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This week much of Standing Room Only is dedicated to theatre - from Ahi Karunaharan's love letter to Bollywood's version of the spaghetti western to Fa'amoana Luafutu's followup to The White Guitar, A boy called Piano.  A Kiwi playwright, Peter O'Connor, was invited to Los Angeles to adapt the Skid Row experience to the stage, and the coveted Playmarket awards are given later in the day.

Speaking of awards, one of the judges of the upcoming Billy T comedy awards, Steve King is our guest on the Laugh Track, there's a magnificent new book celebrating crafts and artisans, a Gathering of indigenous artists from around the Pacific basin - and a cat detective called Jiffy.

All this and the music of revered film composer Ennio Morricone.  Forget The Good The Bad and the Ugly - today it's all good!


12:36 For love of the "Desi Western"

In the Seventies, when the Italians were making their versions of American Westerns - like The Good the Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars - India was doing a similar thing.  

The Bollywood versions were called "desi westerns", and Auckland's about to stage Ahi Karunaharan's love-letter to the controlled chaos that was film-making in Seventies India!   It's called My heart goes Thadak Thadak.

The play is the passion project of Ahi Karunaharan who's spent the past decade producing South Asian-focussed theatre in Auckland.   His composer is longtime spaghetti western fan Leon Radojkovic.

Lynn Freeman asked Ahi and Leon about the story which takes place on a film set, with the audience playing extras who've gathered for the shoot.

My heart goes Thadak Thadak premieres at Auckland's Q Theatre on Thursday.

12:46 A boy called Piano

Fa'amoana Luafutu

Fa'amoana Luafutu Photo: supplied

No caption

Photo: supplied

Right now the Government  Royal Commission of Enquiry into the terrible abuse of children in state care is trying to restore the faith of the surviving victims.  This week one of them is sharing his story on stage.

Fa'amoana 'John' Luafutu was one of thousands of Māori and Pasifika children who still carry the emotional scars after being taken from their families and placed in state care in the 1960s.

In his 2015 play The White Guitar, this distressing time in his life was touched on as a reason for his actions as a violent father - he performed the play with his sons, Matthias and Christchurch rapper Scribe.

The response to that play led Fa'amoana to revisit his time in care in A Boy Called PianoWe first meet him as one of three 11-year-old boys taken to Owairaka Boys Home, where a strong friendship is forged during their  years of abuse.

Lynn Freeman spoke to Fa'amoana Luafutu and to co-director Nina Nawalowalo from the Conch Theatre Company.  And Fa'amoana's son Matthias Luafutu performs an excerpt from the play, which premieres at BATS Theatre in Wellington on Friday. 

1:10 At The Movies

Simon Morris reviews Bellbird, Pain and Glory, Last Christmas and the Netflix movie The King.


1:31 A Kiwi in Los Angeles' Skid Row

Two Kiwis have been working with the homeless of LA's notorious Skid Row, to help them express their hopes and experiences on stage.

Auckland University Professor Peter O'Connor has created theatre in earthquake and war zones, prisons and psychiatric hospitals, as well as with Auckland's homeless people, for nearly 40 years.   He was invited to create a production in just a few days.

With him, documenting what took place on film, was Justin Brown from The University of Auckland's Creative Thinking Project.

Peter was invited by social service and arts organisations agencies working with the thousands of homeless to create a work that would remind Los Angeles that Skid Row isn't the problem, it's a symptom of a wider problem.

Peter and Justin are now back after the show was performed twice in a large gallery space there, and described their experiences to Lynn Freeman.  

Right now they're talking to Netflix about a possible documentary about the project. 


1.50  Contemporary Māori artist Ngatai Taepa

Indigenous artists from around the world are en route to Aotearoa this week for a Gathering and an art exhibition exploring the issues they face and the opportunities they've identified.

The artists are coming from the Pacific Islands,  Australia, Japan,  the United States and Canada for talks, panels and conversations outside the formalities. 

Pūhoro ō mua, Pūhoro ki tua- the 9th International Indigenous Artists Gathering - aims to nurture the next generation of indigenous artists by bringing them together with those who've already made their name.

Waikato Museum is hosting an exhibition being presented in tandem with the Gathering, with work by more than 120 artists on show.

It includes work by Ngatai Taepa, contemporary Māori  artist and Associate professor at Massey University's Palmerston North campus,

Ngatai tells Lynn Freeman that much has changed since the first International Indigenous Artists Gathering in Rotorua back in 1995 

The International Indigenous Artists Gathering is being held at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia and the exhibition of the same name opens at Waikato Museum on Saturday.


2:06 The Laugh Track - Laugh Track

Steve King

Steve King Photo: supplied

2019 Billy T nominees

2019 Billy T nominees Photo: supplied

Over the past few weeks we've been featuring some of the finalists for next year's Billy T Award.  This is the most prestigious event in New Zealand comedy.  In the past it's kick-started the careers of Jemain Clement and Taika Waititi, Rose Matafeo, Dai Henwood and Ben Hurley.

So, some pressure on the judges then - including this week's Laugh Track guest, Steve King.  Steve has been a long-time supporter of New Zealand comedy and was the co-founder of the Classic Comedy Club.

The finalists for the Billy T Award - to be presented at next year's International Comedy Festival - are Brynley Stent, James Mustapic, Josh Davies, Lana Walters and Ray O'Leary.

