'Sophisticated' Seed earns Easther top play award

A story of four women trying to get pregnant, stay pregnant or become un-pregnant has earned Hamilton actress and playwright Elisabeth Easther a top writing award

Seed was named this year's recipient of the Adam NZ Play Award at an event at Wellington's Circa Theatre on Saturday.

The award recognises and celebrates the best in new writing for the theatre, and the judges described Seed as "highly entertaining, funny and sophisticated". Easther also received the award for best play by a woman playwright. A rehearsed reading of Seed followed the announcement.

Easther is a writer, actor, journalist and broadcaster. Born and bred in Hamilton, she is a graduate of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School and became a household name in the 1990s for her memorable turn as Shortland Streets psychotic nurse, Carla Crozier. Easther's plays include Raw, Salt, and Famous Flora, which is based on the life of renowned Auckland madam, socialite, and raconteur Flora McKenzie. She is also a regular contributor on Radio NZ National and is a voice-over artist, notably for Whittakers Chocolate and Sky TV.

Seed is about the anxiety some women experience to learn they're pregnant, even while in loving relationships, and about fancy fertility clinics that prey on people's primal urge to replicate, in the hope of cementing the bond with their partner in a way a ring, a house or a promise doesn't. It will have its world premiere season at Auckland's Basement Theatre in June.

"It really is the most exciting thing," Easther told the Waikato Times.

"I've never won anything of this magnitude in my life, although I've had countless rejection letters and disappointments, so this will go a long way in boosting morale.

"The days when it all feels too hard, and I think writing is a stupid thing to want to do, I'll look at the certificate and plough on. It also comes with $5000, which I'd love to spend on me, me, me but the Basement production was turned down for Creative New Zealand funding two days after I learnt about this win, so it's a timely cheque as the cash will go straight into that."

Born in 1970, Easther went to Waikato Diocesan School for Girls and then studied at Waikato University for a year before heading to Victoria University, "ostensibly to take up law . . . but when I got to Victoria I found the drama department and the next thing I know I had a BA in theatre and film.

"I loved growing up in Hamilton and still feel like a Hamiltonian, even though I've lived in so many other places."

Acclaimed actor and director Nancy Brunning was named as co-runner-up for her first play Hikoi, a moving and powerful play about a Maori family facing radical change in the 1970s and '80s. Hikoi also won the award for best play by a Maori writer.

Pip Hall was also named co-runner up for her play Mule, an intriguing script about a conman seducing a vulnerable New Zealand woman into being a drug mule via the internet. Hall is the president of the New Zealand Writers' Guild and has worked in theatre, film and television for almost 20 years.

Two "highly commended" awards were given to Mei Lin Te Puea Hansen for her play The Mooncake and the Kumara and Sam Brooks for his play Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys.

The Adam NZ Play Award, now in its seventh year, is the only one of its kind for new writing.

The only entrance requirements are that the playwright be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and that the play has not had a professional production.

Waikato Times