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Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
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End of the Golden Weather links past and present

Bruce Mason's The End of the Golden Weather bridges the gap between the past and present just as he is able to link memories of the present back to our childhood.

John Daly-Peoples
Sun, 04 Sep 2011

The End of the Golden Weather by Bruce Mason
Directed by Murray Lynch
Auckland Theatre Company
Maidment Theatre
Until September 24

Sometimes the past can seem like another country while at other times it is as real and relevant as the present. Bruce Mason’s The End of the Golden Weather manages to bridge that gap between the past and present just as he is able to link memories of the present back to our childhood.

Set in the fictional Auckland suburb of Te Parenga during the 1930s, Mason's tale centres on the evolving relationship between 12-year-old Geoff and the odd young man Firpo.

Geoff is the Everyman child, part dreamer and part observer. Through his eyes we encounter the story of the children and families of suburban New Zealand where the outside world is changing. It's a world of possibilities but also a world that is full of secrets and control. The play reveals the way in which lives can be transformed by events and individual encounters.

Firpo, recently released form a mental institution, is training to be an Olympic medalist. He is shunned by the local community but Geoff tries to help him achieve his dream -- but both he and Firpo ultimately have to face reality.

The play is adapted for an ensemble cast from the original monologue that Bruce Mason created in the 1950s. The adaptation is both the play's strength and weakness.

Having nine actors telling the story with half a dozen taking on the role of Geoff in some of the episodes provides the play with great breadth, as though each of the actors is sharing in the personality and psychology of the young boy and equally they bring a slightly different interpretation of him.

This leads to the problem that we can identify with some of the characterisations more than others. Nic Sampson, whom we first encounter as Geoff, lodges in the mind as the young boy so that when another actor picks up the story they seem to lack his innocence and empathy.

The character of Firpo on the other hand seems to have a dual personality: the edgy dislocated character well presented by Matariki Whatarau while the energetic focused athlete side is brilliantly conveyed by Tim Carlsen.

This creates ambivalence around the character, between the universality of the coming of age story shared by a range of characters and the emotional power of the very personal remembrance and reflection.

Set against the background of the Depression, the Queen St riots and the coming war in Europe, the play is not only a tale about growing up. There is the parallel story about New Zealand’s coming of age as country, having to confront social and political issues wider than the local.

Each of the cast members display passages of brilliance in their handling of Mason's powerful language. The actors articulate the emotional truth of an episode, convey the descriptions of landscape or capture the poetry of a fleeting moment.

They create a magical world of characters; family, friends and local notables, who flesh out Mason’s monologue and give it a new life. There are, however, a couple in the cast who overact, turning their characters into caricatures and the magic evaporates.
Despite these occasional lapses of acting and direction the cast display an energy and enthusiasm that has the play bristling with comic and tragic moments.

John Daly-Peoples
Sun, 04 Sep 2011
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End of the Golden Weather links past and present