Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Class Act: Mervyn Thompson, his life & work

Mervyn Thompson grew up on the West Coast of the South Island. He spent his youth in a coal mine, like his father and grandfaterh before him. But he was a different lad to most of his peers - he joined the amateur theatre group in Reefton which introduced him to a whole new world and after working down the mines with his father for several years from the age of 16, he left the West Coast and headed for Christchurch and University. Thompson was a gregarious and sometimes difficult character. People seemed to either love him or hate him. Despite accusations in the eighties of 'rape' and lecherous behaviour to his English drama students, he was instrumental in bringing NZ stories to the stage, in particular working class stories. He was also the first playwright to acknowledge the story of the Suffrage Movement in NZ with his play, O Temperance. He died of cancer in the early nineties. This film includes an indepth interview with him the year before he died, with excerpts from his final autobiographical play, 'Passing Through'. Thompson remains a controversial figure in NZ's theatrical and artistic history, but also an important figure in creating a voice for working class stories and authentic NZ stories to reach local theatres across New Zealand.

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