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Homegrown Festival Hit Returns

Media Release – Friday 17 March 2006

Homegrown Festival Hit Returns

Armstrong Creative presents
a return season of the sell-out homegrown International Festival hit

“It’s not often a Festival production receives a standing ovation on its second night but King and Country did, deservedly … an engrossing and memorable but also very entertaining production.” Dominion Post, Wellington

Following a sell-out season as part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival, King and Country will return to Wellington at Downstage Theatre in July 2006.

This powerful and evocative drama is based on accounts of ordinary New Zealanders during World War I. From the euphoria of sending troops off to fight in 1914 to the horrors of Passchendaele, King and Country interweaves stories of Mäori and Päkehä soldiers, nurses and civilians with treasured New Zealand war songs and Maori hymns, all sung to the accompaniment of a live local brass band.

Humorous, entertaining, and poignant, King and Country is written by award-winning playwright Dave Armstrong (Niu Sila, The Tutor, Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby) and was inspired by letters and poems written by his grandfather from the Western Front.

“Thanks to the sure hand of a seasoned writer, Armstrong’s six characters take us on life-changing journeys… the thorough research (everything is sourced from first-hand writings), the needle-sharp insightful script and the absolutely authentic realisation of each character by the actors ensure we share their journeys with increasing empathy …” John Smythe theatre review blog

In a New Zealand first, King and Country was co-commissioned by seven festivals: New Zealand International Arts Festival, Christchurch Arts Festival, Lake Taupo Arts Festival, Nelson Arts Festival, Taranaki Arts Festival, Tauranga Arts Festival and the Southern Lakes Festival of Colour. In each place the show is performed, a local brass band is recruited to take part in the production.

“This innovative combination of home-grown Kiwi reminiscing and local musical expertise certainly reached both mind and heart. Good lively festival fare that will surely be welcomed wherever it plays. In this production it is the emotional impact of the music and the simple directness of the players that sets the experience apart and marks it as a highpoint in the festival.” Christchurch Press

“We are delighted to secure a return season at Downstage Theatre”, says Producer Caroline Armstrong. “King and Country really resonates with New Zealanders so we’re delighted to give the people of Wellington a second chance to see the show. “

Directed by Conrad Newport (Niu Sila), King and Country will also play in Hamilton, West Auckland and Dunedin in 2006. Bookings for the return season open at Downstage this Monday 20 March.

“What Dave Armstrong has done is to create a work which will have a very long performance life in the future. I think in terms of the significance of both the play itself and what it’s doing to our history, that this is going to be seen as an extremely significant play by future theatre historians who’ll see this as a really major moment in New Zealand theatre history.” Paul Bushnell, Festival Review, Radio New Zealand

Thursday 13 July – Saturday 22 July
Monday and Tuesday at 6.30pm Wednesday to Saturday at 8.00pm
Book at Downstage Theatre
Ph 801 6946 or
Running time: 90 minutes (no interval)


Further Review quotes for King and Country

King and Country is a superb investigation of the New Zealand psyche during World War I…. This wonderful musical-theatre production is a reminder that the stories of our past are an integral part of who we are today. - Bay of Plenty Times

This production captured the emotions without being in the least banal or sentimental. For most of the time I was either close to tears or crying and was far from alone… A fantastic production. - Nelson Evening Mail

As the hairs stood up on the back of your neck you knew that although King and Country was a fictional piece of writing, it was, in reality, a true story that had affected every New Zealander. - New Plymouth Daily News

I was actually devastated by this performance – devastated in the right kind of way. I found it incredibly powerful. It’s certainly by far the most engaging thing which I’ve seen at the festival. There are also sequences which are very funny. You get a whole cross-section of New Zealand depicted. The effect of the overall production is rich and really meaningful for the audience. It resonates here in a way that no English play however brilliant, could ever do. While Alan Bennet’s play glitters, this one glows. - Paul Bushnell, Festival Review, Radio New Zealand

Moving and thought-provoking. King and Country manages to give us a sense of our own past without either condemning or sentimentalising it. - Harry Ricketts, Listener and National Radio

It’s not often a Festival production receives a standing ovation on its second night but King and Country did, deservedly … an engrossing and memorable but also very entertaining production. - Dominion Post, Wellington

The play expertly conveys the slide from wide-eyed enthusiasm to the grim determination of wartime, without ever becoming maudlin. Dave Armstrong wrote King and Country to illustrate the New Zealand tale of World War I in story and song, and his play is an accomplished work of popular theatre. King and Country deserves the widest possible audience of New Zealanders both young and old, because it captures so expertly the experience of the many thousands of their countrymen and women who served and gave their lives in the war that shaped so many aspects of modern New Zealand society. - Scoop theatre review

© Scoop Media

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