Play's creators reject criticism

23:08, Aug 23 2013

The creators of a play about New Zealand writer Janet Frame have struck back at criticism of the show.

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

The play, which premiered in the city this week 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.

Gifted director Conrad Newport welcomed debate about the play.

"Bring on the picket lines, I say."

He believed the play honoured Frame and that Gordon was overprotective of her legacy.

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"I think any artist is allowed to interpret people any way they damn well want. People are allowed to do that, otherwise we would live in a totalitarian state.

"If there is any contention about how Janet Frame is portrayed, you have to come and see it and make up your own mind."

Gifted playwright Patrick Evans has lectured on Frame's work at the University of Canterbury for more than 30 years and was reluctant to be drawn into the debate.

"Really my only position is that for over 40 years I have been teaching and writing about Janet Frame. I have done a great deal of good things, in my opinion," he said.

"I have publicised her work and popularised it for two to three generations of students. In Gifted, the play and novel, you only have to look at the title to see what my attitude is. I really don't think I have anything to apologise for."

Gordon has claimed the play was designed to "demean" Frame.

"He [Evans] 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."

The Press