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This week, a panel discussion for New Zealand Theatre Month - our drama seems to be booming, but where are the audiences?  There's an exciting collaboration between choreographer Neil Ieremia and playwright Victor Rodger about domestic violence - Crying Men, and a retrospective on the late Tony Formison, one of the most distinctive New Zealand artists of his generation. Real life partners Madison Nonoa and Filipe Manu sing in the opera version of Romeo and Juliet, and a play, The Lazarus Lottery, takes cloning to the next level.  Our guest on the Laugh Track is beleaguered satirist Dane Giraud - what jokes can you tell these days? - and jeweller Bifei Cao uses baby formula in his works.  Novelist turned poet Mary McCarthy explores happiness, while screen-fan Irene Gardiner looks at fashion. 

All this plus songs featuring crying men - and not just Roy Orbison!


12:16   Launch of New Zealand Theatre Month

Next month sees the launch of New Zealand Theatre Month, a project which plans to not only celebrate but elevate live, homegrown theatre.   It's the brainchild of our most successful playwright Roger Hall, who's been filling houses since the 1970s.

But do we need such an event?  Last year alone 80 percent of the over 200 works produced professionally here were New Zealand plays.  And if you add the many Fringe plays and the increasingly dramatic shows at comedy festivals, that number would be far higher. 

So - what counts as theatre, who's going to them, how many get a new life on TV, radio and film, and how diverse are they?   Simon Morris discusses these questions with playwrights Roger Hall, Thomas Sainsbury and Renee Liang.

Theatre Month opens on September the 1st at the Bruce Mason Centre at Takapuna, with a tribute to Mason, considered by many the father of New Zealand theatre.

12:35  Crying Men - the legacy of family violence

Victor Rodger

Victor Rodger Photo: supplied

Neil Ieremia

Neil Ieremia Photo: supplied

Choreographer Neil Iremia and writer Victor Rodger are both reflecting on the male violence they witnessed as children, as they collaborate on a dance work called Crying Men.

It tells a multi-generational story about Pacific men who struggle - first, as they establish a new life in New Zealand, then when they lose their Matriarch, the glue that had held the family together.

Neil's dance company Black Grace has an international reputation for producing confronting work. Victor is also unafraid to ask hard questions in his writing.  His plays include Sons and Black Faggot.

This may be the first time they've worked together but as Lynn Freeman discovers, Victor's a long time fan of Neil's work:

Crying Men premieres on the 6th of September at Auckland's ASB Waterfront Theatre

12:48 Remembering the confronting art of Tony Fomison

Tony Fomison remains one of the most distinctive New Zealand artists of his generations, almost 30 years after his death.

The painter's sister Anna is collecting interviews with people who knew Tony for an oral history project supported by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

In 2015 Anna started recording interviews in 2015 with people who featured in his life but there are many more people she wants to talk to about his life and work.

Anna Fomison's in Wellington this weekend for the opening at Te Papa of the latest exhibition of Tony's work, Lost in the Dark - a collection of his paintings of monsters, misfits and medical deformities, and spoke to Lynn Freeman about her brother's life and career.

1:10 At The Movies

Simon Morris reviews LBJ, Midnight Oil 1984 and The spy who dumped me.

1:32  Real life partners sing Romeo and Juliet

Real life partners and award winning opera singers Madison Nonoa and Filipe Manu are taking to the stage to play star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, before they leave New Zealand for London.

Vincenzo Bellini's version of the story was first performed in 1830.  This production takes place on the 24th and 26th of August at Auckland's Mercury Theatre.
After that, tenor Filipe and soprano Madison return to London for their final year at the Guildhall of Music in London.

Lynn Freeman asked Madison Nonoa and Filipe ManuI how Bellini's interpretation of the Romeo and Juliet story differed from William Shakespeare's:

1:47  Would you be prepared to be replaced by your clone?

If you had terminal cancer how would you feel about being replaced by your clone?  A new play by Christchurch writer James Van Dyk poses this and a whole host of other difficult questions.

In The Lazarus Lottery, terminal cancer sufferer Eve wins the chance to  be cloned, complete with all her memories.

But can she be replaced so easily, how do her family and friends feel about it, and can technology really lead to immortality?

The Lazarus Lottery premieres on Thursday at Bats Theatre in Wellington.

Lynn Freeman talks to the director Patrick Davies and to two of the cast, Ivana Palezevic and James Cain.
2:06 The Laugh Track - Dane Giraud

dane giraud

dane giraud Photo: supplied

These are interesting times for comedy.  There seem to be more satirists than ever on TV - even if they tend to be a bit similar.  And the line about what you can say seems to be regularly breached by R-rated comics.

