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March 25, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Preview: The Chathams

Directed by Eryn Wilson
Bats Theatre
22 March – 2 April

I was offered a free ticket to see The Chathams at BATS Theatre tonight, a new New Zealand comedy starring Toby Leach and Jonny Moffatt, and directed by Eryn Wilson. Unfortunately, I had to chain myself to this desk for you, Salient reader, so hang on my every word.

The press release for the show begins by accusing me, as “the average New Zealander”, of probably not having any idea where the Chatham Islands are. This is worthy; if you posed that question to me, my answer would be along the lines of “uhh… off the coast of uh… off the coast… somewhere.” But, despite the fact that not many of us know the physical location of the Chatham Islands, I could say almost certainly that most of us know them to some extent.

Living in Wellington, it’s easy to forget the full scale of what New Zealand really is. I am certainly prone to forgetting that places like Te Kuiti and Bulls exist as more than somewhere I can stop at briefly on the way to Auckland. But even for native Wellingtonians, those places hold a lot of relevance. Everyone knows someone for whom Wellington is ‘the big smoke’, and from reading Leach and Moffatt’s recollections of their research trip (“Think the West Coast of the South Island and times it by ten”), the Chathams could be the finest distillation of all those places that remains in our country.

Locals were worried that Moffatt and Leach might take the piss out of them, but during their visit, the two “became quickly conscious of a sense of responsibility to do this beautiful place justice” and I am looking forward to seeing just how they have done so.

On a surface level, we grow continuously disconnected from our collective rural past. But you don’t even have to look that deep inside yourself to find a place where the idea of a 17-year-old girl leaving a pub at midnight to dress a freshly slaughtered sheep to be a totally acceptable situation. So you should probably go see The Chathams. It could be really important.

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