Otago Stage Challenge Winners
The theme focussed on the exploitation of animals and was powerfully conveyed through polished choreography, effective music and impressive costuming and stage design. Congratulations to Stephanie Devereux, Naomi Ashby-Ryan, Allegra Stenhouse and Sophie Mears who created and directed the original piece. And a huge thanks to Ms Ashby for supporting and overseeing the whole production. Many other students collaborated and co-operated to create the award-winning performance. We are proud of the whole team.
Naomi outlines the creative process and inspirations below:
We developed our Stage Challenge theme "Animal Attic” over the Summer holidays, as we were interested in exploring the threat of extinction for both human and animal life.
The local Otago Museum setting had links to this issue through Animal Attic; the exhibit of Victorian collectors and biologists. We started our production meetings at the end of last year so have spent the last 6 months developing and rehearsing our performance. Our choreography and setting explores the relationship between humans and animals, over the centuries till now in terms of exploitation and scientific research.
In our performance we feature an explorer, a colonial figure accompanied by his pet monkey, who represents Victorian era scientists and collectors, who were obsessed with hunting and preserving animal species for their scientific research. In his imagination, our colonial character travels from the Animal Attic section in the Museum of Otago, to witness the skinning of a baby fox for its fur, he is then transported to the African Savannah where our pride of lions are fighting for their survival against the trophy hunters. This scene was influenced by the recent shooting of the black maned lion Cecil by a trophy hunter, which caused outrage amongst the global community. Lastly he arrives in a native New Zealand forest where both North and South Island Kokako are battling against deforestation and the impact of colonisation on the environment. Our pet monkey makes an emotional plea to his owner to end the exploitation and lay down his gun.
In our own local environment; the South Island, the possible rediscovery of the South Island Kokako, that was thought to be long extinct, has inspired us to look into the impact that humans have on animal species and their supporting ecosytems. It is exciting to note that while we were rehearsing our dances the yellow wattled South Island Kokako has recently been heard and recorded in the Marlborough sounds, Fiordland, and the Catlins, it was heartening to hear that a species once thought to have disappeared forever, could come back from extinction so that the haunting call of the "Grey Ghost", which we have included in our soundtrack, could once again be heard in the forests of the South Island.
We hope that our performance opens the hearts of the audience to the significance of all native New Zealand birds and animals. These special creatures that cannot be found anywhere else in the world are a taonga which we should all cherish for the future generations.