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Homelessness and racism drama heads to Wellington Fringe Festival

Homelessness and racism drama heads to Wellington Fringe Festival

March 21, 2018 Posted in Uncategorised by Auckland City Mission

Story by published by Corazon Miller, NZ Herald, 15th March 2018

Homelessness and racism drama heads to Wellington Fringe Festival

15 Mar, 2018 10:34am
 Actor Joeli Thacker and play co-director Bronwyn Bent. Photo / Corazon Miller

Actor Joeli Thacker and play co-director Bronwyn Bent. Photo / Corazon Miller

A van load of Auckland actors are taking a play about racism and homelessness to the capital – with many, if not all of them drawing on personal experience as they take to the stage.

The Race is a theatrical piece that explores the two themes through the lens of a te reo class where the students discuss what it’s like to be the subject of racism on the streets.

The actors who play the part of the students are members of the Hobson Street Theatre Company, which is based at the Auckland City Mission.

Actors in the Hobson Street Theatre Company's play, The Race: Rāwiri Sears-Ngatai, left, and Kelly Tuini. Photo / Paul Lambert
Actors in the Hobson Street Theatre Company’s play, The Race: Rāwiri Sears-Ngatai, left, and Kelly Tuini. Photo / Paul Lambert

After a successful 4-show season at the Auckland Fringe Festival the company is taking the play and its actors on a road trip to Wellington this weekend – for the first time since its founding in 2010

It’s also actor JoelI Thacker’s first time on stage.

He’d experienced homelessness almost 20 years ago in 1999 and lived on the streets of Auckland for just under a year.

“That was enough for me to sort of open my eyes up to some of the different things I guess.”

More recently he decided to try his hand at something new and left his career as a chef. As he looks for his next career option he is giving acting a try and last year joined the Hobson Street Theatre Company.

It’s an experience he has both enjoyed and found challenging in his role as a “closet racist”.

“It’s not an easy part to play, playing a racist person is not really that likeable, but I think we needed somebody that was the opposite of what the other characters were to a large degree.”

Thacker hoped the play would help people feel more able to talk about the subject of racism.

“With the current political climate in certain countries, a lot of people are coming out of the closet and saying what they like without any kind of repercussion.

“I guess the danger is if we allow ourselves to think that’s an acceptable reality things go downhill pretty quickly.”

Co-director Bronwyn Bent said for her the play was a continuation of the original vision behind the theatre company.

“For me, it was to see a different creative voice out there in the world…part of it was recognising there are a whole lot of stories we just never hear.

“Lots of those associated with the City Mission have rich lives and lots of things to say, the motivation was to try and assist with getting those voices amplified.”

She said the idea for The Race came about as all of their shows did, after a collective discussion.

“When talking about [an idea] for the show, we discussed a show about racism. Everybody was talking about it, it was very current for some of the group members.

“People wanted to discuss the subject more and get it out more.”

And so the idea was born, a script soon followed and weeks of practice turned into a show that’s been well received by the public.

Bent said the play dealt with a serious subject in a light-hearted manner.

“There are lots of comedic moments, lots of our actors are naturally very funny, so we wanted to make the most of that.”

She said the comedy also helped share a message without stating the obvious.

“We talked alot about how we can’t just stand on the stage and say racism is bad.

“Things are easier to watch, when dealing with a serious subject, if there is a way into it, and often the way into it is humour.”