New Zealand is a young country struggling to find a national identity independent of its British roots and pervasive Americanism. We have thrown off the shackles of our colonial past and are at last finding our own way. But in a country so isolated with a population of only 3.5 million, it's hard not to have to rely on others.
The country is beautiful and uncluttered, offering tropical paradise in the north and alpine splendour in the south. We are a predominantly pleasant, cool people with a rich mixed culture richened by the merging of the best of western civilisation and the beauty of Polynesian. We are also a strong, wilful people borne of a hearty farming heritage which means we don't give up easily. And we have more than a fair share of sporting heroes for our size (as the world will once again soon be reminded!) But while the common perception of New Zealand is agricultural, most of the population actually live in the city. Auckland is a sprawling metropolis the size of London with 1.3 million people. And here lies the inspiration for Bare.
New Zealanders are very world aware - perhaps a reaction to our geographic isolation... but the world is gradually finding out who we are too and seems to be impressed. Who we will eventually become is still a mystery... but the journey is exciting.
Bare was written over six months while its author, Toa Fraser, worked in a cinema. He quit this job two days after the show premiered in Auckland to take up writing full-time. Together with director Michael Quy and actors Ian Hughes and Madeleine Sami, over three hours of material was honed down to just 80 minutes over three weeks of rehearsals. In the rush to opening night none of us were quite sure if it was all there, but our doubts were soon quashed as the critics raved and the crowds flocked in.
Bare then took off with a tour to our capital city, Wellington and then to Christchurch, the main city of the South Island. Our Arts Council, Creative New Zealand, was quick to see the work's potential and gave us the financial support we needed to get the tour off to a flying start. They have since sponsored this trip to the greatest arts festival of them all.
The play itself is a series of interlinked portraits. Two actors present about 16 very different characters in monologue form. A loose narrative builds, almost like a whodunit, as the characters appear in their individuality telling their own stories, and then reappear in someone else's. The interweaving stories tell a story of their own eventually painting a vivid, vibrant picture of a modern New Zealand society.
It's cleverly told with a twist of humour and dash of spice, but one thing's for sure... you'll never look at Kiwis the same way again!