19 March 2012

Peninsula: Immediately recognisable

Peninsula actor Laura Hill shares with drama on the waterfront a selection of memories from her childhood.

"I went to a two-room, two-teacher primary school in a small rural village called Kaipara Flats, about an hour north of Auckland. It wasn't Duvauchelle Bay in 1963 but the world Gary (re-)creates in Peninsula is one I immediately recognised: it's a New Zealand that doesn't seem that far away and yet is tinged with nostalgia – times have changed but we feel close to that past in our hearts.

The Hope family. Photo by Dominika Zielinska.
I was asked to share a favourite memory from that time. Those are rich years, so there are many vivid memories to choose from …

...The prank calls we used to make on the railway phone, my brother doing his best manly farmer's voice:
When's the next train?
About half an hour away, why?
I've got a load of wethers I need to take across.
How long do you think that will take?
Could be a while – couple of hours or so. 
How many have you got?
- and we'd hang up, helpless with laughter.

...Letting off double happies (can you still get those? A kind of little firework that just made a big bang really) in the trunk of a fallen tree.  We thought we'd checked for embers, but realised we hadn't when we got back to the house and saw what looked like the whole tree line on fire...

...Spending the whole day riding bareback (and helmet-less) on the fire breaks through the forestry land; we had to stay on all day because (without saddles and stirrups) the horses were too big for us to get back on unless we found a fence. I developed excellent bladder control and inner thigh strength. My brother was asthmatic but he didn't let that stop him – he'd just tie a bandanna over his face and off he'd go, looking like he was about to hold up a stagecoach.

...The adventures we'd plan, like travelling the length of the creek on the Smith's farm – IN the creek. It was exciting and mostly fun, except for when we got to a deep bit: I was the shortest and the water in my gumboots weighed me down, but if I tipped my head way back, I could still breathe through my nose until we got to a shallower bit...

...The beautiful Jersey calf I wanted to take to Calf Day at school refused to be led with a halter, so in desperation I ended up taking our goat, Joe Balls (that's what happens when you let kids name animals). I had to walk him three sides of a triangle. First side – fine.  Second side – something suddenly stopped me. The entire local community was watching from the grassy bank that looked on to the field. Mortified at having to take a GOAT anyway, I refused to look back at the embarrassing Joe Balls and just yanked on the rope. Nothing. I yanked harder. By now, my whole body was on a forty five degree angle, supported by the goat on a rope. My face was scarlet and I could hear the laughter rippling down from the bank. After an agonising decade or so, I finally looked back. Joe Balls was down on his front knees nibbling at the grass, happy as a clam and oblivious to my shame. I kicked him in the ribs (more gently than I would have done if people hadn't been watching) and he got up and ambled on, entirely unconcerned.  The third side was completed without incident, other than my still-flaming face. We got the third place ribbon – there were only three goats in the competition. Also winning Animal with Most Personality was no compensation for my universal humiliation.

Ah yes. Good times. Come along to Peninsula and relive some of your own memories."

Laura Hill (front left) and the cast of Peninsula. Photo by Dominika Zielinski.
Peninsula is on in Circa One until 31 March - to book, please call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

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