ngati Raukura). Yet despite the centrality of the one remaining family group in The Pohutukawa Tree, there are no Maori characters visible or mentioned in The End of the Golden Weather.

My guess is that this truthfully represents Mason’s limited perception as a 12 year-old from a relatively well-to-do family, and that his being a boy (who probably, like its protagonist, practised drawing hearts and secret initials in the sand then kicked them over in embarrassed fear of discovery) accounts for the roles of greatest substance being male. Lynch’s casting, then, of two Maori in a troupe of 5 males and 4 females, goes some way towards visually representing the gender and culture balance of the time.  

The fluid passing of narration and roles between the actors ensures the story predominates – with a pleasing variation in tone, a bit like a small orchestra playing pieces one has previously heard on the piano (and Mason, of course, was a highly accomplished pianist).

Speaking of tone, designer Brian King outfits them in shades of cream, beige and brown, their costumes capturing a sense of the between wars era while bridging through to the retro fashions of today. And his set of an isolated raked board stage area with a stepped rostrum embedded, set against a clouded sky backdrop with the silhouette of Rangitoto on the ‘horizon’, allows – with the addition and subtraction of wooden chairs – for the full range of public and private locations to be readily evoked, under Nathan McKendry’s clear summer lighting and abetted by Gareth Farr’s astutely integrated original music, using his marimba to capture the tones of summer.  

Having delivered the prologue as an ensemble, each actor steps into their allotted roles with relish, then, with equal alacrity and generosity, returns to the ensemble to flesh out whatever is required to serve the bigger picture, be it animate or inanimate. The overall effect is of a fondly remembered summer idyll, yet the moment-by-moment insights into Pakeha Kiwi culture and the sharing of a pre-adolescent boy’s discoveries, joys and traumas variously provoke hilarity and deep-felt reminders of life’s more sobering lessons.  

The boy/narrator, played by each of the actors at times and at his key moments of self-awareness and breakthrough understanding by Nic Sampson, is the ‘straight man’ to a range of broadly drawn characters. These work best when grounded, commedia-style, in a core of emotional truth. 

The notion that boys will be men and girls will play women is quickly upended with Matariki Whatarau’s voluminous Effie Brett, Fern Sutherland’s censorious Sergeant Robinson (Robbo) and Dena Kennedy’s muscular Commonwealth Wrestling Champion Jesse Cabot cartooning the habitués of the beach in ‘Sunday at Te Parenga’.  

It is Dena Kennedy as the Boy who takes us to ‘The Night of the Riots’, where Elliott Christensen-Yule plays an impressively mounted ‘Robbo’ atop Tim Carlsen’s shoulders. This experience (told in the past tense, so set some time before the summer) is the first time the Boy experiences a loss of innocence; it is that night that “marked an end: the end of the golden weather.”

‘Christmas at Te Parenga’ has Byron Coll weathering the pressure of Peace on Earth for 24 hours and mounting his earnest little concert, augmented by his sister (Fern Sutherland) but so insensitively undermined by his brother (Matariki Whatarau). The moment of reconciliation between the brothers is a crucial moment of insight into “the complexity of human motive and behaviour”, nicely captured by Sampson (as the Boy now) and Whatarau.

Byron Coll also has a ball with the Father’s sudden breakout into a bizarre comic sketch of kitchen table surgery, the gross Kiwi joker Uncle Jim and the ailing but appallingly harsh Guy Atkinson; all extreme yet rooted in truth. Sophie Roberts likewise relishes such roles as the lemon-face Miss Sybill Brett and the imperious Ella Atkinson, whose own silent suffering is subtly apparent.

Keisha Castle-Hughes also shares unspoken thoughts and feelings as the boy’s Mother, in ‘The Made Man’ (which comprises the second half of the show), and captures the Boy’s experience in finding the green staircase (to the Atkinson’s and Firpo’s bach) then dealing with aspiring athletes Joe Dyer and Bob Fergusson, made impressive flesh by Nic Samson and Elliott Christensen-Yule.

My only gripe is that the boy’s loathed school teacher – Mr Stephen Irons from London, “superior and edgy” – is made totally foolish by Christensen-Yule. If he believed in himself more we would be compelled, along with the boy (Fern Sutherland in this scene), to wrestle internally with his glorification of Wordsworth and total dismissal of the “Made Man” – as in athletic prowess – as “the summit of all human endeavour.” 

Firpo is the plum role, of course, and any rendition of The End of the Golden Weather must stand or fall by how well this clown-like manifestation of athletic aspiration is played. He is shared by Matariki Whatarau and Tim Carlsen and without detracting from the value of Whatarau’s gentle and sensitive portrayal, Carlsen’s manifestation of the would-be ‘Made Man’ in action is an absolute triumph and the undoubted highlight of Murray Lynch’s brilliant production.

Many other cameos and moments of truth and insight could be commented on but nothing can replace the value of your being there. The Auckland Theatre Company’s commitment – under the artistic directorship of Colin McColl – to rediscovering the plays of Bruce Mason is to be loudly applauded and this production of The End of the Golden Weather stands proud as a vital and vivid rendering of a great Kiwi classic. 
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.


John Smythe September 28th, 2011

 Bruce Mason would have turned 90 today (28 September 2011).

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council