The End of the Golden Weather

Ilott Theatre, Wellington

23/05/2007 - 24/05/2007

North Island Tour, (not a specified venue)

10/05/2007 - 03/06/2007

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

18/07/2006 - 30/07/2006

Production Details

By Bruce Mason
Directed by Mark Clare

Lighting design - Jeremy Fern
original music - Keith Ballantyne
Producer - Graeme Bennett

Presented by 88 Degrees in the Shade

Classic NZ Play Tours North Island 

Classic New Zealand play The End of The Golden Weather takes to the road in May and June 2007, performing in 13 centres throughout the North Island.

The End of the Golden Weather was written by New Zealand playwright Bruce Mason in 1951 and performed by Mason as a one-man show throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was adapted into an award-winning film by Ian Mune in 1991.

A new production of the play was staged last year in Auckland by 88 Degrees in the Shade and marked a return to the original one-man performance format. This new production directed by Mark Clare and produced by Graeme Bennett, featured former Neighbours star, and New Zealand actor, Stephen Lovatt.

Now, following a successful season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The End of The Golden Weather heads to Kerikeri, New Plymouth, Taumarunui, Stratford, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Hamilton, Wellington, Masterton, Napier, Taupo, Rotorua and Tauranga, before returning for one show only at the Bruce Mason Theatre in Takapuna, Auckland.

Set in Takapuna in the 1930’s, The End of the Golden Weather tells the story of 12-year-old Geoff Crome who is looking forward to an idyllic seaside summer. He makes friends with Firpo, a strange character whose ambition is to enter the Olympic Games and who is challenged to a race against the locals.

Producer Graeme Bennett says the original three-hour play has been edited into a 70-minute script while maintaining its evocative language. “Modern culture in its advances has lost some of the joys of literature,” Graeme says. “This is a tale told with a love of language – language to inspire and illuminate a history that should never be forgotten.”

The End of the Golden Weather marked a return to the stage for actor Stephen Lovatt following three years playing Max Hoyland on Neighbours. Stephen trained at the New Zealand Drama School and has extensive experience in television, film and theatre in New Zealand and Australia.

The End of the Golden Weather 2007 North Island tour details:
10 May . . . . . . . Kerikeri – The Centre, 8pm
12 May . . . . . . . New Plymouth – Theatre Royal, 7pm
13 May . . . . . . . Taumaranui – Little Theatre, 5pm
15 May . . . . . . . Gisborne – Lawson Field Theatre, 8pm
16 May . . . . . . . Gisborne – Lawson Field Theatre, 1pm, 8pm
19 May . . . . . . . Hamilton – Clarence St Theatre, 8pm
20 May . . . . . . .Hamilton – Clarence St Theatre, 2pm
21 May . . . . . . . Stratford – Kings Theatre, 8pm 
22 May . . . . . . . Palmerston North – The Globe, 8pm
23 & 24 May . . .Wellington – Illott Theatre, 8pm
25 May . . . . . . . Masterton – Rathkeale College, 1.30pm 
                                Greytown – Little Theatre, 8pm
26 May . . . . . . . Napier – Century Theatre, 8pm
27 May . . . . . . . Napier – Century Theatre, 2pm
30 May . . . . . . . Taupo – Great Lakes Centre, 8pm
31 May . . . . . . . .Rotorua – Civic Theatre, 8pm
1 June . . . . . . . . Tauranga – Baycourt, 8pm
2 June . . . . . . . . Tauranga – Baycourt, 2pm
3 June . . . . . . . . Auckland – BRUCE MASON CENTRE, 2pm

Performed by Stephen Lovatt

Theatre , Solo ,

Approx 85 mins

Capturing the essence of a Kiwi classic

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 25th May 2007

Mervyn Thompson in his solo autobiographical play Passing Through paid tribute to Bruce Mason and The End of the Golden Weather by describing Mason as sculpting in his mind "a fort of magic, a shield of images, shored up against the vanishings of time." He also described Golden Weather as "larger-than-life and truer."

Bruce Mason (and Mervyn Thompson for that matter) was no stranger to larger-than-life acting and in his ebullient, highly physical performance Stephen Lovatt joins him in capturing the essence of this famous fort of magic of a vanished New Zealand and the loss of innocence of a twelve year-old boy.

On a bare stage (Mason had a chair) and without a single prop, but assisted by some subtle lighting (Jeremy Fern) and the least obtrusive and most apposite music (Keith Ballantyne) I have heard in the theatre for a long time, Stephen Lovatt throws himself, sometimes literally, into the world of Te Parenga with a winning energy, lavish gestures and a delight in the creation of Mason’s characters such as the no-nonsense policeman, the disagreeable Atkinsons, and the pommie English teacher, giving them a Dickensian exaggeration and richness.

