Social Issues

Going to the theatre is more than just entertainment. Theatre is an integral part of society, and plays an important role both in presenting experiences and viewpoints that are difficult and painful, and in reflecting the lives of people who don’t often see their stories on stage.

Arts Festival Dunedin has a trio of shows this year playing at the Community Gallery which tell stories that are important and need to be heard.

Valerie is described as gig theatre which combines theatre, music and science. Creator Robin Kelly dives into his family history to unravel the story of his grandmother, Valerie, who kept the family together after his grandfather’s diagnosis as a manic depressive and paranoid schizophrenic.  The more Kelly explored the story, the more he realized that as a scientist, he wanted to find out about his own bouts of depression and anxiety. Using music as a medium, Kelly and fellow performers Tom Broome and Cherie Moore, find that the story connects with audience members who see themselves and their family in the show.

“Hardship and struggle in family life is a universal story and Valerie connects with people of any age who have, at some point, needed to step up and be strong.”

Valerie was named stand-out cabaret of 2016 by the Herald theatre reviewer, and just last month won the Fringe First Award at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Valerie plays Thursday 27 and Friday 28 September at the Community Gallery.

In 2009, actor Rob Mokoraka called the police to report a break in at his Point Chevallier home, and gave them a description of himself.  He dressed himself in stage costume clothing to look ‘crazy’, armed himself with a meat cleaver and went outside to find that his street was under siege.  After years of depression and yet another messy relationship breakdown, Rob has decided to commit suicide by cop. When he failed to stop on request by the police, he was shot once in the chest and ‘refused to die’.  What followed was a long period of treatment both physical and psychological, and the chance to put his experience into writing. The result was his show Shot Bro: Confessions of a Depressed Bullet, described as raw and unflinchingly honest.  He has played to audiences who have ‘been there’ up and down the country.  “You have to walk the truth to teach the truth, so this has been huge for me. By helping others, I’m also helping myself.  Shot Bro: Confessions of a Depressed Bullet plays on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 September at the Community Gallery.

Jane Doe is revelatory and carefully crafted participatory theatre about feminism, consent and sexual empowerment. New Zealand actor Karin McCracken leads the audience through the public reading of a rape trial where audience members take the roles of witnesses and lawyers, with pauses in the performance for the audience to text in live response.  Written by Eleanor Bishop, Jane Doe has toured across the United States and played to acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Described as much more than a show, in fact a piece of political activism, Jane Doe tackles the issue of rape on American college campuses. Bishop, who divides her time between New Zealand and the USA, states “To be a young woman is to be harassed. For many adolescent and young women, harassment is a defining characteristic of sex.”

Jane Doe is a conversation in an atmosphere of care, support and safety, where audience members can respond anonymously in real time or discuss what they have heard.  Jane Doe plays at the Community Gallery from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 September.

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