Play shines light on residents

Wellington playwright Dave Armstrong. Photo supplied.
Wellington playwright Dave Armstrong. Photo supplied.
Central Otago people will get the chance to see how others see them at the Southern Lakes Festival of Colour next week.

Wellington playwright Dave Armstrong was Conservation Department and Creative New Zealand writer-in-residence at Bannockburn for three months until February this year.

The result is a play - a work in progress - called Central which will be read by a group of local actors in Wanaka next weekend. Armstrong told the Otago Daily Times the play featured a successful out-of-town writer who had bought a vineyard in Central Otago, or ''paradise'', as he saw it.

Among the characters are a girlfriend, a local builder and a ''southern girl''.

Armstrong said his main interest was in how ''outsiders'' interacted with locals.

''I could pretty much tell whether someone was a tourist, a vineyard owner or a local worker just by looking at them.''

Armstrong said he had encountered the ''classic Jafa v Southern Man conflict'' at times.

Even though he is from Wellington, Armstrong felt like a Jafa ''... as I struggled up the hill on my trendy, greeny mountain bike while locals with big moustaches and bigger cars thought `this guy is crazy trying to cycle up that hill in 33-degree heat'.''

He found Central Otago people ''incredibly friendly'' but noted conflicts over development, land use and regulation.

Central examines class in New Zealand society, as have many of Armstrong's previous plays.

He said he was ''profoundly affected'' by the Central Otago landscape, as were his characters. He had even given the endangered Cromwell chafer beetle a cameo role.

Armstrong has previously written or co-written Niu Sila, The Tutor, King and Country, Le Sud, The Motor Camp and Rita and Douglas.

He has won the ''Absolutely Positively Outstanding New New Zealand Play'' award at the Chapman Tripp Theatre three times and a New Zealand Radio award for best dramatic production.

In 2007, Niu Sila was performed in the United Kingdom at Cambridge and London. His play Kings of the Gym also features in the Festival of Colour.

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