Dunedin theatre practitioners (from left) Richard Huber, Martyn Roberts and Simon O'Connor at Allen Hall with an installation showing the Kader Toy Factory fire in 1993. Photo by Nigel Benson.
A tragic fire at a Bangkok toy factory has inspired a unique
international Dunedin theatre project.
Airport Conversations is a collaboration between
Dunedin theatre company Afterburner and Melbourne group In
The Company Of Pleasure.
Dunedin theatre practitioners Simon O'Connor, Richard Huber
and Martyn Roberts have been invited to the Bundanon Artist
Residency in New South Wales to workshop the play next month.
Airport Conversations is based on the Kader Toy Factory fire
in Bangkok on May 10, 1993, which is considered the worst
industrial factory fire in history.
It killed 188 people and seriously injured more than 500.
New Zealand singer-songwriter Don McGlashan wrote the 2006
song Toy Factory Fire about the blaze.
"The Kader Toy Factory was making toys, like Bart Simpson
dolls, for the New Zealand, Australian, British and American
Christmas market," O'Connor explains.
"We started discussing what, as consumers, our relationship
is with global consumerism. We as consumers are cut off from
the consequences. That's a big ethical issue. Because it's
somewhere else, we don't think about it. How do we take
responsibility for our actions when we're insulated from
The trio travelled to Bangkok earlier this year to interview
survivors of the fire and families of the victims.
"It was very moving at times and, in two or three instances,
we had to turn the camera off," O'Connor says.
"The piece is laced with testament from the victims' families
and survivors. We took an eight-hour bus trip to Mahasarakam
to interview a woman who was in the fire. She worked on the
fourth floor of the factory and jumped from the second floor.
She broke her legs and her back.
She's a lawyer now and wants to be a judge, but they won't
let her, because she's crippled. She's still angry about that
The project has been funded by Creative New Zealand for the
past two years.
"This will be the fourth workshop we've had, but it will be
the first time we'll have the whole company of eight
together, from Dunedin and Melbourne," Huber says.
"It's an interesting project, because the piece is about the
critical issue of survival, globalised production and
consumerism, but we've had to globalise to do it."
Airport Conversations is based on two
businessmen travelling separately to Bangkok who communicate
through Skype at airports.
"It's rare to have a collaboration like this," Roberts said.
"It's a global story that could potentially have a very large
audience." The trio leaves for Australia on December 10 and
returns to Dunedin on Christmas Eve.
Airport Conversations will premiere in Melbourne next
year on the 20th anniversary of the Kader Toy Factory fire.
It will then tour Southeast Asia and there are plans to
submit it for consideration at the next Otago Festival of the
Arts, in 2014.