As the Day Draws In

This festival season centres on local taonga, in song, in theatre, in people. It positions itself squarely within a context of local pride, and creative output that serves local audiences. 

As the Day Draws in is a perfect embodiment of this kaupapa. A verbatim theatre piece, it takes as its subject the stories of local kaumatua: their lives now, their journeys to arriving in Hawke’s Bay, their wishes for their offspring and descendents. 

Theatre makers Puti Lancaster and Teresa Woodham have spent hundreds of hours teasing narratives from everyday lives. With backgrounds not just in theatre making but in psychotherapy and social work they are expert listeners. In simply having conversations Lancaster and Woodham have honoured their subjects’ lives as cultural treasure. In bringing those stories to an audience, the partnership has given community something precious that can only ever be Hawke’s Bay’s, these narratives being truly of this place.

It is a stunning, disciplined piece that weaves six stories to create a rich fabric in which all audience can see glimmers of their own people, their own family histories. It raises personal questions too: What parts of self should be preserved, handed down, as heirloom? How can we archive our tīpuna without stifling their memory? We curate our own narratives but when our old people leave us why is it the ordinary that’s retained as nostalgia?

Alongside Woodham and Lancaster, As the Day Draws in brings together veteran actors Catherine Wilkin and Lloyd Scott with the talented Kristyl Neho, musicians John Gibson and Matiu Whiting, designer Janis Cheng and costumier Judith Crozier. Rather than staying siloed in their separate disciplines, together their collaboration harmonises with each other’s offerings. It’s a mechanism that intertwines sound, voice, light, form, fabric to become a score through which stories are told but also felt, sensed, shared until they become part of the audience, and audience part of the experience.

As the Day Draws in is a place-based piece set in an organic past somewhere between post-war and yesterday. It’s wrapped in nostalgia but isn’t old. It’s comfortable in its familiarity but has barbs like all good family stories, those knots of warmth that have secrets hidden within, those long lives that contain inevitable sadness and shadows.

Jess Soutar Barron

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