The Other Side of the Fence
27/02/2006 - 02/03/2006
based on 3 stories from Pounamu Pounamu by Witi Ihimaera, adapted by Rick Loos and Amanda Dennis
directed by Rick Loos
“Don’t any of you set foot over this side of the fence again, do you hear?”
A stage adaptation of 3 Stories from Witi Ihimaera’s Pounamu Pounamu.
Performing Arts graduates and students of Te Wananga o Aotearoa [Rotorua]
Review by John Smythe 28th Mar 2006
As Witi Ihimaera graces the front of the latest Listener, draped in a lissom ballerina bride (to publicise his about-to-premiere ballet, The Wedding), it is interesting to be reminded where the never-ending story of his stellar career began.
For students of the School of Performing Arts at Te Wananga o Aoteroa ki Rotorua, tutor Rick Loos (also director) and artist Amanda Dennis (also set designer and props person) have created an ideal performing exercise from three short stories in Ihimaera’s debut short story collection, Pounamu Pounamu (first published in 1972, then revised to give them a more contemporary edge and republished 2002). One Summer Morning (E Tetahi Ata Raumati) and A Game of Cards (He Kemu Kari) are blended into the over-arching story, The Other Side of the Fence (I Tua Atu o te Taiapa).
Guitarist Barry Smith deftly establishes moods and accompanies a variety of waiata as the ensemble of nine performers bring 27 characters alive in a fluid show. With understanding, humour and various levels of skill they depict archetypal characters and situations that were a revelation to many New Zealanders 34 years ago and have since become extremely familiar.
The dynamics of family life, the boy wanting to be a man then realising too late what he’s lost when confronted with adult responsibilities, the card-playing aunties, all serve to enrich the central them-and-us story. The questions remain: can the Heremaia Family on one side of the fence, and the flash Simmons family on the other, ever co-exist in harmony and understanding or will tensions always prevail? Do either or both have a vested interest in maintaining the conflict? Has anything changed? If so, has it been for the worse or the better?
Doubtless the experience of bringing The Other Side of the Fence from Rotorua to the Fringe, and having the chance to see other shows in the process, has added great value to the students’ studies.
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