An old colleague, John Anderson, was buried in Kiribati on Saturday, on the island where he had lived with his Kiribati partner, for the last two decades, an island which is one of the symbols of sea level rise, the inhabitants of which are preparing for relocation. John worked in the community video unit. I caught a glimpse of him in a documentary about the Kiribati presentation at the Copenhagan Climate Talks.
He arrived in Wellington in the early seventies, from the Hawkes Bay perhaps? He was a primary school teacher, and already had a family. He joined Amamus for ’51, our play about the Watersiders Lockout. He was a young man with a lot of energy, a need for expression – something like that. He could play the ordinary Kiwi bloke very well. He and his wife Gael, came to Poland when we took the play to the festival in Wroclaw; a life changing event.
He joined television after that, but we kept working together on plays. He was a brilliant Caliban in The Tempest, a very good Doctor in A Doll’s House. In the UK or the States he could have earned a living as a character actor.
He came to Samoa as Assistant Director on Sons for the Return Home and began a strong relationship with the Pacific. Experiencing village life, experiencing community, had a big impact on us settler lads who were brought up in the last days of modernism. We needed to translate that to Aotearoa, finally comprehend the tiriti and biculturalism. John joined us for the last time for Te Tutakitanga I Te Puna, as the missionary, Thomas Kendall. The play toured marae, another life changing experience.
Thereafter he did his own community video projects with his partner, Alison. He made a fine doco about the Polish children war refugees in New Zealand – in Wroclaw we had been invited to dinner by one of them who had returned to Poland. And then he headed back to the Pacific.
I recently watched Landfall on NZOnScreen, not having seen it for many years. It was my attempt at an Ingmar Bergman type film; exploring the deeper social and spiritual patterns and tensions of a society. It was a bit laboured, a bit pretentious, but did dig beneath the surface of settler culture, examining the needs and desires of the fraught individual. It revealed each of the four actors with some clarity. John was one of the quartet, playing a man with too much energy.
Rest In Peace, Brother. Thank you. Relax and watch the waves roll in.
Jonathan Dennis and John Anderson in Gallipoli