Everything is Fine
Since the earthquakes there has arguably been a divide between the eastern and western suburbs of Christchurch, with the East experiencing more widespread damage and destruction than the West, including the frequent return of liquefaction to their streets and properties. Many eastern suburbs have now been red-zoned and schools closed or merged. These experiences have shaped the lives of eastern residents for the last three years, and it is important that we capture this in our archive.
Still from Everything is Fine
Last year five students from Avonside Girls’ High School performed their play, Everything is Fine at the Theatre Federation One Act Play Festival. The play was devised by the students during their drama classes with teachers Annette Thomson and Victoria Shaw. The peice is on the topic of the Christchurch rebuild, with a particular focus on the divide between the East and the West.
With the student’s permission, their teacher, Annette Thomson, has gifted a recording of the play to the CEISMIC archive. Annette kindly sat down to answer some questions about this piece, and how living in the eastern suburbs has shaped her students’ lives.
How do you think your students’ experiences have shaped their performance and their decision to devise their piece around the Christchurch rebuild?
The students were all affected deeply by the earthquake and continue to be by the rebuild. It dominates their lives, from home – either now living out of town due to being red zoned, or still waiting for eqc confirmation – or losing friends by leaving the city. Every day they come to a school that is ‘temporary’. When they devised this piece last year we did not know where the new school would be situated. This has all affected their performance and play. They saw the ‘west’ as being sorted much sooner and like another city when they travelled over there.
Can you tell me a little about the Theatre Federation One Act Play Festival?
The One Act Play Festival is held every year and aims to promote one act plays throughout the country. It is run by the New Zealand Theatre Federation and is open to people of any age. We entered the Festival as a way of getting our plays out into the community but also so we could develop the play further from the classroom – the final pieces had to be over 15mins and so we needed to develop the ideas from the original performances. Feedback was given from the judges and so we could take that and develop ideas further.
The piece was devised around the epic theatre style. Can you tell us a little about the style and what it aims to achieve?
Epic Theatre was developed by Bertolt Brecht and aims to get society to think about issues in a new way. Some of its conventions include actors playing many parts, alienating the audience, not getting emotionally involved so the audience can think about the ideas, narration and song, directly addressing the audience, minimal set and props, stylistic and non-realistic.
Brecht said ‘Theatre is not the Revolution but the Dress Rehearsal for the Revolution’. He wanted audiences to go and think about his plays and he also gave some hope for the future in his plays, so all the pieces devised by the students needed to have some hope at the end – not all doom and gloom. So in ‘Everything is Fine’ ideas about the differences between east and west are presented – and at the end all the students say where they are now living and join together to say we can rebuild the right way – it’s not just a game and we need to look at both sides of the city and value all its parts.
What are your thoughts on the CEISMIC Programme? Why did you decide to contact us about the performance?
I decided to contact CEISMIC as I wanted the girls to see that their piece of theatre wasn’t just for the school – it had a meaning and place outside the community – and the CEISMIC programme fitted with the idea of getting their ideas and message out there. We talked quite a lot about ‘who this piece’ was for, who was the audience – why devise? And so this programme has become their audience – their way of sharing.
CEISMIC would like to thank Annette for her time, Victoria Shaw, and the students for putting together such a stunning piece. It is a fantastic addition to the archive, showcasing not just the experiences of people living in the east of Christchurch, but also the talent, drive, and passion of students from Avonside Girls’ High. We wish them the best of luck for their eventual relocation.
Video stills taken from Everything is Fine. Used with permission.