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A subversive take on “The New Zealand Story”

A subversive take on “The New Zealand Story”


Wellington performance company’s response to Government’s marketing campaign

In November 2013, Prime Minister John Key launched a new New Zealand marketing campaign: “The New Zealand Story,” in response to demand from local firms for a more relevant representation of the country.

“The New Zealand Story” video and resources emphasise a story of "open spaces, open hearts, and open minds" which aims to apply across multiple New Zealand export enterprises from information technology to food and beverage and the creative sector.

Wellington-based performance group, Binge Culture, are unsure if “The New Zealand Story” represents them. The performance collective are in their mid-twenties and grew up around the country - in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Nelson and Golden Bay respectively. Their performance, a subversive slice of kiwiana, This Rugged Beauty will be staged this month at iconic Wellington venue, BATS Theatre.

“Watching a showcase of my own country and culture is a strangely alienating experience” says Nelson-born and bred director of This Rugged Beauty, Ralph Upton. “The New Zealand Story claims that ‘Our story is your story’ but I find myself questioning whether images of majestic mountains and sandy beaches is my memory or one that Tip Top sold to me. When ‘kiwi identity’ becomes a marketed commodity, is it possible to authentically express who we are? Does any ‘New Zealand Story’ align with reality, or are they all just selling something?”

Playful, iconoclastic and satirical, This Rugged Beauty uses an innovative style that blends the narrative of a classic New Zealand story with a fictional product launch space where kiwi identity is the product on sale. The conflicting relationships between the presenters reveal the diversity of attitudes towards this narrative and mission.

This Rugged Beauty was first performed in New Zealand Fringe 2011, where it was nominated for “Most Original Production” at the Chapman Tripp Wellington Theatre Awards. The re-development was funded by Creative New Zealand and the 2014 season is funded by Wellington City Council.

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