A play about the land? It’s a tricky subject. Whenua and Gaia of course, but land is mainly about money and subdivision: DP4/ Lot 78, rates, fences, mortgages, interest, investment, capital, farms, suburbs, factories, roads, warehouses – even google needs land. And then there’s colonisation and the planting of the flag. Most wars are fought over land.
Land’s at the heart of the financial system.
Would it be wiser to treat it scientifically, as a matter of chemistry and geology – planet earth and the accident of life-giving water. All those geological eras: millions of years of plates grinding, heat, pressure, upthrust, erosion, rivers and glaciers…
How do you make a play about all this?
The original impulse was to tackle dairy farming, but that immediately involved the land: factory production, may as well have the cows in barns except for the clean green image; the Chinese start coming into it, water bottlers as well, mining of course, climate change, too much nitrogen, tangatawhenua and tiriti issues…
And then there are the national parks and the conservation estate. Lock it up and drop poison on predators, let the tourists tramp or bike through taking their photos; be careful about the number of helicopter concessions, freedom campers, adventure tourism… another commodity.
Trying to do a play about the land takes one to the heart of alienation. We’ve detoured to look at Hamlet and Waiting for Godot. And seriously considered Gaza as a location – there’s a land imposed upon. Prisons need land. Mental hospitals as well in the past, but now chemicals do the job of restraining…
The slow plod of the cow off to milking, the farm worker on the quad bike – could be a Filipino (or a Palestinian). And then the latest threat, Mycoplasma virus. Impossible to stop the cows moving around. They move around a lot it seems. Like bees. Nothing’s still. My grandparents had thirty cows which provided a living. It was a time when people stayed still, unless the Great Depression forced you to swag along the back roads in search of tucker.
It’s perhaps ridiculous doing a play about the land? We should do a musical instead, Grease or something with young girls dancing, that drags in the punters. Or cowboys thundering across the prairie.
That first Maori play, Rowley Habib’s Death of the Land. I played the Pakeha judge a couple of times. The awa, the maunga. Identity. DP4 Lot 78. Two worlds.
Now you have to have the soil tested before you build. It usually involves scraping out a metre or so, filling the hole with gravel and compacting it, before the concrete is poured.
When I first went to Europe I was instantly aware of the sheer weight of concrete that has been poured on the land.
Somewhere in here, Grotowski is lurking. Tell the truth: a true gesture, a true sound. Take off the mask.
Anyway, something will hopefully come of it. And the task is the work of performance rather than the performance itself; to grow the whenua rather than bury it.