Auckland Theatre Company gets Back On The Boards with a mini-festival of top Kiwi plays celebrating the return of live theatre by New Zealand’s largest professional theatre company

After being hugely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, which resulted in four seasons of shows being cancelled, postponed or dramatically altered from their 2020 line-up, Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) will make a triumphant return to the stage at ASB Waterfront Theatre this September. 

The Dentons Kensington Swan season of Back on the Boards, a mini theatre festival, will feature three brilliant works by New Zealand playwrights: award-winning play Still Life with Chickens by D.F. Mamea, Black Lover by Stanley Makuwe whose highly acclaimed premiere season sold out during the 2020 Auckland Arts Festival but was cut short by the global pandemic, and brand new work 48 Nights on Hope Street, a direct and exciting response to recent times from a diverse company of young writers, actors and musicians.

ATC Artistic Director Colin McColl says, “We are thrilled to be back on the boards of our beloved home at the ASB Waterfront Theatre. ATC is one of the very few professional theatre companies of scale in the world who will be able to perform live to audiences this year, which is both sobering and a great privilege. I hope that Aucklanders will come and enjoy one, two or all three of the fantastic shows that we are presenting over the two-and-a-half-week festival.”

The festival kicks off with a remount of Still Life with Chickens, a tale of family, community, loss and love about a Samoan woman’s delightful yet begrudging friendship with a stray hen that has invaded her garden. Starring superb comic actress Goretti Chadwick (Pani and Pani, Sione’s Wedding, Chekhov’s The Seagull) and talented puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson (Hibiscus and Ruthless, Eel and Sina, Inky Pinky Ponky), Still Life With Chickens is a one-woman tour-de-force.

Written by D.F. Mamea, the play has won the Adam NZ Play Award (2017) and the Playmarket Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright (2017). Directed by actor and director Fasitua Amosa, Still Life with Chickens first premiered in the Auckland Arts Festival 2018 and has toured nationally and internationally ever since to rapturous applause. ATC is thrilled to be bringing this award-winning and beloved play back to Tāmaki Makaurau.

Playing on the same nights as Still Life With Chickens is the highly acclaimed Black Lover, by Auckland-based Zimbabwean playwright, Stanley Makuwe. A direct casualty of COVID-19 with its sold-out season forced to close shortly after it opened, Black Lovertells the little-known story of expat New Zealander Sir Garfield Todd, who was Prime Minister of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from 1953 to 1958.

As a public advocate of racial equality, Todd – played by renowned actor Cameron Rhodes (The LuminariesThe AudienceThe Lord of the Rings) – was labelled a ‘black lover’ by his detractors and confined to house arrest by the white minority rule. Actor Simbarashe Matshe (Filthy Business, Frontiersman, Mortal Engines) received outstanding reviews for his performance as Todd’s servant Steady.

Director Roy Ward says “Garfield Todd is a New Zealander we should all know about, but many New Zealanders don’t. We are thrilled to be bringing it back to the larger stage at ASB Waterfront Theatre to share this compelling story with a wider audience.”

The third piece is a brand new work, 48 Nights on Hope Street, which will have two performances a night in the festival’s final week. Holed-up on Hope Street, five flat mates while away the long nights of Levels 4 and 3 in New Zealand’s lockdown, telling tall tales that travel to the moon and back. Every night for 48 nights.

In 48 Nights on Hope Street, ATC brings together a diverse company of young writers, actors and musicians to perform a wild combo of storytelling, dramatic reinvention, song and music – a direct theatrical response to the current time. The original stories have been created by five of Aotearoa’s most exciting young writers; Leki Jackson-Bourke(Inky Pinky Ponky, The Gangster’s Paradise), Ana Scotney (The Contours of Heaven), Freya Daly Sadgrove (Head Girl), Cian Elyse White (Te Puhi), Nathan Joe (I am Rachel Chu, Like Sex).

