For three decades, playwright and critic Bruce Mason played intelligent, impassioned witness to many key developments in Kiwi theatre and culture; a number of them his own. His play The Pohutukawa Tree has spawned more than 180 productions, and was watched by 20 million after being adapted for the BBC. The End of the Golden Weather is both a classic solo play, and movie.
By the time he was touring The End of the Golden Weather, he was accepted popularly as a pioneer in the modern New Zealand theatre, and met with virtually unqualified critical enthusiasm in most towns he played in. Howard McNaughton, in his 1976 book New Zealand Writers and their Work: Bruce Mason
From early teleplay The Evening Paper to the edgy Outrageous Fortune, this episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television talks drama and comedy. Key players, from actors to executives, recall a host of signposts in the development of storytelling on Kiwi TV screens. John Clarke recalls 1970s sitcom Buck's House; Paul Maunder remembers the drama that likely helped introduce the DPB; and TV executive John McRae recalls worries about the projected cost of global hit Hunter's Gold, and mentioning the word 'placenta' on the first episode of Shortland Street.
Set over a Christmas beach holiday in 1935, The End of the Golden Weather chronicles the friendship between a teenage boy and the wild-limbed Firpo, dreamer and social outcast. Writer/director Ian Mune spent more than 15 years "massaging" Bruce Mason's classic solo play into a movie, before assembling a dream team to bring it to the screen. The finished film captures the world view of a boy for whom fantasy, hope and disappointment intermingle. Among an impressive awards haul, 12-year-old star Stephen Fulford was recognised at America's Youth in Film Awards.
This documentary on legendary Kiwi playwright Bruce Mason premiered soon after his death. The result is a portrait of a man who become an artist despite, as much as because of, his fellow Kiwis. There are shots of Mason performing solo classic The End of the Golden Weather on his beloved Takapuna Beach, and insights from a cast of Kiwi theatrical heavyweights. In an extended interview with The Listener's Helen Paske, Mason ranges from his works looking at Māori-Pākehā relations, to over the top reaction to controversial tele-play The Evening Paper.
Charlie is about to die. His wife is playing prison guard, stopping visitors. She wants to score him a christian grave. But Charlie would prefer a drink. It it is time for blunt honesty — which means more battles with his wife, insulting the kids, and making sure his funeral involves the ocean. One of the last things legendary playwright Bruce Mason wrote before his death in 1982, Do Not Go Gentle also offers a rare central role for veteran Bill Johnson, fresh from playing villain in Under the Mountain. Late children’s TV talent Huntly Eliott cameos as the priest.
Young Geoff Garlick reckons he's developed a game-winning move - the 'Garlick Thrust' - for his schoolboy rugby team, but the Saturday he hopes to show it off to his dysfunctional family they're more interested in the Springbok match. The national loss of innocence the '81 tour represented is captured in an end scene, where Geoff and his weeping Dad (Michael Noonan) are intercut with clips of a notorious stand-off between tour protestors and rugbyheads. Written by playwright Bruce Mason, this was one of a three TV dramas written as he was battling cancer.
Daphne and Chloe offers a love triangle with a twist: here the couple under threat are two woman friends (despite rumours their relationship is romantic) who work at an advertising agency. Their friendship, based partly on warding off loneliness, is threatened when the cool, cultured Edith (Helena Ross), starts dating the new office boy (Michael Hurst) — a man 18 years her junior. The typing pool are abuzz. Daphne and Chloe was one of a trio of tele-plays that resulted after TVNZ gave legendary playwright Bruce Mason the chance to choose his themes.
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac (who had initially only agreed to make the show on the condition they would get to make The Governor). The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen, and the output demands were foundational in developing industry talent.
This popular series was an early NZBC "pictorial magazine" show that explored "New Zealand’s backyard". Synonymous with producer Conon Fraser, the it was a staple of Sunday night 60s TV. Subjects ranged from Chatham Islands lobster fisheries, to Central Otago frost fires, to Miss New Zealand contestants. The show was praised in a 1968 NZ TV Weekly review as breaking new ground in relying more on imagery and interviewees' reflective voice-overs than (then usual) omniscient narration: "one of the few pure Television productions to have originated within the NZBC."
Made six years after local TV broadcasting began, this wide-ranging 1966 documentary looks at the past and future of television in NZ. Political science lecturer Reg Harrison examines local content, a second channel, private enterprise, transmission challenges, editorial independence, sports coverage, and how TV’s expansion has affected other pursuits, and children. The doco includes interviews with privacy-keen Gordon Dryden and film legend Rudall Hayward, and MPs. Director Gordon Bick later argued that the NZBC had allowed "a good deal of criticism against itself" on screen.
Early teleplay The Evening Paper had the same rigid (theatre or radio-derived) format as other early TV dramas of the 60s, but it did something never before seen on local screens. Written by playwright Bruce Mason, the drama dared to expose a stifling NZ suburban existence. Jaded visiting Pom, Phillip; snivelling Winsome and her domineering mother Elfrida, and passive father Ernest, proved too much for viewers, who decried the drama as inaccurate and "unfair"; in other words, The Evening Paper gave Kiwis their first on-screen dose of cultural cringe.