Preview: The Prodigal Son’s Story

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Ahead of it’s world premier, Sam Orchard sat down with ‘Trees Beneath The Lake’ award-winning writer, Arthur Meek. 

Trees tells the story of William Campbell, a former golden boy, returning to the Central Otago for his last chance to make it big.

Trees’ central protagonist was inspired by Meek’s travel abroad, and recent return to New Zealand. Meek recently spent time in New York after receiving the prestigious Bruce Mason Playwriting Award. In Meek’s own words William was inspired “by the way we go gaga over people who come back to NZ…We tend to trust these people, and vote for them, or give them money to start their own restaurants and put them in charge of companies or whatever. Trees’ seeks to question some of the mythology of those who return to New Zealand.

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Trees’ is set in the small town of Lowburn in Central Otago, using the Clyde Dam as a backdrop to the story. Meek sees Central Otago as a “ a perfect symbol of NZ. It’s got a reputation as this amazingly beautiful place to retire when you’ve sold your start-up, but for the people who were born and bred there, the reality is way more interesting and brutal.” It’s the dismantling of kiwi ideology that Meek seems particularly interested in, in writing Trees.

“The landscape looks great, but it provides you with nothing – no food, no shelter, and when it’s not too hot it’s bloody freezing. You’ve got to be tough to stick it out, and you’ve got to convince yourself that it’s worth it.” Says Meek.

The Clyde Dam itself, being constructed during Muldoon’s ‘Think Big’ schemes in the late 1970s, also holds an important place in New Zealand history. For Meek it seems to offer a counter to big city, big business, big government that Auckland and Wellington, and beyond represent. “It provides a great backdrop for what’s going to happen in the play.” He says.

 Article | Sam Orchard

Trees Beneath The Lake will play at The Maidment Theatre from Saturday 6 – Saturday 27 September. Tickets from www.atc.co.nz or call 09 309 3395. 

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