Scarlet & Gold
25 November – 22 December
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4,30pm
$25 – $46. Friends $33 until 11 December
Written by Lorae Parry
Directed by Kate JasonSmith
Choreographed by Jan Bolwell
Playwright Lorae Parry tells us about the rehearsal process.
“We’re off to a great start with rehearsals for Scarlet & Gold. We’ve just finished our second week, learning songs with Laughton Pattrick – maestro extraordinaire – who’s been teaching us 4 part harmonies of songs of the time. All very exciting, challenging and enormous fun! The singing and dancing have a vibrant place in the play. The miners loved to sing – they’d burst into song on Saturday nights in the local Miners’ Hall. Our extraordinarily musical cast, includes five pianists, a guitarist, and piano accordion player. And of course me – playing the spoons. Mercifully briefly!
Jan Bolwell has been also been laying down the choreography, for the scenes of the Saturday night dances in the Miners’ Hall, to the intimidating umbrella dance the women perform on the street in the rain, as they protest against the plight of their men.
Director Kate JasonSmith is also ensuring real understanding and portrayal of the play’s rich text drawn from the real life events of the Waihi Strike story. I don’t know how long the research for the play has taken me, but it’s been a long time! Stopping and starting over several years, I’d write a snatch of a scene here, a segment of a speech there. More recently, after my inspirational visit to Waihi in with my nephew, I spent hours in the Turnbull; researching old papers, and reading books by Maryan Street, Stanley Roche and Harry Holland, along with a 300 page thesis by Phillip Rainer.
And now, after many drafts, that research has become a play. It’s fascinating watching the story unfold and seeing our large cast coming together. We have 13 actors in all, so we’re a big cast on a small stage. Yet somehow that makes the play more present, immediate and alive. We have a core cast of eight wonderful professional actors, 3 talented student actors, and two vibrant 13 years olds who arrive at rehearsals after school, and inject huge energy onto the stage.
One element I wanted to bring into the foreground, was the lives of the Waihi women. Initially the story of the strike seemed centred around the men. Six or seven of my great great uncles, cousins and brothers-in-law were involved in the strike and had been part of my family’s stories. Coming from Australia in the hope of a better life, and led by Bill Parry, they were among the “Aussie stirrers”.
But as I dug into the research I realised just how much the women brought to that seminal and dramatic event. They were the ones who stood staunchly by their men, put bread on the table and sewed for the kids. Eventually, in outrage, they went out onto the streets and found their voices. And once they’d found them, they were not to be silenced. The men could be taken to jail for abusing the strike breakers, but these women knew no boundaries! They said what they wanted to say, knowing they couldn’t be arrested without an outcry of sympathy resounding across the country.
Those women and girls were courageous. At the height of the strike, my great great aunt, Georgina Parry, was confronted by three strike-breakers who threatened her with a piece of wood. She stood her ground: ‘If you’re man enough to attack me, I’m woman enough to fight you.’ The women of Waihi gave as good as they got!
It’s over a hundred years since that strike finished. Yet it continues to resonate today. Scarlet & Gold looks backwards in order to look forward. It will leave many audience members remembering and reflecting on the past and on the future. For some it will be memories of their own families’ stories, families divided by strikes, politics, rugby tours and land rights.
In remembering Waihi they will remember the other needless tragedies of Huntly, Kaitangata and especially Pike River. It’s a dramatic play combining tragedy and comedy. It tells a New Zealand story that has become apocryphal in the struggle for equality and our belief in a fair go for all.
After a Rehearsed Reading of the play at Circa several months ago, one audience member, Graham Dyhrberg, wrote: “We were struck by how real your play was, so raw and true to the stories I have heard about the strike. It also brought back all the emotions we felt in our own struggles in our early working life and made us realise how little has changed. So powerful was the play it has been constantly on my mind since.”
I very much hope you’ll join us at Circa soon, for a great night out. We believe this play will inspire, entertain, and enrich the human spirit. And we guarantee you’ll leave the theatre singing!”
Painting by Bob Kerr – Bill Parry, President of the Waihi Miners’ & Workers’ Union