At times, however, Lovatt is so loud that he would be able to be heard very clearly in the back row of a theatre three or four times larger than the Illott Theatre but he commands the audience’s attention by playing, in this lightly edited version of Mason’s script, close to the front row, by his bravado, and by his playing the comedy to the full and the reflective passages with a pleasing simplicity.

Bruce Mason’s own performance of Golden Weather is still fondly remembered and since then we have had the film version as well as a play version for 9 actors. And more recently there has been Peter Vere-Jones’s performance and recording of it. Maybe it’s time for an actor to revive another of Mason’s solo works such as the fascinating Courting Blackbird.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Powerfully insightful and poignant

Review by John Smythe 25th May 2007

When Bruce Mason enunciated his prose poem for a solo actor fifty-odd years ago – and continued to do so in 1,000-plus performances over the next 21 years – his crisply articulated consonants and roundly modulated vowels were entirely valid, not least because the boy who experiences The End of the Golden Weather was, in essence, himself and this was his own voice now. Takapuna, where Mason spent his childhood summers in the early 1930s, is the model for fictional Te Parenga.

Peter Vere-Jones’ year 2000 performance, revived in 2001, was also delivered in resonant, elocuted tones. He too is an actor of the generation trained to sound as little like a New Zealander as possible so that when they do bung on the Kiwi accent, it sounds strangely foreign.

Not so Stephen Lovatt. His man looking back on his boyhood is well spoken, as he should be for the well educated son of a professional father with a sound grounding in religion and classics. But the voice is natural. And his subtle segues into character voices, indeed his total transformations into different characters, are as convincing as they are simply achieved in an instant.

‘Less is more’ is the byword here. Whereas Mason allowed himself a table and chair, Lovatt’s stage is totally bare, albeit graced with excellent lighting (designed by Jeremy Fern, operated by Sean Lynch). The text, too, is astutely trimmed by a good 25 percent, bringing what originally played in two parts over two nights down to a lean 90 minutes without an interval. Devoid of unnecessary decoration, this is a functional rendering of a still-potent tale.

(The boy, by the way, has no name in Mason’s text but Ian Mune’s excellent 1991 film adaptation christened him Geoffrey Crome and the publicity material for this production uses that too, for convenience.) 

As this last summer before puberty takes him from childhood, the joys of a carefree holiday are tempered with radical breakthroughs in understanding about the real world. The absolutes of church (via the Reverend Thirle), state (via Sergeant Robinson, especially on The Night of the Riots) and family (father, mother, sister, brother) all come up for re-evaluation. Even the existence of God is questioned by the "not all there" would-be Olympic athlete, ‘Firpo’, through whom the boy learns important life lessons about humanity and inhumanity.

Aficionados may miss the likes of Miss Effie Brett and her sister Sybil on the beach on Sunday at Te Parenga, or the finer details of what constituted the hilariously heart-rending concert in Christmas at Te Parenga. And wasn’t Firpo mentioned much earlier in the original? He’s tidily contained in The Made Man portion only, now.

One may argue the cuts have been expedient, to fit the perceived needs and tastes of modern audiences. Perhaps. But I see nothing crucial missing and feel the essence of the work is not only preserved but intensified. For the full-blown banquet get the Mune film out on DVD. To rediscover its piquant essence in your own imagination through the magic of live theatre, seize this brief opportunity.

Stephen Lovatt – who incidentally was in the memorable ensemble version directed at Downstage by Murray Lynch in 1990 – is riveting. Mercurial, fluid, fluent, extremely athletic at times and fully committed to each moment, he remains so relaxed with it you have to think hard to fully appreciate the small miracle he and director Mark Clare have wrought.

This superb production simultaneously refreshes and honours the seminal play that arguably launched the modern age of New Zealand theatre. Back in 1957 it was obliged to explain and even justify its intentions. Now it can simply be what it is: a powerfully insightful and poignant coming-of-age story that every New Zealander should be familiar with.

Having worked its way down from Kerikeri to Wellington, The End of the Golden Weather is now heading north again through Masterton, Greytown, Napier, Taupo, Rotorua and Tauranga to complete its run, fittingly, at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna on 3 June at 2pm (click on the play title above for date and venue details).


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Inspiring physicality

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 19th Jul 2006

88 Degrees in the Shade, a new, fresh voice in the Auckland theatre scene, can take pride in their inaugural production. Producer Graeme Bennett and director Mark Clare – with the help of Stephen Papps, and in consultation with Playmarket and members of the Mason Family – have edited Mason’s original 3-hour one man show with a view, in part, to bringing a younger audience into contact with NZ Classics. Their excellent casting decision results in resounding success.

