Topical play with grit

Escapists need not bother attending the latest play at the Freehouse yurt. However, those who want to sink their teeth into something topical, satirical and challenging should definitely rug up and come along.

Kiwi Possum Productions have been gaining a national reputation as a theatre group producing plays based on topical issues in their community.

They will perform The Judgement of Ben Alder, described as a political thriller, with references to the classical Dr Faustus story. Told from the perspective of the miners, the play looks at the closure of Spring Creek Mine on the west coast and the struggle by miners to keep it open.

"The plan by the workers to form a co-operative and take over the mine, seemed like a ray of sunshine in the gloom," says writer, Paul Maunder. "Of course the State Owned Enterprise and the Government turned down the proposition, but, in hindsight, it provides a theatrical and a political content that is essential to explore."

Maunder says that the accountability of CEO's and management is another obvious issue. "We need to emphasise however, that this is a fictional piece."

Costumes and sets are kept simple, with projections on the walls adding a sense of place.

Established in 2010 by Maunder who has a long career in theatre, Kiwi Possum Productions began with a play on 1080, Poison and Purity, which toured the Coast. They then turned to the Pike disaster and their evocative play, Goodnight, Irene, was invited to the Dunedin Fringe Festival. Race relations in Greymouth and the untold story of the leasehold land, which continues to cause friction, became the subject of The Cave Above The Pa. Cast in The Judgement of Ben Alder are Heather Fletcher, Jason Johnson, Francis Darwen and Paul Maunder.

The Judgement of Ben Alder, the Yurt, The Free House, 95 Collingwood St, Nelson, June 14, 5pm and 8pm, admission $10 at the door plus drink voucher. This play is not suitable for young children, owing to some "street language" being used.

The Nelson Mail