Stage play based on Frame novel

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Janet Frame’s novel Owls Do Cry is being adapted into a stage play to premiere in the Oamaru Opera House in October.

Renowned as one of this country’s finest writers, Frame grew up in Oamaru. Owls Do Cry is regarded as perhaps the first great New Zealand novel.

It centres on the Withers siblings – Daphne, Chicks, Toby, and Francie – who are trying to cope with a family tragedy in a small town loosely based on Oamaru.

The stage production is being created by the Auckland-based Red Leap Theatre. Its director is Julie Nolan, choreographer Malia Johnson, designer Penny Fitt, and dramaturgist Heather Timms.

The cast comprises Ross McCormack, Margaret Mary Hollins, Ella Becroft, Hannah Lynch, Comfrey Sanders and Arlo Gibson.

“Bringing the characters, imagery and poetry alive through Red Leap’s trademark physical and visual style, Owls Do Cryreveals Frame’s insight into our society and communities,” the company said.

“We are devising through a personal connection and identification with her language, making this extraordinary piece of literature relevant for all New Zealanders.”

Holding the premiere in Frame’s home town was “incredibly important to us”, the Red Leap team said.

“We will spend our last week of rehearsal in Oamaru, allowing our cast and creative team the opportunity to finish creating the show in the historic Oamaru Opera House.

“The opportunity to finish shaping the show in the landscape of the novel will contribute powerfully to the tone of the performance.

“We will then have our premiere season there as part of the second biennial Waitaki Arts Festival. Following this we will have a season in Auckland at Q Theatre.”

The Oamaru season runs for just two days – October 4 and 5. The Auckland season is October 17 to November 2.

Red Leap is raising funds online through Boosted to help with the Oamaru leg of the venture. It is aiming for $7000 to pay for transporting the cast and crew to Oamaru, the final week of rehearsals, hiring the Opera House, and accommodation.

Many Oamaru arts aficionados have already made donations.