MAGS Year 13 Drama students performed Comrade Savage, a play by Alan Brunton on Wednesday and Thursday this week – 6 & 7th April. This well loved but little known New Zealand play brings one-time Kiwi Prime minister, Michael Joseph Savage to life (and death). Mickie Savage’s Labour government swept into power in 1935 and is best known for its landmark social welfare reforms. Savage was idolised by many New Zealanders. His photograph continued to hang on sitting room walls for many years after his death in 1940.
If you wonder what a group of today’s teenagers might make of a political play set in the Depression, don’t worry. They loved it - many seeing parallels with what is happening in the world today.
Here are some spontaneous thoughts gathered from the student cast about the experience:
“It was thought provoking, and insightful into early NZ politics.”
“It was pretty stressful because of all the other commitments we had at the same time -
Polyfest, internal assessments etc and some of us also have outside performances.”
“As there were so many props we had to learn how to get really organised back stage.”
From Elliot Paton-Simpson (one of two Savages) - “It was interesting to talk to my grandfather, who was born not long before Joe Savage died and while he was in power. I got to hear how Michael Savage was exalted as one of the greatest New Zealanders of all time. He was a defender of the working class and he believed in ‘social security’. Back in the Depression people could become destitute at any time. With national Social Security people knew they wouldn’t lose everything if they had an accident. They knew they were protected by the state. Savage’s Labour government implemented the welfare state - introducing unemployment benefits, free medical care and free education. These social protections are still around today. It was also really interesting to hear the controversy around the fact that the same men who had been conscientious objectors in WW1, helped to introduce enforced conscription in WWII.”
REVIEW - Marian Moore, English dept
It was a real pleasure to see New Zealand history come to life in the Year 13 drama production, Comrade Savage. I remember Michael Joseph Savage’s photo hanging on the wall in my Grandfather’s shed, overlooking his home brew.
I grew up knowing what a difference his Labour Government had made to the lives of working people. I really enjoyed seeing a little of the darker side of Savage. It was a timely reminder that great people are also flawed, but this can never diminish their achievements. I hope that by our students exploring our history, it will help us to avoid the mistakes of history repeating itself.
I look forward to more drama productions and really appreciate all the hard work and talent that goes into making such a memorable evening.