Actor Alone: Solo Performance in New Zealand

Type of content
Theses / Dissertations
Publisher's DOI/URI
Thesis discipline
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
University of Canterbury. Theatre and Film Studies
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Parker, George

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.

solo performance, theatre, New Zealand theatre, Bruce Mason, Mervyn Thompson, Jim Moriarty, John Broughton, The End of the Golden Weather, Coaltown Blues, Michael James Manaia, The Case of Katherine Mansfield, Cathy Downes, A Long Undressing, Michael Parmenter, The Ballad of Jimmy Costello, Tim Balme, Krishnan's Dairy, Jacob Rajan, Ka Shue, Lynda Chanwai-Earle, Hatch or the Plight of the Penguins, Geoff Chapple, Stuart Devenie, Colin McColl, man alone, performance, solo, community hall, marae, Free Theatre, Ella, Herbert Achternbusch, actor alone
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
Copyright George Parker