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Record Year For The New Zealand Play

Record Year For The New Zealand Play

2007 was a record year for New Zealand plays, both for box office takings and the number of productions, says Playmarket, New Zealand's playwrights agency and development body.

Playwrights received well over $500,000 in royalties, and Playmarket licensed 327 productions of New Zealand plays in 2007. Playmarket director Mark Amery says they have seen a 56% increase in licenses over the last seven years

Since the early 1990s there's been a steady increase in the number of New Zealand plays licensed by professional theatres, and in inflation-adjusted box office takings, with a sharper upturn in the last few years, Playmarket research shows. Over 20 years, professional licenses have almost quadrupled - from fewer than 20 in the late 1980's, to 40-odd in the 1990's, to over 70 today - and the number of New Zealand plays produced in schools and by amateur theatres has doubled.

"There's an increase in confidence in the New Zealand play," says Amery. "I think the perception that audiences are taking a risk on a New Zealand work is increasingly being taken over by a recognition that this is an essential part of what we want to see on stage."

Income continues to be dominated by the work of Roger Hall who with the Auckland Theatre Company premiere of Who Wants to be 100 this year had what Playmarket believes his biggest ever New Zealand box office for one production.

But New Zealand work is also generating record audiences in smaller and medium sized venues, Amery notes. And success has been critical as well as popular, with strong reviews for major New Zealand works premiering in all four major centres in 2007. New Zealand work dominated both nominations and prizes at this year's Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in Wellington. All the works nominated for the major categories of Production and Director of the Year were New Zealand plays - Gary Henderson's Homeland, Dean Parker and Nicky Hager's The Hollow Men, Vivienne Plumb's The Cape and Seeyd Production's Turbine. These four plays demonstrate the diversity of contemporary New Zealand playwriting, and New Zealand theatre's relevance to its audiences, Amery said.

"However while 2007 has provided in quality and quantity evidence of the health of the New Zealand play, the theatre industry faces difficult challenges in seeing the growth of the infrastructure to support this growth in work.

"We are at a crucial point in building something sustainable out of what has been achieved. The critical issue is production support; the ability for theatre practitioners to support themselves, for work to receive second productions, tour nationally and internationally. There's more new work, but there hasn't been a corresponding increase in producers, venues or funding."


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