Actor Alone: Solo Performance in New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores solo performance in New Zealand. That solo performance has been widely used in New Zealand's relatively brief theatre history is usually ascribed to the economy, manoeuvrability and adaptability of the form - common reasons for the popularity of solo performance elsewhere as well. But this thesis considers solo performance as a kind of theatre that has been suited to New Zealand in a distinctive way. In particular, I argue that solo performance has emerged on the margins of mainstream theatre in New Zealand as a means of actively engaging with a sense of isolation that typifies the post-colonial New Zealand experience. The ability of the solo performance to move between remote rural settlements and urban centres has connected these New Zealand communities in a way that is unusual for theatre in New Zealand. Furthermore, a solo performer speaking directly to an audience about the experience of living in New Zealand allows for an intimate interaction with a traditionally stoic and laconic masculine society. In this thesis, I make a case for three solo performances where it is possible to see, in the representation of a search for what it means to be a New Zealander, a theatrical contribution to nation-building: The End of the Golden Weather (1959), Coaltown Blues (1984) and Michael James Manaia (1991). However, in a subsequent chapter, I look at solo performances in New Zealand that might better be understood within global movements such as feminism and multiculturalism. I argue that this shift has depleted the power that the form once held to comment upon New Zealand identity and to assist in the search for national identity. I conclude the thesis by considering how ongoing theatre practice may be informed by the experience of solo performance in New Zealand.