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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 4. 1967.

Ancient Maori myth was given dramatic Downstage showing

Ancient Maori myth was given dramatic Downstage showing

In recent months there have been three New Zealand plays presented at Downstage—they defy comparison.

Peter Bland's study of emotional deprivation in state house suburbia, Father's Day, was commissioned by Downstage and as Bruce Mason remarked in a recent publication it was written in what was then a Downstage style.

Warren Dibble's Operation Pigstick as a theatrical cartoon had vastly different intentions than Father's Day, but still had ties with plays in the Downstage repertoire— notably Hartweg's The Pit.

However, the latest "New Zealand" play to be presented, The Golden Lover, moves in a different direction to the others—a direction not previously seen at Downstage. It is the dramatic presentation of a Maori myth.

In presenting The Golden Lover, which was written some years ago by Douglas Stewart, Downstage seems to be continuing a new policy aimed at giving its audience a much broader range of theatre than the purely avant garde.

The Golden Lover Is not a play of ideas, but rather of an ideal. Set in pre-European New Zealand it tells of a young girl, Tawhal, and her love affair with Whana, who is not a Maori but one of the patu paiarehe.

The patu paiarehe are the fairy people who live in the mists round the Maori village. Tawhai is bored with her husband, Ruarangi, and has dreams of the perfect lover. She meets and falls in love with Whana one evening and agrees to visit him every night and to return to her husband every day.

The arrangement is successful until the villagers stop Tawhai from returning to Whana and make her listen to the tohunga. Whana comes to the village prepared to take Tawhai away for good and she must decide between life in the village or life with her dream lover.

She chooses the former and in doing so rejects the ideal. She returns to her lazy unromantic husband and leaves her golden lover.

The patu paiarehe can be explained rationally as a race of fair-skinned redhaired people who once really existed as a wild tribe in the forests.

With this explanation before the audience it must be remembered it is not before the characters. To them Whana is an incarnate spirit. In rejecting him Tawhai rejects the romantic unknown.

Much of the success of the production comes from the impressive Raymond Boyce set. the lighting, and from the controlled use of electronic music devised at the university under the direction of Douglas Lilburn.

The director, Richard Campion, effectively moves his cast of eight back and forth across the large stage, creating illusions of action and number.

In the final scenes, when Tawhai is being torn between Whana and the tohunga. the villagers act as a Greek chorus as they urge Tawhai to stay with them.

Bob Hirini is outstanding as Ruarangi. the comic fearful warrior husband of Tawhai—he is almost the Maori Falstaff—a man wanting to be brave but prevented by laziness and superstition.

Shirley Duke and Ray Henwood are well partnered as the two lovers. Ray Henwood uses his voice to overcome his phsical unsuitability for the part of Whana, which contrasts vividly with his two recent roles in No Exit and A Phoenix Too Frequent.

Bob Lord