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By Jarrod• 22 Oct 2015
BATS Theatre’s annual STAB programme has produced some of the most exciting and visceral theatre works I can ever remember seeing. It’s an unmissable part of Wellington’s arts calendar - a yearly commission which empowers theatre-makers to experiment and innovate, and most importantly gives them the funding to do so.
Each year’s STAB production has a lot to live up to - past plays have included last year’s multimedia-heavy surveillance thriller, WATCH, and 2008’s astonishing interactive work, Apollo 13: Mission Control, among others - so it’s always fascinating to see how a new STAB commission will step it up a notch.
This year’s work, Dead Men’s Wars, does so by taking STAB trans-Tasman for the first time. Members of Australia’s Canberra Youth Theatre and our own Long Cloud Youth Theatre have been collaborating for 12 months to bring this play together, directed by Long Cloud’s artistic director, Brett Adam. Working from a script by Wellington playwright Ralph McCubbin-Howell (the writer behind several other stunning works of theatre, including The Bookbinder and The Road That Wasn’t There), this show aims to give a new perspective on the ANZAC relationship.
Given that we’re currently in the midst of the First World War centenary, this couldn’t be more timely - and it represents voices not often heard in this discussion. This war is often talked about as shaping New Zealand’s cultural identity, but 100 years later, what does it mean to today’s youth?
“Young people of both countries lack personal connection to the events of WWI as the Gallipoli experience slowly retreats into memory,” says Mr Adam, “but they have the ability to question more and accept things at face value less. This is at the heart of Ralph’s play.”
Members of Long Cloud Youth Theatre recently went to Canberra for the show’s Australian premiere, and now they’ll be returning, along with members of Canberra Youth Theatre, for the New Zealand premiere. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what magic this year’s STAB piece has in store for us.