In the early 1960s two North Island schools — Oruaiti and Hay Park — experimented with an innovative method of practical education. This episode of Survey sees principal Elwyn Richardson revisiting Oruaiti, and reminiscing on how the two schools functioned. He offers his views on traditional textbook learning — the more “American” system, as he calls it. Ex students reflect on their time at the school, and how an education based on arts, building and play shaped the people they’ve become. Modern schooling in Aotearoa now follows the example set in those early days.
In this 1985 Colenso commercial, a Creme Egg is a guilty pleasure behind raised desk lids for two school kids. Courtesy of some smooth copywriting, the narrator lets on that the cherubic girl and devious boy are doomed by the “smooth shell of Cadbury dairy milk chocolate and the irresistible creamy flowing yolk that will ultimately give them away!” The Murray Grindlay composed chorus “don’t get caught" (with egg on your face) entered Kiwi pop culture. Variations of the commercial ran until 1996; in 2016 stuntwoman Zoe Bell later shared her fondness for the product on Instagram.
Actor, acting teacher, and artist the late Grant Tilly played cow cockies, assassins, missionaries, and German villains in funny hats. And that’s not even counting his long-running stage career, which included a run of classic Kiwi plays, one of which became acclaimed movie Middle Age Spread.
An early case of a Kiwi play being adapted for the screen, Middle Age Spread asks whether adultery is inevitable (and whether it can stay secret). Grant Tilly won acclaim as "an antipodian Woody Allen" for his philandering deputy headmaster fearing a future of stress and marital dissatisfaction. Roger Hall's hit comedy was adapted in the first flush of the Kiwi film renaissance. It marks the movie debut of many talents — including Tilly, director John Reid, writer Keith Aberdein, and cinematographer Alun Bollinger. Middle Age Spread was the first Kiwi feature to screen on the BBC.
The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown World War I era school kids against a mysterious figure with fire on the brain. Inspired partly by a real-life Nelson arsonist, the five-part gothic adventure was created for television by author Maurice Gee. Peter Hayden plays the town’s unconventional teacher ‘Clippy’ Hedges, while the lead role went to Royal NZ Ballet star Jon Trimmer. The Fire-Raiser won four Listener TV awards, including best overall drama and best writer. Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas. He writes about the show's birth here.
Putting on magic and Punch and Judy shows as a child led Michael Woolf to a career as a broadcaster and performer. After joining the NZ Broadcasting Service he became an announcer, presenting TV in Wellington in the 60s and performing the country’s first televised puppet show. As an actor he appeared in Goodbye Pork Pie, and played a villain in Rangi’s Catch.
John Reid made his feature debut with an acclaimed version of hit Roger Hall stage play Middle Age Spread. He went on to direct three more features ranging from raw comedy to moody arthouse pieces — plus documentaries, TV dramas and commercials. Reid has also been head tutor at the New Zealand Film and Television School in Wellington, and written the definitive book on the history of Pacific Films.
Maurice Gee, who was named an Arts Foundation icon in 2003, is one of New Zealand's most acclaimed writers. His work for the screen includes creating 80s kidult series The Fire-Raiser and The Champion. Gee's novels have also inspired a number of adaptations, notably classic sci-fi series Under the Mountain and movie In My Father's Den.
A veteran figure in Māori broadcasting, Waihoroi Shortland has also been an actor (Rain of the Children, Boy), scriptwriter (Crooked Earth) and Māori advisor (The Piano). In 2003 he won the NZ Film Award for Best Actor, after playing Shylock in movie The Māori Merchant of Venice. In 2015 he became the first chair of Te Mātāwai, the organisation charged with revitalising te reo on behalf of Māori.
Mark Albiston has won awards at festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Salt Lake City, thanks to short films Run and The Six Dollar Fifty Man (which he directed with Louis Sutherland). After time in the United Kingdom, Albiston returned home to launch Sticky Pictures, where he won gongs for arts shows The Living Room and The Gravy. Alibston and Sutherland's 2013 movie Shopping won further awards and acclaim.