Oamaru-born dancer, choreographer, and playwright Jan Bolwell is bringing another of her family-inspired performances to town.
She chose Oamaru as the place to premiere her one-woman show Here’s Hilda during the 2005 Victorian Heritage Celebrations. It depicted her grandmother, Hilda Blair Gardiner MBE (1896-1991) – a redoubtable character who was heavily involved in North Otago matters and remembered by about three-quarters of the Oamaru audience.
On September 26, Bolwell will present Bill Massey’s Tourists. As her adolescent self, she asks her grandfather to tell her about his experiences in World War 1, including the battle at Passchendaele.
Reviewers have acknowledged the sometimes painful content, but also how illuminating, memorable, humorous and enjoyable the play is. Bolwell sings and dances as well as acts solo.
“A terrific script. A great performance. A tale well told. Knocked me for six,” veteran actor and director Raymond Hawthorne said.
Bolwell has built up an impressive reputation for her work, which has toured throughout New Zealand. Bill Massey’s Tourists is her fifth play and the third in the family trilogy that began with Standing on my Hands, based on her father’s World War 2 service. Here’s Hildawas the second.
She has also written Dancing in the Wake about Irish dancer Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James Joyce and rejected lover of Samuel Beckett, and Double Portrait about Dunedin-born painter Frances Hodgkins.
In 2012 Bolwell was inducted on to the University of Otago School of Physical Eduction’s Wall of Fame. She directs and choreographs works for Wellington’s Crows Feet Dance Collective. In 2015 she was awarded a residency at Dunedin’s Robert Lord Writer’s College.
She is now penning a play that will open at Bats Theatre in Wellington in December, Taking the High Ground. It centres on the first woman to climb Aoraki Mt Cook, Freda du Faur, and the first woman to climb Mt Everest solo without oxygen, Lydia Bradley.
Bill Massey’s Tourists is at the Oamaru Opera House InkBox Theatre on Tuesday, September 26 at 7.30pm. Tickets, $25 plus booking fees, are available online at www.oamaruoperahouse.co.nz or Ticketdirect.