Doco style saps Hope and Wire of potency

JANE BOWRON
Last updated 07:13 04/07/2014
Hope and Wire

A BIT MUNTED: Earthquake drama Hope and Wire has a heavy documentary feel to it and a slow lead-up to the big one.

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Veracity, veracity and more veracity. Everybody in Canterbury has their earthquake stories and Gaylene Preston has gone to considerable lengths to absorb them into her drama, Hope and Wire (TV3, 8.30pm, Thursday).

Director, co-producer, and co- writer of the six-part series, Preston has done the homework, making sure that an immense amount of earthquake detail, anecdotage and quake-related issues have been addressed and represented in the narrative.

But information alone doth not make a drama and this first instalment is a game of box ticking where you can count off the quake tropes and cliches as they roll off the tongue of core characters - for example "war zone", "the new normal", "keep calm and carry on" and of course "munted".

One gets the feeling that Preston, in her attempts to appease and not offend any Cantabrian who unlike herself, experienced and lived through the major Canterbury earthquakes, has let a whole lot of truth get in the way of a good story.

So who has the simpatico director/writer/producer chosen to spin the tale?

Most annoying is Ginny, who wears pearls to tell us that she's a Merivale housewife, even though Merivale housewives haven't worn pearls since Gary McCormick did a number on them in a documentary back in nineties.

Married to Jonty, who has a "small but perfectly formed law firm" and is having an affair, of all the characters Ginny is awarded the most amount of time to do monologues to camera.

This now-hackneyed device might still work in House of Cards but that's just one person doing it, and it's a pity the actors aren't left to convey their thoughts and feelings through acting and actions rather than sit dully and spell it out down the barrel in the lazy mode of a reality TV selfie.

To make sure that everyone outside Christchurch knows it is Christchurch, skinheads appear in the opening scenes, even though the white power count is now tiny, but they're in there to remind us of the reputation.

While on the topic of race, the cast has had positive discrimination applied to it and at the risk of sounding like a white supremacist, the tangata whenua who are thin on the ground in the south are writ large here.

Take Donna venting her anger at an EQC guy scoping her house telling him that the quake is the anger of a taniwha who is furious at Pakeha for building on tapu land.

Then there's Len, a Celtic tub- thumping socialist who jumps on a bus and ominously has not been heard of since, which is a blessing. He's married to Joyce, played magnificently by Rachel House, who transcends her earth mother role and is all comfort and joy to watch and listen to, even in monologue.

Joel Tobeck plays to his wide boy stereotype as a hard case possibly rough diamond property dealer, Kate Harcourt conveys the aloneness of the elderly with dignified restraint, and Preston's daughter Chelsie Preston- Crawford appears as a street kid.

When the February quake finally hits after a slow lead-up, we see it as experienced by all the characters, one after the other which almost belittles it, though the simulated quakes are done well and there is real life footage I've never seen before spliced in.

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The soundscape is intrusive throughout and if you don't like band The Eastern it will annoy rather than move where background silence would have been golden.

Deciding what to put in and what to leave out would have been hard in this drama that has a heavy documentary feel to it and at times comes across like an extended advertisement for community strengthening.

- The Dominion Post

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