Over the years Peter Tait and I have worked together on various theatre projects. One day he called me from Auckland, said he had roughed out a new play for the Watershed Theatre’s comedy festival and wanted my input. I flew up.
He had this idea for a comedy set in Christchurch in the early 50s – a spoof on white middle class pretensions to be as English as possible. He had four main characters and had written a lot of their dialogue already – I loved it.
Pete and I have chemistry when we write together. It is a fun process. One day we were talking through a scene between Gillies and the Rev in his back yard in Grey Lynn. There were all these half-rotten apples on the ground. He picked up an old cricket bat and I started bowling the apples to him – they just splattered. So we worked it into the script.
I went back to Wellington and grew a beard – young Gillies had a moustache and I wanted to leave it till the last moment. I look bloody stupid with a tash.
Meanwhile Peter had assembled a mighty cast in Auckland: Theresa Healey. Augusta McDonald. Ian Hughes. Marton Csokas, Andrew Kovasovich. I joined them and we began rehearsals in a dance studio in the central city with Peter directing.
I knew Theresa and Augusta from their time at Drama School in Wellington but didn’t know the guys – Ian, Marton and AK. They must have thought I was some weird hippie muso from Wellington.
Marton Csokas played the Reverend Hogg and I was young Gillies.
Opening night, I shaved off the beard leaving the David Niven and slicked down my hair -I was Gillies.
Ian Hughes, in the central role, drove the bus that first night. With the wonderful Theresa Healey keeping it all together and the huge stage presence of AK. I got to smoke my pipe and be an idiot –talking about kites. My sister Sue was in the front row and didn’t recognize me.
In the second act I came running down that hall and bowled an apple to Marton Csokas who (dressed as an Anglican Reverend) smacked it into the first three rows of the theatre. No one was injured but they had bits of apple all over them.
It worked every night.
I also got to die every night and be carried on as a corpse by AK – trying not to ‘corpse’ through a whole scene.
R.I.P. Andrew Kovasovich