Book Review: The Plays of Bruce Mason, a survey by John Smythe

cv_the_plays_of_bruce_masonAvailable at bookshops nationwide.

It would be very easy to dismiss this book on sight as of interest only to ‘theatre types’, but it has a much broader interest than that. This book is a snapshot of a time and place and the growth and change, that resulted in the New Zealand we now know. Seen through the ideas, plays and writings of Bruce Mason, it is a fascinating journey.

The End of the Golden Weather and The Pohutukawa Tree are play titles most New Zealanders who grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s will find familiar. While these two and Awatea were very successful and popular with the public, there was a whole body of work by Mason that has not had wide recognition, for example, Mason wrote four teleplays, none of which saw the light of day until after his death – and one never made it into production.

A gifted individual, Mason wrote with empathy, understanding and compassion, a great deal of humour and a dose of self-depreciation. He captured the essence of the New Zealand experience, he understood the nuances that made his characters come alive on stage. His characters were believable, because he wrote them as he saw them, ordinary people living ordinary lives, struggling within the bounds of a tight-knit society. He made big things out of small, and he gifted to theatre-lovers everywhere a rich body of work, that probably needs to be picked up, dusted down and reinvigorated for the next generation to enjoy.

An engaging read, with well chosen illustrations, this book defies genre and would really appeal to anyone wanting to read about New Zealand life as seen through the eyes of a playwright. Mason’s life is fleshed out by the skilled hands of John Smythe, who gives the reader great insight into the duality of Bruce Mason, the man and the playwright.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The plays of Bruce Mason: A survey
by John Smythe
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 9781776560554

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