A play about one of Britain’s most remarkable families has taken the scenic route back to where it was created.
Winston’s Birthday, having a three-show run at the Oamaru Repertory Society theatre this weekend, was written by former Waitaki Boys’ High School rector Paul Baker. It premiered at Wellington’s Circa Theatre in 2011 with the title Meet the Churchills, shortly before Dr Baker announced he had Parkinson’s disease and would retire from his day job at the end of the school year.
Having since been performed in Britain and the United States, the play was staged by the South Canterbury Drama League at the Timaru Playhouse in May. The season was successful, league repertory section secretary Jon Harris told the Oamaru Mail this week.
One person liked it so much he went to see the play three times. That person was Bruce Albiston, North Otago arts patron, Burnside Homestead owner, and close friend of Dr Baker.
Mr Albiston invited the league to bring its production to Oamaru – a venture he has underwritten.
“I’m hoping we will make him some money,” Mr Harris said.
Mr Albiston has also made an GOamaru house available to the league’s troupe, and has loaned it historic furniture from Burnside to be used on stage.
Mr Harris, the play’s production manager, said “a great team of people” had reconfigured the Timaru set to fit the Oamaru stage, and the lighting technician had adapted the local equipment to achieve some special effects.
“It’s quite exciting. It’s fun,” Mr Harris said of the touring production.
Director Gail Tatham has had to recruit one new cast member, due to the unavailability of the person who played Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine, in May. Gail Bracefield now takes that part.
The title role is portrayed by league stalwart Kevin Foley. His children Randolph and Sarah are played by Greg Davis and Susan Gilchrist respectively.
Dave Mortimer is the only completely fictional character, social historian Dr Stephen Jenkins, who sets the action in its early-1960s context as the former prime minister turns 88.
Reviews of Winston’s Birthdayhave likened its witty lines to those written by Oscar Wilde, as the Churchills snipe at each other and society.
Winston’s Birthday, Oamaru Repertory Society theatre, Itchen St, tonight, 7.30pm; tomorrow 4pm; Sunday, 2.30pm.G