Post-apocalyptic dark times and incompetent soldiers

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014
Clare McDonald as Private Jessica Hammond, Jesse Stephens as Private Harold Winters, and Kelsey Toombs as Specialist Raven Malone
MILITARY ACTION: Clare McDonald as Private Jessica Hammond, Jesse Stephens as Private Harold Winters, and Kelsey Toombs as Specialist Raven Malone.

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The last remaining scraps of the military are struggling against attacks by ruthless mercenaries in a run-down storehouse.

That's the post-apocalyptic premise presented in Disco Panda Station, a play written and directed by University of Waikato third-year arts student Conor Maxwell.

"The inspiration for it is something like M*A*S*H - it's set in wartime so you think there will be a lot of action and gun battles, but there isn't. It focuses on the quiet moments of war instead."

Disco Panda Station is the first play Maxwell has written, though he has now finished a second and is working on his third.

"So far all the plays I've written are dark comedies. My second is set during a zombie outbreak and the one I'm writing now is in a women's prison."

The cast of seven, comprised of former and current Waikato students, have been rehearsing since November.

"Disco Panda Station isn't a play about war-time heroics. It's an absurdist comedy about a bunch of incompetent soldiers who, when facing an imminent battle to the death are a little out of their depth. The play features a handful of bizarre characters, including an immortal Spanish corporal; a sergeant who fancies himself as the next William Wallace; and the world's last surviving left-handed person who has an obsession with chocolate biscuits."

As for tips for writing plays, Maxwell says, "I usually start with a concept, then I figure out the ending, and who dies," he said. "You always need to know who dies. In my second play I changed my mind about killing off a character and had to rewrite the whole second half, so that wasn't so good."

* Disco Panda Station will be staged at the university's Newplace Theatre on March 19, 20 and 25 to 27 at 7.30. Door sales only, ticket prices are $5 waged, and unwaged by donation. mike.mather@waikatotimes.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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