June 15, 2011 | by  |
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McKenzie Country

I know only too well the horrors of growing up on dial-up internet. Such is the misfortune of the
McKenzie family.

Written, directed and produced by the all-female New Zealand group ‘Page Left,’ Hannah McKie’s
multi-award winning McKenzie Country opens the front door into quintessential Kiwi life. Freshly
escaped from Osage County’s most dysfunctional household, Michele Amas plays the role of Mrs
Margaret McKenzie, a widowed mother of six trying desperately to hold together fraying family ties.
As tensions heighten with the return of her eldest son Hayden for a “holiday,” Margaret is forced to
juggle her “Save the Children” responsibilities with that of saving her own.

With sharp-witted humour and superb acting McKenzie Country takes us through the all-too-familiar motions of everyday life. McKie’s script cleverly uncovers the drama in the most seemingly mundane
of activities, from ordering fish and chips on a Friday night to deciding which family member
will sacrifice their Saturday to watch high-school cricket. From a strong cast Anya Tate-Manning
stands out with an incredibly genuine portrayal of a student caught in toils of unrequited love and
unreturned texts. Anna Harcourt too is “fully” convincing in her role as Abbey, a too-keen-to-grow-
up teen who brings back cringe-worthy memories of our own adolescence. Indeed it seems that
anyone who has lived down the road from a dairy, attended a New Zealand high school or squabbled
over household chores can find a bit of themselves in McKenzie Country.

The only criticism I would make is that McKenzie Country sometimes has difficulty reconciling the
familiar with the extraordinary. While the play is meaningful, pertinent and at times unnervingly
easy to relate to, it does experience some lapses in dramatic intensity and subsequently tends to
drag a little. Nonetheless McKenzie Country is well worth seeing. It is entertaining and relatable, if at times a little short of riveting.

McKenzie Country
By Hannah McKie
14 – 25 June at BATS

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