Timaru writer’s show Kiwi comedy with a twist

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by Alexia Johnston

Catherine-May Smith’s latest work is about to take centre stage in Timaru.

Smith, a Timaru born and bred writer and director, will bring her most recent creation, Variety: a Classic Kiwi Comedy, to life at The Mill Theatre in November.

The show is a juke-box musical, set in Timaru.

“There’s a lot going on in the story, which is a comedy about the politics of Timaru.”

The dinner-theatre performance, which features Molly Callanan, Ben Donaldson, Maree Casey and Andrew Robb in lead roles, has a cast of 12.

Matt Deavoll, who has studied music and sings with Rob Martin Productions, will take on the role of musical director.

Variety follows the story of a local MP who is unliked by her electorate.

“Each character has its own flaws and issues, but all together they manage to create something special, despite their individual problems and differences, which I think is what gives the story heart.” – Catherine May Smith

“My inspiration for this story really came from the style that the Mill Theatre was wanting, a switch up on a Kiwi classic, and things that were happening around me that I wanted to make light of – such as the election, small-town gossip and the theatre,” she said.

“I really wanted to play on the idea of ‘Kiwi comedy’ as that is something that gets thrown around a lot, and what that means, so I’ve taken that and tried to turn it on its head. The characters are a play on different archetypes. Each character has its own flaws and issues, but all together they manage to create something special, despite their individual problems and differences, which I think is what gives the story heart.

“There are times that you back the hero, and times that you back the villain because both are so equally unlikeable and likeable at the same time.”

The work is Smith’s 26th to make it to the stage, no mean feat for the mother of two, Mountainview High School drama teacher and co-owner of the South Canterbury Academy of the Dramatic Arts.

Although busy, Smith has a knack for bringing life to the stage. And, this time is no exception.

“I think it’s just amazing to see your vision come to life artistically because it takes so long to go from the writing process to the stage process, and you are watching these layers going on over time.”

In her earlier theatre years, Smith liked her plays to keep to the script using just her own ideas. Today she was more adaptable as a writer, she said.

“Now it’s like a growing piece of art and especially writing something about Timaru, it’s not just your opinions and experiences. You want people to come and see all different slices of life in [Variety].”

Variety will be performed from November 9-25.