This is one of the books re-released as VUP classics.
Like most readers, at least most of my vintage, this is a very familiar work. I have read it, seen it many times, but I had never read the interview which forms the preface to this edition.
It’s absolutely fascinating, and threw up all kinds of reminders. I saw the NZ Players, when they were doing school tours in the early 1960s. I remember the name Bute Hewes as a producer of television. But what stands out from this interview text is the amazing ability of Bruce Mason, not only as a writer but as a performer. More than 500 solo performances of this work is a staggering achievement. Add to that no props at all, and you can only be stunned at the determination and the audacity (Mason says that Emlyn Williams, when asked for advice, appeared stupefied at Mason’s audacity in thinking he could pull this off at all!) that drove Mason. He wanted us to see this work, and if no-one else would perform it (which sadly was the case) then he must needs do it himself. 40 characters, one actor.
Thank heaven, is all I can say to that.
There’s a reported conversation between Mason and a theatre-goer ( a reluctant one!) who enjoyed the show despite himself, and mentions a red light. Mason says there was no red light. I empathise with the theatregoer, as when I saw the Goons movie, I could swear Harry Secombe was wearing a ‘flowered cretonne frock’ in his bit about the queen. Of course he wasn’t; it was radio, after all, translated to the stage. But that’s the power of theatre, and of the actor.
So, reading the whole ‘voyage into childhood’ that makes up this work is an absolute delight. I am over and over again in awe of Mason’s creative and linguistic abilities.
The end of the golden weather, the end of childhood innocence and the kicking-in of the harsh realities of life are timeless.
If you never have seen or read this ( and there will be many readers who have not) do yourself a favour. Buy, borrow, beg or steal it and immerse yourself in a true and magnificent New Zealand classic.
Reviewed by Sue Esterman
End of the Golden Weather
by Bruce Mason
Published by VUP