Stephen Lovatt is the consummate player. He strides confidently onto the empty stage, beaming from ear to ear, and stands for a moment. He’s been looking forward to this.

For the next 80 minutes, Lovatt fills the empty space with his abundant talent, immersing himself whole-heartedly in Bruce Mason’s delicious prose. He effectively brings to life not only Mason’s famous story of a young man coming of age, but also sobering images of a New Zealand it would otherwise be hard to imagine existed less than 80 years ago.

It is so easy to conjure up images of tranquil Takapuna, juxtaposed with a community divided in depression, alongside a young man facing the loss of innocence, with Mason’s words to guide. Hearing his masterful use of language, at times pure poetry, then stark narrative, is immensely satisfying. Descriptions such as the angry mob gathered in the gloom as "grey faced eyeless men", and a clergyman as a "huge benign penguin", confirm he is one of this country’s finest playwrights.

The lighting design by Jeremy Fern closely follows Mason’s narrative, reflecting moments such as the sun-drenched beach and the ominous shadow of poverty, with effective placement and a few well-chosen shades. Levels rise and fade like the Takapuna tide throughout the play, yet at all times Fern serves Lovatt as the central focus.

Keith Ballantyne’s incidental music provides a fitting underlay to the performance, although while evocative and moving, on occasion, the volume threatened to over power Lovatt’s voice.

Lovatt’s physicality and fitness is inspiring. At times he throws himself into a scene like a whirling dervish, such as when the two brothers become locked in Christmas day fisticuffs.

Yet Lovatt also uses physical subtlety to define a character: the terse-lipped teacher, the Sergeant’s no nonsense strut, and Geoff’s wide open eyes, are all we need to know the temperament of each person. On occasion, however, Lovatt risks slipping into caricature, such as his portrayal of the wheelchair bound Mr Atkinson.

Mark Clare’s direction is decisive and well executed. Changes in pace and mood, such as the pivotal moment when Geoff speaks of the end of the golden weather, before launching into boyish Christmas day euphoria, are expertly delivered. Clare’s collaboration with Lovatt is strong: within each scene, they ensure movement between characters is accomplished with fluidity and grace.

When Geoff breaks down in tears in front of his younger brother, wracked in the knowledge God and meat cannot provide the liberation for Firpo he tried so valiantly to achieve, Lovatt brings great reverence to Mason’s close.

Producer Graeme Bennett states in the programme that this production will be mounted at the Edinburgh Festival next month. Be sure to see this sublime 80 minutes before it heads overseas.


Graeme Bennett August 6th, 2006

Largely the reasons why peeps didn't turn up is the Film Festival sucking all disposable income away from anything else, it had affects on Milos Wake as well. Timing is a real issue, a central calender will be developed for all to see whats on and when, probably just for Auckland initially. Competeing with subsidised theatre is an issuealso. ATC well funded Twelth Night played at the same period, therefore commercial Independent Producers will always find it difficult, unless much improved infrastructure and commercial funding propositions are reviewed. The Box office was ok for EOGW, but the ensuing tours of the UK, Aus and the US will baalnce it out a tad!

Paul McLaughlin July 30th, 2006

Houses have been low in many auditoriums all year. I'm sure administrators and programmers must be scratching their heads. I know it is demoralizing the actors in our community; but still - the work is out there, and it is good. Just gotta get the punters in to see the bloody stuff.

Hugh Bridge July 29th, 2006

SEE THIS SHOW - YOU'LL LOVATT! Only two more opportunities in Auckland! Having just posted a comment to the Milo's Wake thread about the wrighting of plays and audience involvement I must share two thoughts. Firstly, even though EotGW is more reliant on the written word than most plays, it is a wonderful example of wrighting an experience in space. I never saw Mason perform this piece, but I imagine he epitomised the craft of the minimalist playwright (with self-mocking florid overtones?). This current pared-down production benefits hugely from the skilled team supporting a brilliant Lovatt in honouring the original wrighter's insight. Mind you, I would have been happy to see more of the wonderful characters on the beach included at the scene-setting beginning. I would happily have sat for another 20-30 minutes. Secondly, there is the question of how much the making of a play is completed by presence of an audience. Last night when I saw this show there was an enthusiastic but surprisingly small audience at the Herald Theatre. I can't say it diminished the quality of our experience. What we can argue is that the presence of audiences in viable numbers will make or break the capacity of artists to create and present their work at all. In this case the artsists delivered their half of the bargain 100%. Can anyone explain why it has not played to packed houses?

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