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2005: A Year Of Growth For The New Zealand Play

For Immediate Release
23 December 2005

2005: A Year Of Growth For The New Zealand Play

A Roger Hall million-dollar box office seller, large audiences generally, and a big increase in productions of New Zealand plays are highlights of a record-breaking year, say Playmarket, New Zealand’s playwrights agency and script development organisation.

Taking Off by Roger Hall, New Zealand’s most popular playwright, is shaping up to be his biggest hit yet, says Playmarket Director Mark Amery. In its first year, nationwide professional box office takings for the play have exceeded the million-dollar mark.

Hall’s work however has not been alone in making 2005 a strong year. An increase in both professional and amateur theatre licenses issued by Playmarket, and strong box office for work by other New Zealand playwrights sees 2005 a record-breaking year for Playmarket and the New Zealand play, says Amery.

2005 saw Playmarket issue 69 licences to professional theatres both in New Zealand and internationally, an estimated 80% increase on 2004, and a figure that doesn’t account for the countless plays by emerging playwrights being premiered at theatres like SiLO and THE EDGE in Auckland and BATS in Wellington.

“2004 was our best year yet in terms of the business and 2005 looks sets to top it,” says Amery. “Roger Hall’s work is always popular with New Zealand audiences, but it was also heartening to see in 2005 strong box office for new works like Alison Quigan’s Mum’s Choir, Gary Henderson’s Peninsula, Dave Armstrong and Oscar Kightley’s Niu Sila, Stephen Sinclair’s The Bach and James Griffin’s Then Comes Love. Looking ahead to 2006, it’s a very encouraging sign to see the number of new plays by newer playwrights like Alison, Geraldine Brophy, Michael Galvin, Ross Gumbley, among others, being programmed on mainstages up and down the country.”

Other premieres this year have included significant full-length works by established playwrights Dean Parker (Baghdad Baby!), Stuart Hoar (Bright Star), Dave Armstrong (The Tutor and King and Country), David Geary (A Shaggy Dog Story), Carl Nixon (Disgrace), and Stephanie Johnson (Strange Children).

Internationally, highlights for the New Zealand play included Perth Theatre Company’s tour of Gary Henderson’s Skin Tight down Australia’s East Coast (the play will premiere off-Broadway in New York with Ken Duncum’s Cherish in 2006), productions for Tom Scott's The Daylight Atheist in Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane, Duncan Sarkies’ Lovepuke in Singapore, Indian Ink’s Krishnan’s Dairy in Melbourne and Singapore, and the UK premiere of James Griffin’s Serial Killers, with a cast that included ex-Shortland Street stars Craig Parker and Rebecca Hobbs.

It’s been an encouraging year in terms of the future, says Amery, with younger writers premiering major work including Dianna Fuemana, Paul Rothwell, Jamie McCaskill and Kelly Kilgour, Julie Hill, Stayci Taylor, Vanessa Rhodes, Whiti Hereaka, Miria George, Seeyd Collective, and Matthew Saville.

“In recent years Playmarket has substantially expanded its writer and playscript development programmes, supporting the growth of the voice of New Zealand on stage,” Amery says, “and there’s also been excellent work recently in this field from other producers including Auckland Theatre Company’s Literary Programme and Tawata Productions in Wellington. All this work is contributing to a vibrant emerging contemporary theatre culture which reflects our distinctive place in the world and has a strong focus on excellence.”

This year Playmarket have worked in partnership with producers and city councils throughout New Zealand to provide a range of script development initiatives on top of its readings and workshops programme for New Zealand plays going into production. Joining established events like the New Zealand Young Playwrights Competition workshop week (Dunedin) and Adam Playreading Series (Wellington) have been new programmes like the Pasifika Playwrights Development Forum and Flip the Script (both in Auckland), and Playwrights Studio and International Masterclass Series, in the four main centres.

Playmarket receives core funding from Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.


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