Home' Greymouth Star : August 26th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 7
is the only community
theatre group left in the
country. For that reason,
and its obvious talent, it
is gaining a reputation
This week, Ted, Poppy and World War
Two opens in Greymouth. One ‘real life’
character is based on Ted Kehoe, a teacher
at Greymouth Technical High School
in the middle of last century, who gave a
weekly radio talk on native birds, the bush
and Maori culture. The second character is
famous Irish writer James Joyce’s sister, who
was a Sister of Mercy in Greymouth.
Each performance will be followed by
a discussion on heritage: ‘what is it and
how do we value it?’ facilitated by Stewart
Nimmo, Richard Arlidge or Mayor Tony
Kokshoorn, depending on what night you
Maunder’s plays bring back the old
town hall feel, a community that sat down
together and was willing to talk and willing
Born in Napier, Maunder was the first in
his family to go to university. His adoptive
father was a carpenter, his brother a
signwriter. The “maths nerd” and talented
young cricketer (he played for Central
Districts at 16) grew up reading cowboy
Then he met a girl from an arty family
and his life changed course. In his last year
at Victoria University, he directed the play
Everyman. There was no drama school in
New Zealand then, so he went to Sydney ’s
National Institute of Dramatic Art, then
taught for a couple of years and did some
work in film and tv (where it was easier to
earn a crust) before going to film school in
It was 1968. The Rolling Stones at Hyde
Park . . . student sit-ins . . .Vietnam . . . the
crappy flat . . . a Vespa scooter he bought for
£10 . . . “ it was an amazing experience”.
Eventually, he landed a job back in
Wellington with the National Film Unit.
Broke, he had to emigrate back to his own
country — his plane fare paid for, he says.
He got to work, and — he says this quietly
— m ade “some quite good films”.
The drama Gone Up North for a While,
starring a young Paul Holmes, was about
solo mums before the DPB. It helped bring
the benefit in sooner, Maunder says. In those
days there was only one television channel,
which everyone watched and then discussed
the programmes the next day.
Maunder says he was given a “remarkable
freedom”. He started the theatre group
Amamus, which became pretty well known.
National Library archives reveal a young
Sam Neill was in Maunder’s cast, though
he does not mention this. They toured
internationally in 1975, performing at the
Institute of Contemporary Art in London,
then touring Poland not long after the first
“ We were in the shipyard and they said
that was where the workers were shot down.
It was a hard place; the energy of the Poles
was pretty amazing and it was an intellectual
He did more freelance theatre and tv work,
then wrote and directed the feature film,
Sons for the Return Home, a drama about a
New Zealand-raised Samoan, and a middle
But with film he found there was always
a tension — “you are spending so much
money every day ” — and projects could take
years from conception to production.
“In theatre, you just need an idea, a few
people and a hall. ”
Maunder went back to the United
Kingdom just as Margaret Thatcher took
He hated the atmosphere, returned home
and took part in an urban housing
co-operative in an area of Wellington where
the wharfies used to live.
He was there during the 1981 Springbok
tour and that was when he tasted his first
real political action.
“I always was a bit of a lefty,” he says. Then
he joined the Communist Party, which was
Inspired by community theatre in
Zimbabwe, he started working in
community arts in Petone, with projects on
Housing New Zealand estates, and with
Maori and Pacific Island students.
A theatre project with the unemployed
toured the country, including the West
Coast, and played at the Blackball Hilton
It was Maunder’s first proper visit to the
Coast. The audience was warm, the snow on
the passes “extraordinary”.
He and Caroline returned for May Day,
back then the only such celebration in the
country, and ended up buying the last cheap
house in Blackball.
“I ’d been thinking what happens when we
get older, was it to be a council flat? Rent in
Wellington was $300 a week.”
By the time of the purchase, Caroline, a
midwife, wanted to work in a rural area and
he had promised himself writing time. More
recently, his daughter and her partner have
joined them in Blackball.
Since arriving on the Coast, Maunder has
helped progress the Blackball Museum,
and he is a St John volunteer. He recently
went back to university and completed his
masters on community theatre, published
by Canterbury University Press. He also
published the first book on the Pike River
disaster, a book of short stories, and made a
compelling film documentary on the Grey
Valley school closures.
He formed Kiwi-Possum Productions by
putting an advertisement in the Greymouth
Star, and now has loyal and talented
colleagues, including Heather Fletcher
and Jason Johnson, who have worked
professionally in theatre.
Their first show tackled 1080 poison, their
next the Pike River Mine disaster, then
Maori leasehold land in Greymouth, Spring
Creek Mine closure, and now heritage.
They have taken their plays on the road to
Motueka, Nelson, D unedin and been well
“ We are the only theatre group still
working in this way,” Maunder says. A
funding change in the late 1990s saw the
gradual demise of community theatre.
Paul Maunder, from the bright lights of
the big city, says he has found a true home
“ Fourteen or so of the traditional
mining families stayed, and their children,
preser ving the continuity of the town. ”
Then he smiles: “ The old activist spirit
Ted, Poppy and World War Two is on
at the Regent Theatre, Thursday to Saturday,
August 28-30, at 7.30pm. Admission is $10.
PICTURE: Laura Mills
Paul Maunder in the office at his Blackball home.
Playwright on the left
Playwright on the left
A new play opens at the Regent Theatre in Greymouth this week, telling two colourful tales of the West Coast, while
taking a serious look at our heritage. Playwright and director Paul Maunder lived most of his life in Wellington, but
since the late 1990s he has called Blackball home, where he and his partner, Caroline, bought the last cheap house in
town. He explained to LAURA MILLS his passion for community theatre.
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