Courtney Rose Brown
Local theatre makers, Iris Henderson and Catriona Tipene, are eager to hit the road again. Soon after returning home from The Lord Lackbeard’s North Island tour of Ophelia Thinks Harder (Jean Betts) and Hamlet (Shakespeare). This time choosing to tour their own work When We Dead Awaken (Henrik Ibsen), presented by their collective ‘Walking Shadows.’ Walking Shadows was founded for the Fringe Festival earlier this year, for their debut show.
Having met properly in the Wellington theatre scene, Tipene and Henderson performed together in Circa’s 2013 of After Juliet and quickly became friends. They then starred as best friends in a Young and Hungry production in 2013, chosen because the director said “you look funny together.”
I now sit down with real life best friends Henderson and Tipene to discuss their North Island tour of When We Dead Awaken.
Tipene, originally from Palmerston North, has been living in Wellington since 2012, having moved for more theatre opportunities. She studied at UCOL after high school, gaining a diploma in performing arts. During her time there, she says her tutor was one of the people in her life “who shapes you as who you are as an actor.” It was in Palmerston North, where Tipene first started her career as a children’s entertainer.
While getting set up in Wellington, Work and Income sent Tipene on a business course so she could apply for a grant to start her own business as a children’s entertainer. Boldly she went to an interview dressed as a fairy and instead of a traditional interview, she performed; making the interviewers play pass the parcel and engage in fairy dances. She now has a fairly steady business of weekend work, where often Henderson will help perform at parties. <fairycatparties>
Henderson is a recent graduate of Victoria University, where she says, “I’m a theatre super major. I think I probably did enough theatre majors to make up two theatre degrees. I did probably about 90% of all the theatre papers.” Through university Henderson gained a spot at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, specialising in Peking Opera for a month long course. She says it makes you aware of the “beauty and the sheer magical side to [theatre.]”
Henderson says that she is overwhelmed with “the power of theatre to influence both your mind and your soul. It’s magical ”
Finding her final year the most useful, Henderson says that “the directing paper is what made me realise that I could do this.” And “a lot of my beliefs around theatre are influenced by the amazing lecturers I had.” Tipene performed in Henderson’s directing assignment and they wanted to continue the momentum from that; this lead to their show in the Fringe Festival earlier this year.
Tipene says that Henderson “understands the craft of acting and what it takes to be a good actor which makes her a great director.”
Touring with The Lord Lackbeard's Company gave Henderson and Tipene inspiration to create something of their own. Older members were able to give helpful tips and answer any questions that they had.
Henderson says that “it’s a real kiwi mentality that you can’t sort of sit on your ass and wait for things to come to you. You’ve got to get out there and make things happen for yourself.”
Having poured so much of themselves into their Fringe season of When We Dead Awaken, Tipene says, “It felt like it was over before it began.”
“You always get post show blues, but this was a little bit more than that” Tipene says. Especially after reading multiple translations of the script, then translating William Archer’s 1900 translation into the modern day they “saw the gold in it” and want to continue sharing it.
One of the last theatre papers that Henderson took at university, was Kerryn Palmer’s New Zealand theatre paper. Which focused on “the ongoing question of does theatre have to be thrown away? Does theatre have to be discarded once it’s done. It’s in the very nature of theatre, that’s why some people do films and things because it’s there for life. But theatre is over in an instant and it’s constantly changing.” Henderson says and “we don’t believe in throwing good things away really.”
Tipene says “classical texts are what we are interested in and how we can make them accessible,” with the goal to tell the story for others. Touring lays the foundation for them to “try and make this thing the best it can be and lets [us] address the things that we missed last time and build them up further.”
“For us it’s about connection. Human connection.”
Tipene says theatre holds magic in being “a form of storytelling that can expose these human truths that are maybe kept secret. There’s nothing more powerful than when you’re sitting in the audience and you recognise a similarity between you and a character. That’s maybe something that you cut off from yourself and others and it makes you realise, I’m not alone in that.”
“There’s comfort in that.”
“What we like about classical texts is that you can take a play written in a completely different time, place, culture, by a really old man, in a different language and apply that to modern young New Zealand audiences.”
Tipene and Henderson are presently self funding and applying for grants to make the tour happen. To help support their work here is a link to their boosted campaign. <www.boosted.org.nz>
Tour dates and locations:
The Dark Room
Sat. 20 – Sun. 21 August
Thu. 25 – Fri. 26 August
TECT Theatre (Historic Village)
Tue. 30 – Wed. 31 August
Tiny Theatre (Garnet Station)
Thu. 1 – Sun. 4 September
Tue. 27 September – Sat. 1 October