Play set on farm hits a home run.
Humour and pathos in tale that gets to heart of Kiwi life
I approached Waipukurau Little Theatre's latest offering with a little trepidation. The subject matter seemed fairly grim.
Home Land, written by New Zealand playwright Gary Henderson, takes a look into the life and the living room of Ken Taylor, an 80-year-old widower who has farmed his remote property for 50 years.
Now infirm and unable to cope alone, his family is gathering to help move him to a rest home. The problem is, Ken doesn't want to go. Ken. played entirely believably by Larry Pitt, is a character that tugs on the heart-strings. He's everybody's elderly grandad, frail but stubborn, confused and endearing.
He inhabits Lindsey Bishop's set as if he has indeed been there for 50 years. The split set works fabulously ... the play often continues on two levels, a family argument going on in the dated farmhouse kitchen. While Ken and his teenage grand-daughter Sophie inhabit the drab but cosy lounge, with its fusty ornaments and framed family photos.
A window over the kitchen sink looks out on to a porch hung with wet weather gear and a view of the hills. It adds realism and depth to the set.
Teenaged Sophie - ably and confidently played by Sophie Hamilton - has arrived on the scene with her parents Paul and Denise.
They've come down from Auckland for the weekend to help shift the old man to a rest home. Sophie is plugged into her headphones, out of her element and at odds with her parents. Denise - Jules Hamilton - left the family farm 30 years ago and resents her brother and sister-in-law who have stayed on the farm and stayed close to Ken.
For their part, brother Graeme - Edward Carleton-Holmes - and his wife Trish - Madeleine Howard - resent Denise for "buggering off" and leaving them with the farm and the old man to care for.
The casting is great Carleton-Holmes plays a farmer as if he's just taking a break from feeding out to step on to the stage for a while. Jules Hamilton plays a very convincing caring but conflicted daughter, and Rob Blamires as her husband is also well cast and relatable. The cast is everyone's family. There were many moments that are typical of any Kiwi family. There were laughs as the audience recognized themselves and people they know.
There was humour, there were uncomfortable moments, there was pathos. I laughed, I was drawn in. and I think I got something in my eye at one stage.
I givethis offering from Waipukurau Little Theatre a standing ovation.