Having the Chat: Thomas Sainsbury


Talented Thomas Sainsbury, 34, has two productions running in Auckland this month: Dynamotion Presents Mia Blonde in Ice Dagger, and The Opening Night Before Christmas. They draw on two key inspirations: James Bond movies, and amateur theatre in small-town New Zealand.

Tell us about Mia Blonde, which you co-wrote with Laura Liew and is performed by dance troupe Dynamotion?

We love James Bond and the misogyny of it all and we thought it would be great if we turned it around. The genders are reversed so James is female, we’ve got male Bond girls and it’s got a camp vibe. I find it amazing that the women in the ‘60s are more feisty and better represented than they are in the ‘70s.


Who’s your favourite Bond?

Sean Connery is just so charming and attractive but I really liked Roger Moore as well. People say the movies are camp and ridiculous but they are moments when you are tense, and they are good at suspense.

Why was Mia Blonde such a big hit when it was first performed at The Basement Theatre in August?

It’s the best dance show Laura and I have done. We’ve set in the ‘60s with lots of great music from that time. I think we have got the formula right, just like the movie Goldfinger. It’s infectiously fun and it’s an hour long so you can be inspired to go dancing at Family afterwards to try out all the dance moves you’ve just seen.

What’s The Opening Night Before Christmas like?

This was inspired by small towns that have amateur dramatic societies ripe with amazing characters. There’s so much passion and high stakes involved in putting on the am-dram (amateur dramatics) annual Christmas show. We took that world and set it in Levin. We have four actors, and there’s a different celebrity guest every night (including Jaquie Brown, Harry Naughton and Amanda Billing) who doesn’t know anything about the show. They walk in halfway through and have to keep up. There’s improvising, and the joy comes from watching them think on their feet, panic a bit and struggle, but hopefully rise to the challenge.

You’ve co-written hit TV comedy series Super City with Madeleine Sami. What drives you to produce such award-winning work?

Working with Madeleine was a dream come true. I think we are a perfect combination. She just loves entertaining people, and being the centre of attention as a performer, and I just love being performed to by funny people. I read humour into things which other people don’t. I like making fun of people who deserve to made fun of. I just like observing everyday people and it is usually people of high status and their behaviour, and the more arrogant the better.

Tell us your coming out story.

Theatre in Matamata was such an outlet for my flamboyance and my personality. It was where I could hang out with gay-friendly people. I didn’t come out until I had left there though. I got into a relationship with a man so I didn’t have to make a statement to anyone. If I had to say something, I did it really quickly and then moved on. I just wanted to get it over and done with and not revel in it. My parents still live in Matamata but come to about half of my productions. The current ones are quite tame but most have really been pushing the boundaries and they have always been very receptive.

How did you become a playwright?

When I started getting into the world of theatre about 15 years ago, I found the actors were serious people who took the job very seriously. I didn’t, so I thought that maybe acting wasn’t for me and I started writing plays. I did that for five years and then a friend asked me to act in a play with her and I found there are other ways of being a performer – that you can be clownish.

Dynamation Presents Mia Blonde in Ice Dagger is at the Q Theatre Loft, Auckland, 13 to 17 December.

The Opening Night Before Christmas is at the Basement Theatre, Auckland, from 6 to 22 December.