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Dishing old political dirt

Wild Bees: Alex Ellis, Kevin Keys, Emma Newborn, Wesley Dowdell, Alexander Campbell, Donogh Rees, Damien Avery, Jordan Blaikie and Alistair Browning
Stuart Devenie
Alexander Campbell, Damien Avery, Wesley Dowdell, Jordan Blaikie, Kevin Keys, Donogh Rees, Alex Ellis, Emma Newborn and Alistair Browning
We’re all up to date now on dirty politics, but have things really changed that much?

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We’re all up to date now on dirty politics, but have things really changed that much? Flaxwork’s new play Wild Bees is a wickedly funny expose of the great asset sell off in the 1980s, and what happened around the negotiating table. Renee Liang interviews director Stuart Devenie.

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On the eve of the election, Flaxworks has premiered their new show Wild Bees at The Basement, to warm reviews. With eerily apt timing, it’s an expose of the sell offs of SOE's followed by employment law changes in the late 1980s/early 90s. Playwright Phil Ormsby had a personal part in the real life events: he was a union delegate at the time.  Renee Liang asks director Stuart Devenie some key questions.

What made you take this play on?

I really responded to the subject and the script made me laugh out loud when I read it. Always a good sign in a comedy.

Was it an eye opener, reading the script?

I already knew a lot about the events described in the play but Phil's writing made them come alive in a theatrical way.

Phil, the playwright, has a direct connection to the events of the time as he was a union negotiator - how about you?

I have been on both sides of the table both as a union negotiator and part of the management team.

It must be surreal for you directing a play about political dirty campaigns in the 1980s while the current election farce is playing out?

Recent events surrounding the election campaign have certainly given the play a very synchronous satirical relevance.

How did you find the actors?

Phil approached the actors for an initial workshop and they were all perfect for the roles.

Many of them would not have been around in the 1980s so what kind of research are you doing to prepare?

Phil, myself and a couple of the cast lived through that period of industrial change so we had a fairly good understanding of the context. But a lot of the cast are too young to have experienced the events personally which has meant the development of the script has been a lot to do with clarifying the points raised in the play for the "newbies". Hopefully making the action accessible to everyone.

I've noticed that political plays do really well in Wellington, less well in Auckland as we're obsessed about different things - how do you think this play will be received?

Everyone likes a good laugh. And Aucklanders are not innocent in the ways of power politics.

Do you think a play should be written about the 2014 election and what character would you like to play?

I'm sure a play about the election will emerge. I would like to play the email account.

Written by

Renee Liang

19 Sep 2014

Renee is a writer who is exploring many ways of telling stories, including plays, short stories, poetry (which she also performs), and cross-genre collaborations with composers, musicians, sculptors and filmmakers.

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