Hatch, or The Plight of the Penguins

Published: Mon 23 Feb 2009 01:42 PM
Auckland Theatre Company and Circa Theatre
or The Plight of the Penguins
byGeoff Chapple
"A theatrical tour-de-force" - NZ Herald
"Knock-out hit of the festival" - Radio New Zealand

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Geoff Chapple’s rollicking Hatch or The Plight of the Penguins introduces a fascinating character from New Zealand’s rich history – Joseph Hatch. One man, three million penguins and an obsession with oil – one of the most bizarre chapters of New Zealand history is brought to the stage with both humour and pathos. Starring Stuart Devenie (The Daylight Atheist) Hatch or The Plight of the Penguins plays in the Circa Two 3-21 March.
These days penguins are everywhere – selling potato chips, frozen foods, chains of cafés and tourist destinations. The shelves of souvenir shops are stocked up with the descendents of Pongo the Penguin; they are even winning Oscars. In the 19th century the Southern Ocean was densely populated with penguins and intrepid Victorian entrepreneur Joseph Hatch saw the possibilities of harnessing this natural resource to advance employment and industry in Southland.
Yet while other less populous species of native birds were being wiped out; while the kauri forests of Northland were being decimated; while whaling on a huge scale in the Southern Ocean went unchecked; and while ethnic cleansing of Tasmania’s aboriginal population was completed - writers, politicians and scientists from around the world went into uproar over Hatch’s Macquarie Island steaming works.
Hatch felt he didn’t deserve the interference and attacks on his character that his business seemed to attract. When his licence to Macquarie Island was revoked he took himself off on lecture tours throughout New Zealand and Tasmania to clear his name and garner public support for his right to run his business. He was a persuasive public speaker – he’d been Mayor of Invercargill and a Member of Parliament - and his audiences apparently often voted in his favour!
SEE his evidence yourself in the breathtaking images! EXPERIENCE the perils of the Southern Ocean! LEARN the horrors of penguin oil rendering! HEAR the man argue his case!
Hatch or Plight of the Penguins is playwright Geoff Chapple’s first play. Geoff is a journalist and the author of six books of non-fiction, radio drama and he co-wrote the screen play of Vincent Ward’s acclaimed film, The Navigator. Geoff was named New Zealand’s first ‘Social Entrepreneur’ in 2002 for his work on Te Araroa, the proposed New Zealand-long walking trail.
"Joseph Hatch worked on the dark side," says Chapple. "The whole world said no, but Hatch said yes, and I liked that about him In 1920, the Government revoked his oiling license and he faced ruin, but he took to the road with a Magic Lantern show, slandering his enemies and justifying the trade. Many of his original slides still existed and press reports of that time made clear he had a demagogic power over his audiences. I saw an opportunity to re-create an astonishing bit of Kiwi history."
Circa Studio will play host to these vigorous and highly entertaining re-enactments of the Magic Lantern shows given by Hatch, in his attempt to convince the public and the Tasmanian Government to restore his revoked oil rendering license.
Director Colin McColl and Designer Tony Rabbit take the creative helm for this production - embellishing the unique ‘town-meeting’ aesthetic of the space and making full use of dozens of historic photographs.
“Hatch is a fascinating character from New Zealand’s rich history and the story lends itself well to theatrical treatment. This persuasive raconteur often swayed audiences to support him – despite his slaughter of more than three million penguins in the Southern Ocean!” says McColl.
Spend an outlandish evening in the company of this charismatic, wildly cunning and obsessive man.
Hatch or The Plight of the Penguins
With: Stuart Devenie
Writer: Geoff Chapple
Direction: Colin McColl
Designers: Tony Rabbit, Denise Hosty
When: March 3 - 21
Venue: Circa Two
Bookings: Circa Theatre, 801 7992,
Tickets: $18-38

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