Christchurch playwright scoops award trifecta

Dan Bain. Photo: The Court Theatre
Dan Bain. Photo: The Court Theatre
Two playwrights have won this year’s Adam NZ Play Award; Dan Bain from Christchurch for The Odyssey and Sam Brooks from Tāmaki Makaurau for This Is My Story of Us.

The award - which celebrates unproduced new plays for theatre - is supported by the Adam Foundation, with prize money totalling $8000. Winners were announced by Playmarket director/tumuaki Murray Lynch at Circa Theatre in Pōneke Wellington, on Saturday 13 April.

It’s a trifecta for Dan Bain, who took home the Adam NZ Play Award, the McNaughton South Island Play Award and the Dean Parker Award for Adaptation.

The Odyssey is a fast-paced, quick-witted tale of Odysseus and his journey back home following the battle of Troy. With an energetic rotation of three actors performing a colourful cast of characters, Odysseus fends off Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, a witch, The Cyclops, Aeolus Lord of Winds and bad weather to finally make it home after more than a decade.

Bain - who is a writer, director, comedian, playwright and actor - adapted the play from Homer's much-studied poem. The show was first performed at the Ōtautahi Christchurch Gardens in January. 

Bain is one of Aotearoa’s most experienced theatre practitioners. He’s either directed, written or acted in almost 80 plays at the Court Theatre since 2003. He also served as associate director of the Court from 2017 to 2020. 

Joint winner Sam Brooks is an award-winning playwright and journalist. His new play charts a love story between Kane and Hero from first date to the end of the relationship and beyond. What appears to be a relationship shrouded in secrecy becomes a profound exploration of grief and morality. 

Brooks currently holds the record for the most plays shortlisted for the Adam NZ Play Award: 15. Last year he won the Dean Parker Award for Em, and was Highly Commended for Future of the Party, A Rich Man and Burn Her. Brooks spoke to Culture 101 back in February.

Runner-Up and Best Play by a Woman Playwright was won by Cassandra Tse for Before We Slip Beneath the Sea, in which a small community on Wellington’s south coast gathers for the last time to grapple with rising sea levels.

Best Play by a Māori Playwright was won by Tawhi Thomas for Matenui. The piece centres on an articulate, educated and imaginative woman who is incapable of accepting society’s minimal expectations of her. She’s challenged and undone by the perspectives and perceptions of other Māori. 

Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright was won by Rarotongan-born Teherenui Koteka for her play Kaveinga, which urges the Cook Islands people to reflect upon their contributions to climate change.