Review: Scarlet and gold

by librarykris on December 7, 2016

This play dramatises the real events of the 1912 Waihi goldminers’ strike which started in March and went through to November.  It follows the fortunes of the strikers’ families and parallels the struggle with the Suffragette movement in England.

Playwright Lorae Parry focuses much of the script on the women in the strikers’ families. (There are some weird token references to Maori that I think should have been left out.) The didactic script in the first half is lightened by singing and dancing although my preference is for the second half which is full of action. Director Kate JasonSmith, choreographer Jan Bolwell, and fight choreographer Ricky Dey have done a terrific job here. It’s chaotic, makes good use of the space, and is a great contrast for the levity in the first half. The play itself is complicated and sprawling with actors doubling and tripling (or more). They create distinct characters helped by the costumes (designers Pinky Agnew and Jocelyn Frances O’Kane with Sonia Costin assisting).

The cast are uniformly energetic in this demanding ensemble play. My highlights include: Lorae Parry as Jane Ashton, the banker’s quietly radical wife; Carmel McGlone as Annie Burgess the banker’s maid (very restrained with tiny facial expressions and subtle physical movements speaking volumes); the sweet scenes between Isobel MacKinnon and James Gordon (sweethearts Emma Beech and Thomas O’Connor respectively);  the stirring speech at the end by Emily Regtien as Kathleen Beech, followed by a beautiful version of a song arranged by Laughton Pattrick (#assumption) which I will not name because #spoiler.

This is another play to add to the growing number of contributed-to-early-Labour shows. While this is a script that wants to educate it succeeds because it’s so damn entertaining. Marvelous work.

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