Nelson's Maungatapu play goes on a short tour of the top of the south

Murder and mayhem with the Nelson play Maungatapu Murders.
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Murder and mayhem with the Nelson play Maungatapu Murders.

The long-form production of the Maungatapu play, of which the short version made its debut last year, has sold out during the Nelson Arts Festival. 

The play's writer Justin Eade said the murders were "New Zealand's most infamous case of bush-ranging".

Eade said that the play would go on a short regional tour to Havelock, Blenheim, Murchison, Picton and Takaka, in addition to the sold out Nelson Arts Festival performance. 

"The hope is to tour it nationally next year if possible," he said.

The play delves into the relationships between "Burgess gang" members Richard Burgess, Thomas Kelly, Philip Levy and Joseph Sullivan as they plot and carry out the murders of five men on the Maungatapu track, near Nelson in 1866.

"The gang's subsequent arrest, trial and hangings set the whole colony aflame with a mixture of morbid curiosity and righteous indignation," he said.

Nelson actors Nick Kemplen, Cameron West, Daniel Allan and Pete Coates are performing this year's version of Maungatapu, directed by Giles Burton, produced by Judene Edgar and Georgia Chapple as stage manager. 

Eade said he wrote the play "over many years and many stages", with a 30 minute, two-man production of the play making its debut as part of Nelson Heritage Week celebrations last year.

He said he had always intended the play to be a long-form production, and the feedback the audience gave after the Nelson Arts Festival one-off staged reading of Maungatapu formed the long-form version of the production to be performed this year. 

The play has set up a Boosted campaign to fund the short tour: www.boosted.org.nz/projects/maungatapu#video

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