Performing Aotearoa: New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age of Transition

Article excerpt

Marc Maufort and David O'Donnell, eds, Performing Aotearoa: New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age of Transition (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2007)

With Performing Aotearoa: New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age of Transition, co-editors Marc Maufort and David O'Donnell provide a much-needed resource in the form of a collection of essays and interviews on the topic of recent theatre practice in New Zealand. As noted in his introductory essay 'Performing Aotearoa in an Age of Transition', Maufort laments that despite the extraordinary productivity of the New Zealand stage, it 'has not received its full scholarly recognition' (13). With this collection, he and O'Donnell attempt to redress this situation.

Though the collection of more than twenty-five entries is not broken down into sub-sections, Maufort does outline a kind of grouping, including essays on theatrical issues, dramatic literature, the Maori renaissance, and then some essays on 'the expansion of Kiwi identity beyond the binary Päkehä-Mäori model' (15). The first grouping of essays begins with an introduction by O'Donnell that provides a historical overview as well as establishing the notion of national identity. Maufort' s and O'Donnell's respective introductions are followed by twenty-seven more chapters either scholarly essays or interviews. The book is highly readable overall, and the variety of individual topics and contributors keeps the going fresh and at times provocative.

With so many contributors as well as interviews, it would prove impossible here to comment on each, and indeed there is so much variety that one's taste may lead one to prefer some entries over others. There are certainly a plethora of familiar names included, such as Chris Balme, Lisa Warrington, Sharon Mazer and William Farrimond, as well as more than half-a-dozen interviewees like Jean Betts, Briar Grace-Smith and Rangimoana Taylor. Balme' s essay on the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch, 1906-07, certainly resonated with my own interests in Tourism Studies. Murray Edmond's and Bronwyn Tweddle's respective essays each include some documentation on Grotowski's impact on New Zealand theatre, another sub-topic that might interest some readers. I found particularly insightful Warrington's essay ? Place to Tell Our Stories: Asian Voices in the Theatre of Aotearoa', which was most provocative as regards the aforementioned other ways of being Kiwi beyond the 'Päkehä-Mäori model'. Chinese settlers came to the islands of New Zealand with the Otago gold rush of the 1860s, and recent immigration from the Indian sub-continent has resulted in a significant segment of today's New Zealand population having come from that region - note the recent growth in Diwali festivals in the major cities of New Zealand - yet these groups are generally excluded from discussions of Kiwi bi-culturalism due to their not being represented by the Treaty of Waitangi. …