Directed by innovative theatre creator and director Jane Yonge, 48 Nights on Hope Street will be an engaging and entertaining night out, inspired by Giovanni Bocaccio’s storytelling epic The Decameron from the 14th century, when the plague was sweeping through Europe. With a maximum capacity of 75 people per show, the audience will be seated together on the stage in an intimate “living-room style”.

Back on the Boards is a joyous celebration of the power of live theatre and coming together once again. The ASB Waterfront Theatre doors will be flung open this September to mark ATC’s jubilant return to the stage in Auckland, with three special works that celebrate good people, profound relationships and what it means to be human.

Dentons Kensington Swan season of Back on the Boards
3 – 20 September 2020
ASB Waterfront Theatre
Tickets, schedule and info: or 0800 282 849
Still Life With Chickens by D.F. Mamea
Cast: Goretti Chadwick, Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson
Directed by: Fasitua Amosa
Set & Costume Designer: John Parker
Lighting Designer: Marcus McShane
Sound Designer: Khalid Parkar
Black Lover by Stanley Makuwe
Cast: Cameron Rhodes, Simbarashe Matshe
Director: Roy Ward
Set & Costume Designer: Rachael Walker
Lighting Designer: Rachel Marlow
Sound Designer: Sean Lynch
48 Nights on Hope Street by Leki Jackson-Bourke, Ana Scotney, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Cian Elyse White, Nathan Joe 
Director: Jane Yonge
Cast/Creatives: tbc
About the Playwrights

Stanley Makuwe immigrated to New Zealand in 2002 and combines writing with a career in psychiatry. He won Zimbabwe’s 2016 National Art Merits Award for his play Chimbwido, Girl of War, was shortlisted for the 2012 Adam New Zealand Playwriting awards for Footprints on Ika’s Heart, and the 2011 BBC International Playwriting competition for The Coup. His plays have been staged in New Zealand and Zimbabwe, featuring at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) in 2012 and 2017. Makuwe would like all New Zealanders to know the Sir Garfield Todd story.
D.F. Mamea has worked on film, television, radio and theatre projects in genres ranging from sci-fi to soap, comedy to horror and documentary to drama. His play Goodbye My Feleni was produced throughout New Zealand in 2013.  Still Life with Chickens won the Adam NZ Play Award (2017) and the Playmarket Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright (2017).
Leki Jackson-Bourke is a creative/performing artist of Tongan, Niuean and Samoan descent. Leki worked as the dialogue editor for the New Zealand feature film, Born to Dance alongside Victor Rodger. Leki’s first play, Inky Pinky Ponky premiered at ATC’s Next Big Thing Festival (2015) and received the Playmarket NZ award for Best Teenage Script (2015). He won Outstanding Newcomer Award at the 2017 Auckland Theatre Awards and was the first Pasifika recipient of the CNZ Todd New Writer’s Bursary Grant (2017). Leki was the recipient of the inaugural Emerging Pasifika Writer’s Residency at Victoria University, Wellington.
Ana Scotney is a performer, musician and multidisciplinary artist of Māori, German, Jewish and Irish descent. A graduate of Toi Whakaari, she’s had roles on Shortland Streetand in The Breaker Upperers, and wrote and performed the award-winning The Contours of Heaven at New York’s Soho Playhouse.
Freya Daly Sadgrove is a writer, performer and theatre-maker from Pōneke. She has a Master of Arts from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and her work has appeared in various publications in Aotearoa, Australia and the US. Her first book, Head Girl, was published in February 2020.
Cian Elyse White is a wahine Māori artist of Te Arawa, Ngāti Pikiao, Tūhoe, Te Whānau a Ruataupare & Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa decent. Currently based in her Ūkaipō of Rotorua, Cian’s works include the SWANZ award-winning play Te Puhi and most recently the NZIFF 2020 Best selection short film which she wrote and directed, Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro).
Nathan Joe is an award-winning Chinese-Kiwi playwright and performance poet. He has won the Playmarket b425 award twice (2015, 2016), and has also been previously shortlisted for the Adam NZ award. Later this year he will be taking up The Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury.

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