Playwright accused of demeaning Frame

Last updated 05:00 23/07/2013

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A literary feud has broken out over an "insulting" play about New Zealand author Janet Frame.

Frame's literary executor and niece, Pamela Gordon, has slammed the play Gifted by Christchurch academic and author Patrick Evans.

The play, which will premiere in the city next month as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival, is about Frame's relationship with fellow author Frank Sargeson. It imagines what might have happened between the two in 1955 when Frame stayed in a former army hut on Sargeson's property and wrote her first novel Owls do Cry.

Gordon said the play was designed to "demean" Frame.

"I can't interfere with the staging of the play, but I would like the public to know it is not true," she said.

"He portrays Janet Frame as someone who was gifted in a feral mad way, where her great works came to her without her doing much about it herself. She was pretty insulted by the suggestion that her work was not a product of her discipline, ambition and education. She was a self directed, conscious artist."

"His agenda is patronising and there is a sexist component to it.

"This is not a love letter or tribute to Janet Frame, it is actually a put down."

Gordon has also taken offence at the way the play is being promoted. In a video on the website for the play, Evans said the events portrayed could well have happened.

Gordon said this was unfair. "The publicity for the play seems to be saying it is a valid viewpoint. He is saying his fiction is true."

Christchurch Arts Festival director Philip Tremewan defended the play and said Evans wanted to honour Frame. "We are mindful of the Janet Frame heritage. We want to do nothing more than honour our greatest writer."

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- The Press

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