A New Zealand show that is both a celebration and commemoration of those whose lives were touched and lost at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy 70 years ago is coming to Hamilton this week.
Written by Paolo Rotondo and Rob Mokaraka and first presented by Taki Rua Productions, Strange Resting Places premiered at the Auckland Festival in 2007 and has since toured around New Zealand, London, Australia, Singapore and American Samoa to critical acclaim.
The Hamilton show at the Meteor Theatre is being staged before the cast head to this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the official Creative New Zealand selection.
The story takes place in 1944 Italy - a battle-torn theatre of World War II. The Allied onslaught has stalled at Monte Cassino and the 28th Maori Battalion find themselves centre stage.
A young Maori soldier goes out to steal food while an Italian takes cover in a stable. Both find themselves trapped in a potentially deadly stand-off, but with Germans just outside, their survival depends on co-operation.
Combining live music with drama, comedy and performed in Maori, Italian and English, Strange Resting Places shines a light on the complex emotional bonds of New Zealand's wartime history and the three universals that Maori shared with the Italians: whanau (family), kai (food) and waiata (song) - not to mention wily cunning, a love of vino and a passion for the ladies.
The production has earned high praise from reviewers including The Guardian, which said Strange Resting Places "takes the lost stories of small people caught up in war and magnifies their tragedies with respect and a smile." New Zealand's Theatreview described it as "a spellbinding little gem of a show that will have you laughing a lot and crying just a little".
The touring cast includes writer/actor Rob Mokaraka and actors Barnie Duncan and Te Kohe Tuhaka.
Creative producer Mark Westerby, from from the Wellington-based Cuba Creative theatre company, said he was proud to be working with the Strange Resting Places team including Rotondo, who was in the director's chair for this season.
"I've just returned from a work trip to Romania, it's my third year in a row attending the festival and the arts market in Sibiu," the former Hamiltonian told the Waikato Times.
"I go for a variety of reasons, chiefly to run workshops where I teach artists how to pitch work and about the ‘business' side of the performing arts, but also to look for international opportunities for the work we represent.
"This year, I also went Ischia in Italy, where my family are from, to scope locations and contacts for an Italian tour of Strange Resting Places next year."
Westerby used to run the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival and The Shoot Out a few years ago. He is also on the One Victoria Trust, which has the responsibity of running the Meteor.
"I'm keen to support The Meteor in whatever way I can. I also see Hamilton as a great city to hone and develop work, much in the same way [as fellow theatre company] Indian Ink do." he said.
What: Strange Resting Places
Where: Meteor Theatre
When: Friday and Saturday, 7.30pm
Tickets: Adults $25, concession $20, from iticket.co.nz