The Honey Keeper

Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson, Auckland

12/04/2007 - 15/04/2007

Production Details

Written by the company with dramaturgy by Elizabeth Mills
Directed by John Humphries


And all the while a dragon kept the secrets of my heart. I hardly knew I had them. Until you asked me to dance. Like you knew my secrets were there, and you had come to wait for them. And love them.

When lovers are pulled apart, what distance can love travel? When pen and paper are your only bond, what is the distance between words?

In this new piece of intimate theatre from IN THE SHAPE OF A SQUARE, a tale of love, loyalty and loss unfolds through three interwoven journeys.

Retracing Grandfather’s footsteps on stage and screen

The play, written collaboratively by the company, tells a tale of love, loyalty and loss and features Devonport local Tom McRae.

Late last year, Tom set out to retrace his grandfather’s footsteps through World War Two. The journey was filmed for the documentary Nobody’s Heroes (screening this Anzac Day). Literally days after returning to New Zealand, Tom began work on The Honey Keeper, feeding his experience overseas into creating the play, which is essentially a love story between soldiers and those they leave behind.

Set simultaneously in the present and World War Two, Tom explains, “The play is not exclusively for people touched by war. It’s about self-sacrifice – what we will sacrifice for those we love. This play should link generations and bring people together.”

The company has a unique way of bringing people together. With a commitment to taking arts out into the community, director John Humphries explains, “We’re not gluing ourselves to a venue and expecting our audience to come to us. We’re weaving their stories into highly charged performances and taking it to them.”
In The Shape Of A Square was hailed by Theatreview last year as “names to watch out for if you’re interested in the development of innovative theatre in Auckland.” The Honey Keeper promises to be innovative and definitely one to watch out for this year.

In The Shape Of A Square presents The Honey Keeper
When & Where
29 March – 01 April 2007
Kerr Street Artspace
Kerr Street, Devonport
12 – 15 April 2007
Cellar Theatre, Corban Estate Arts Centre
426 Great North Road, Henderson
Time:  7pm (live music from 6pm, show duration one hour)
Cost:  $20 Full Price, Concessions $15, Groups (5+) $18

Bookings:  iTICKET: Phone (09) 3611000 or online

For more information about the production and In The Shape Of A Square go to


Come along early and stay late to enjoy a cool drink, lounge about and listen to some chilled live music or wander through a display of contemporary artworks.
(Live music from 6pm)

With Daniel Coppersmith, Hayley Dallimore and Tom McRae  

Theatre ,

1 hr, no interval

Measured work

Review by Nik Smythe 14th Apr 2007

Young pregnant Lydia (Hayley Dallimore), her partner Jacob (Daniel Coppersmith) away with the navy, is reading old letters she found in her old grandparent’s house where she lives.  Beginning with a letter by her grandmother Etta, she becomes Etta and conjures the ghost of her husband Patrick (Tom McRae) who was away at World War II at the time.

Interspersed with Etta & Patrick’s letters to each other, Jacob writes from Iraq, sharing his heart and soul with his "two most favourite people" – Lydia and their unborn child.  The story arc of the younger couple is told in reverse, as though time is sucked backwards into the vacuum created when Lydia’s mind excavates her genetic past.  Maybe.

Dallimore’s performance is strong and engaging, the distinction between her dual characters of young kiwi lass and frail old biddy quite convincing.  Coppersmith’s Jacob is at first a tad stilted but quickly warms up to deliver a likeable and idealistic guy who wants to do all he can to make the world a better place to live.  McRae, as the young Patrick of the forties, appears less connected to his character; his portrayal somewhat stereotypical and forced.

Under John Humphries’ direction, all three actors to varying degrees seem more comfortable in soliloquy as they relay their letters to each other across the world, than when interacting with each other.  Also, details like Jacob’s less than diligent boot shining and the sharpness of Patrick’s whittling knife could further enhance the work once mastered.  The overall performance is rather measured, almost cautious, despite some philosophical declarations such as "always choose the difficult right over the easy wrong".

I confess to wondering if Etta’s comment "each wound incurred tending life makes us stronger", in her final letter to her deceased Patrick, is a deliberate reference to Nietche’s famous philosophical work Man & Superman, which Hitler in turn allegedly plundered for Nazi propaganda?  Or not.  The script is credited to Coppersmith, Dallimore, Humphries, McRae and dramaturge Elizabeth Mills, who herself commends the dedicated support she had from the others when honing what is to this point a pretty decent draft.  The title alludes to the parallel of the expecting wartime housewife and the queen bee in the hive, with their soldiers and workers out tending to the worldly affairs.

Rudimentary set, no light changes and the only soundtrack the immortal ‘Danny Boy’ sung by the cast.  Some simple effects such as a spotlight on the actor when reciting a letter, would undoubtedly enhance the impact of those abstract scenes, but ultimately this play could be performed anywhere at the drop of a hat.

Billed as a work in progress, my assessment of The Honey Keeper is that it definitely warrants further development.  Just when I thought I’d had my fill of war stories an inspired young collective presents this fresh yet timeless angle, demonstrating in some small part the connection all people and stories, and insects, share.

Footnote: Re. schedule versus geography; the wistfully haunting folk songs of pre-show musician Claire Duncan, which it’s a shame to miss, begin at 6 o’clock in the Cellar Theatre of the Corban estate Arts Centre, at the end of Lincoln Road off the Northwestern motorway.  The evening rush hour traffic is quite heavy almost right up to the 7pm start time of the play.  My guest, coming from South Auckland, spent nearly two hours in traffic, and credit must go to the front of house for delaying the curtain for various latecomers.  Once the Estate is reached it is also difficult to navigate to the end of the driveway and locate the actual theatre.  It feels kind of cool to be in the know, but I gather the standard thespian attitude is in favour of accessibility. 

In summary: someone with some money, please fund a clear signage system for the Corban Arts Estate campus!


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