Providing a theatrical leg-up

Axiom Theatre Collective co-founders Ash Dawes, 22 (left), and Sahara Pohatu-Trow, 26, will be...
Axiom Theatre Collective co-founders Ash Dawes, 22 (left), and Sahara Pohatu-Trow, 26, will be debuting their production The Politician’s Wife at this year’s Dunedin Fringe Festival. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A pair of Dunedin performers have created their own amateur theatre based on the principle that anyone should get a chance.

The Axiom Theatre Collective is the brainchild of Dunedin artists Ash Dawes, who uses they/them pronouns and the honorific Mx, and Sahara Pohatu-Trow.

Both performers have completed the University of Otago’s theatre studies programme and interned with theatre groups, which has given them an entry point into the professional theatre industry.

But not everyone has these luxuries.

Ms Pohatu-Trow said being successful in the theatre relied a lot on being in the right place at the right time.

"I think a lot of this industry is unfortunately based on luck," she said.

"Especially in Dunedin as well, where a lot of people that come in are students. It is hard because you’re establishing yourself in a new community and city — not only as a new person but as a new artist.

"Finding opportunities where you can prove yourself ... can be quite limiting."

Ms Pohatu-Trow said their main kaupapa as a collective was to ensure artists got paid what they were worth, and to pass on opportunities and knowledge to an artistic community that had informed their own careers.

The pandemic had hit all artists hard, and emerging artists in particular needed help getting their foot in the door, she said.

Their end goal with the collective was a space that acted as an "older sibling" for emerging artists, with a growing roster of creatives that outgrew their involvement.

Mx Dawes said both they and Ms Pohatu-Trow had worked semi-professionally in the industry for years and had watched a lot of their peers move away due to a lack of opportunities.

A non-negotiable for any of their productions, when applying for funding, was that any contractor would be paid at least the minimum recommended rate for all their hours.

Mx Dawes said the collective was not limited to students and was open to anyone who wanted to take a chance.

"I think so much of our work has been about giving people a chance," they said.

"We wouldn’t be where we are now without other people having taken a chance on us.

"It is very much about giving that back."

Their latest production, The Politician’s Wife, will debut at Allen Hall Theatre, the pair’s former stomping ground, on March 15 as part of this year’s Dunedin Fringe Festival.