Steve's Laugh Track picks include Ross Noble, Not the Nine O'Clock News, and direct from the Nether Wallop Arts Festival, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall and the Jools Holland Big Band (numbering three).

2.26  Crafting Aotearoa

After decades in the wilderness, replaced by the worship of cheap mass produced objects, artisan skills are very much back in vogue.

That makes it a great time to reflect on the importance of handmade objects in our history - and future.

Karl Chitham, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai and Damian Skinner have published a book called Crafting Aotearoa, and as you'd expect given the topic, it's big and full of pictures.

While comprehensive, they know there'll be criticism for what's been excluded, and even some contemporary inclusions that stretch the traditional definition of craft.

They include film and a modern umbrella through to some of the earliest known examples of objects from around the Pacific.  

Lynn Freeman talked with Karl and Kolokesa, first asking how the book defined "craft" in 2019:

Crafting Aotearoa is a Te Papa Press publication.

2:40 Catherine Chidgey's Cat Detective, Jiffy

Her bolshy, white odd-eyed SPCA special cat, Jiffy, is the subject of the latest book from Catherine Chidgey.

The multi award-winning writer is best known for her literary novels - including In a Fishbone Church and The Beat of the Pendulum

Jiffy Cat Detective is her first foray into writing for children. And that includes writing rhymes.

Catherine admits her family is ruled by five felines who've kept her friends on social media entertained for years. 

Lynn Freeman asked Catherine how the other four -  Mintie, Lily, Solly and Jasmine - feel about Jiffy being singled out for the book:

Jiffy, Cat Detective by Catherine Chidgey is published by OneTree House.


2:49  Playmarket Awards presented

Sarah Delahunty

Sarah Delahunty Photo: supplied

A playwright who works primarily with young people to produce plays that get them hooked on writing for or going to the theatre, has just been presented with The Playmarket Award at a ceremony in Wellington.

The $20,000 cash prize recognises a playwright who has made a significant artistic contribution to theatre in New Zealand.

Since the 1980s Sarah Delahunty has produced more than 30 works for the stage.   She's a teacher, writer and director who's also a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to theatre.

In 1987 she won the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award.  Lynn Freeman spoke to Sarah earlier to find out about her current projects:

Also it is with great respect and sorrow that we also announce that Nancy Brunning, whose death was announced this morning, has just been announced as this year's Bruce Mason Playwriting award winner. 

3.04 Remembering Nancy Brunning

Nancy Brunning

Actor and company director of Hāpai Productions, Nancy Brunning. Photo: Supplied

Actor, director and playwright Nancy Brunning has died.  

On stage and on screen, Nancy excelled in whatever role she held.  As a screen actress, some of her most memorable parts included playing Tania Rogers from What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? and more recently as matriarch Ramona Mahana in the 2016 film Mahana. She was also one of the original Shortland Street cast members.

For more than 20 years she was an in-demand actress also on stage and a true champion of Maori theatre. 

In 2015 she talked to Lynn Freeman about the first play she wrote Hikoi, based on her own family story.  She set it in the 1970s and 80s - the years of Bastion Point and Springbok Tour protests, predictions of the demise of Te Reo Maori, and  Dame Whina Cooper's hikoi to Parliament.

3:10 Drama at 3 - Hongi by Bruce Mason

The cast record the play in the production studios at Broadcasting House, Wellington, in 1965. Those shown are, from left: William Austin, producer; Bruce Mason, playwright; and cast members Don Selwyn, Sam Stevens, Ngaire Karaka, Hannah Tatana, Diana Winterburn, Newha Taiaki and Īnia Te Wīata

The cast record the play in the production studios at Broadcasting House, Wellington, in 1965. Those shown are, from left: William Austin, producer; Bruce Mason, playwright; and cast members Don Selwyn, Sam Stevens, Ngaire Karaka, Hannah Tatana, Diana Winterburn, Newha Taiaki and Īnia Te Wīata Photo: The RNZ Photographic Collection, Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Our Drama this week is from RNZ's classic collection.  It's one of a series of special plays that the then New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation commissioned from Bruce Mason to take advantage of Īnia Te Wīata's presence in the country in the 1960's.

This is how Hongi was originally presented to listeners  50 years ago.



Music played in this show

Artist: Ennio Morricone 
Song: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Composer: Morricone
Album: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Label: EMI
Played at: 12.32

Artist: Theme
Song: La Cage Aux Folles
Composer: Morricone
Album: Platinum Collection
Label: EMI
Played at: 1.06

Artist: Theme
Song: Cinema Paradiso
Composer: Field-Morricone
Album: Cinema Paradiso
Label: Concord
Played at: 

Artist: Hayley Westenra
Song: Gideon's Oboe
Composer: Morricone
Album: Paradiso
Label: Decca
Played at: 1.58

Artist: Ennio Morricone
Song: Ballad of Hank McCain
Composer: Morricone
Album: Platinum Collection
Label: EMI
Played at: 2.04

Artist: Ennio Morricone
Song: Chi Mai
Composer: Morricone
Album: Chariots of Fire
Label: Musicworld
Played at:   2.58

Artist: Dire Straits
Song:  Once upon a time in the West
Composer: Knopfler
Album: Communique
Label: Warner
Played at: 3.58