On the Upside Down of the World

Based on Our Māoris, the memoirs of Lady Mary Ann Martin, On the Upside Down of the World is a riveting period drama set during the colonization of the last place on earth. Married to the country’s first Chief Justice, Martin arrives on New Zealand’s shores in 1841 with the goal of civilising the indigenous people of the land.

Devenie’s grasp and delivery of the verbose text and her command of Te Reo - the native language - is impressive and there are aptly placed humourous moments peppered throughout the story

Penned by seasoned playwright Arthur Meek and directed by Colin McColl, this Auckland Theatre Company production is certainly of quality pedigree and it shows. The production is extremely polished and Laurel Devenie is a skilled performer, not only portraying Lady Martin and all the other characters with great conviction, but also transitioning between the roles of storyteller, narrator and performer with ease.

The forest of interlocking ladders which inhabits the stage towers over Devenie but does not dominate her performance or interfere with the narrative. Equally the sound design, which includes live interludes between scenes from an onstage cellist, perfectly complements what happens on stage. The use of props is kept to a minimum so the focus is very much on the story and its characters.

This play is more word-heavy than action-based, so may not be suitable for those who prefer their theatre lighthearted. Still, Devenie’s grasp and delivery of the verbose text and her command of Te Reo - the native language - is impressive and there are aptly placed humourous moments peppered throughout the story which do provide some laughs. The highly descriptive nature of the text also helps paint a visual picture of the space and easily transports the audience to the lush native landscape in which Lady Martin finds herself.

On the Upside Down of the World is a moving and inspiring story of one woman’s life-changing journey during New Zealand’s colonial history. It provides a vivid snapshot of this significant period in time and not just from a colonialist perspective. It also gives enlightening insight into where New Zealand as a nation comes from, shaping who they are today as a people.

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The Blurb

Lady Martin, an intrepid British woman, sails to New Zealand to civilise the natives but instead finds liberation and love as she fights against injustice dealt to Maori at the hands of the English. On the Upside Down of the World is set during the colonisation of the last place on earth. It's the story of an unlikely pioneer who blazes a unique trail through the untamed landscapes of New Zealand's early history when she's forced to foster a young Maori warrior. A profoundly moving, Audience Choice award-winning drama. Must see.

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