09 May 2011

The Lead Wait: A show that comes out of the heart of New Zealand

By Jo Randerson

It is a strange experience to have a play re-mounted from 14 years ago. The Lead Wait played at BATS for one season as part of the STAB festival in 1997. Since then the only other performance that I am aware of was at Toi Whakaari (directed by one of the MTA Directing students, Harriette Cowan). Over the years there has been talk of making a film version of this script, so there’s always been the sense that the production is still alive in some way. All of us involved in the show also continue to receive compliments on this piece that we made so long ago, so I am excited to see this re-mount at Circa, as well as slightly nervous. How will audiences respond this time?

This sense of The Lead Wait not being finished was palpable last year when Playmarket decided to publish the text as part of their NZ play series (see www.playmarket.org.nz) so I got to re-visit the script not so long ago. Editing the text for publication involved a general prune and honing of the work, as well as trying to re-sculpt some of the dialogue which worked well with the particular actors who had devised them, but didn’t stand so well on their own in printed form. This script was devised by the company Trouble – Jo Smith, Jason Whyte, Andrew Foster, Scott Wills and Tim Spite with myself sitting out as ‘the writer’. It will always remain a piece that was created by the company, coming out of the particular synergy and history we had created together.

In 1997 I had a real interest with Martin McDonagh’s writing (I had just seen The Leenane Trilogy in Galway). Director Andrew Foster and I had a real desire to make something very naturalistic, very domestic, and most importantly, something very much of New Zealand, the way McDonagh’s plays were so deeply of Ireland. We were very interested in the telling of stories in theatre as well.

While all of our work has since gone in different directions, and my writing has of course changed and developed significantly in the 14 years which have elapsed since the writing of this text, what hasn’t changed is the political motivation in my work. We made this theatre work in the wake of Rogernomics, we were the user-pays generation – angry that we suddenly had to pay through the nose for our educations and health and that the generation ahead of us who had been supported by the state were now efficating policies which meant that their children had to provide for themselves. So the story is one of abandonment, of a small group of children left alone and how they became bitter, selfish, made their own terrible mistakes yet yearned inarticulately for another way of life where people actually cared about each other.

For those who saw the 1997 version, this production will be leaner, more focused and clearer in its thrust, hopefully without losing the intrigue and vitality of that original show. With hindsight, we are more aware of what the piece was striking at with its content, and surprisingly the themes are no less relevant today. For those who did not see the 1997 season, this is a chance to see a show that comes out of the heart of New Zealand and lays bare some serious questions about the way we live together. The piece is surprising, funny and still very fresh and raw. I look forward to audiences’ responses.

The Lead Wait opens Saturday, 14 May and runs until Saturday 11 June, with a $25 preview on Friday 13 May and $25 special on Sunday, 15 May. Tickets are available at the Circa Box Office, 801-7992, or online at www.circa.co.nz

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