But the debate over Free Speech is getting heated, and that's a subject on the mind of comedy writer Dane Giraud, one of the creators of Maori TV's sitcom Tongue tied.

Dane Giraud is one of the guests of the Manawatu Writers Festival, leading a discussion on Political Correctness, bad language and black humour.    What are we allowed to laugh at takes place at the Palmerston North Library on September the 11th

Dane's picks on the Laugh Track include Bill Burr, Richard Prior, Don Rickles and Joan Rivers.

2:25 Chinese art-jeweller Bifei Cao and his unusual formula

Visiting Chinese art-jeweller Bifei Cao started using baby formula in his unconventional pieces after hearing the news about the contaminated milk powder scandals.

What he didn't realise until coming here and showing his work, was New Zealand's involvement in that event.

From a distance, the baby formula works look like terracotta studded with gold or silver.  Touch them and they're feel like plastic - he's created them combining baby powder and various glues.

But Bifei tells Lynn Freeman his work isn't overtly political.  His interest is in using unconvential materials and referencing traditional Chinese art and jewellery-making techniques.

Bifei Cao's the Artist in Residence at Te Auaha in Wellington and is about to open an exhibition of his work, and his exhibition opens tomorrow at Te Auaha.


2:36  Wellington writer Mary McCallum's happiness alphabet

Mary McCallum

Mary McCallum Photo: supplied

No caption

Photo: supplied

Happiness means such different things to different people -  that's what writer Mary McCallum riffs on in her first poetry collection XYZ of Happiness.

Mary's tells Lynn Freeman she's happiest when she's writing - she's not only a poet but also a novelist, songwriter and publisher.  In addition, she founded Makaro Press in 2013 and her band's called The Brooklyns.

This is her first poetry collection, but she's previously won awards for her adult novel The Blue and  children' s novel Dappled Annie and the Tigrish.

XYZ of Happiness is published by Makaro Press

2:47  Screen Gems - Fashion

Fashion is about as about as visual a subject as there is - who can forget the gigantic yellow dress worn by Rihanna at the Met Ball a few years ago?

That dress, and its designer, inspired New Zealand director Pietra Brettkelly's recent feature documentary Yellow is forbidden, and that film inspired Irene Gardiner to devote this month's Screen Gems to fashion - including The Devil wears Prada, The September Issue and Gloss.

3:06 Drama at 3 - Hikoi Hikoi by Miria George

This week's Sunday Drama takes us back to the winter of  2004 when debate raged over traditional seashore rights.

Helen Clark's Labour government had introduced legislation that would vest foreshore and seabed ownership in the Crown.

There was an immediate outcry and just after Easter, a Foreshore and Seabed hīkoi set out from Northland to take a strong message to the government in Wellington.  

It was the catalyst for the play Hikoi, Hikoi  by Miria George.


Music played in this show

Artist: Eden Kane
Song: Boys Cry
Composer: Kaye-Scott
Album: 40 giants of the jukebox
Label: BMG
Played at:  12.12

Artist: Bonnie Raitt
Song: Cry on my shoulder
Composer: Raitt
Album: Nick of time
Label: Capitol
Played at: 12.58

Artist: Beatles
Song:  I"ll cry instead
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Album: A Hard Day's Night
Label: Parlophone
Played at:  1.08

Artist: Shangri Las
Song:  He cried
Composer: Daryll-Richards
Album: Myrmidons of Melodrama
Label: RPM
Played at:  1.44

Artist: Aztec Camera
Song:  The crying scene
Composer: Frame
Album: The best of
Label: Warner
Played at:  1.58

Artist:  Animals
Song: I'm crying
Composer: Price-Burdon
Album: The singles plus
Label: EMI
Played at:  2.04

Artist: Gene Pitney
Song: I'm gonna be strong
Composer: Mann-Weill
Album: The collection
Label: Castle
Played at:  2.33

Artist: Rihanna
Song:  Umbrella
Composer: Carter-Harrell
Album: Good girl gone bad
Label: Defjam
Played at:  2.47

Artist: Julie London
Song:  Cry me a river
Composer: Hamilton
Album: Ultimate collection
Label: Capitol
Played at:  2.58

Artist:  Roy Orbison & k d laing
Song:  Crying
Composer: Orbison-Melson
Album: Crying
Label: Virgin
Played at:  3.04

Artist:  Johnny Cash
Song: The man who couldn't cry
Composer: Wainwright
Album: American recordings
Label: American
Played at:  3.58

Artist: Sinead O'Connor
Song:  Nothing compares 2 U
Composer: Prince
Album: I do not want what I haven't got
Label: Ensign
Played at:  (Trailer)