Kate McGill on Weave – Yarns with New Zealanders, real life experiences

What gave you the original idea for Weave?

I’ve always been interested in this idea of identity – collective and individual. Dad is a social historian and has written many, many books. There was one, in particular, that he wrote back in the 80s that made me start pondering the idea of the New Zealand character. It’s been a long process, but this is the kernel of the idea.

How you find the people you interviewed?

Was a mix of asking people for connections and then approaching different businesses and career pathways to get a range of people.

Did they know that they might be part of a show?

Yes, it was a very clear contract, they had an ethics form and information sheet to read beforehand. Plus, I’m setting up a camera and/or voice recording. I sent through transcripts for them to approve with all the ums and ahs, self-interruptions and without any of my interjections. It was this part, I think that was confronting for a lot of people. I suspect the might’ve worried that they aren’t / I’m not showing the full breadth of their intelligence. But – Everyone does it. Everyone. Even the most accomplished person says like, um, and makes funny noises.

Have any of them seen it so far, or you expect to come along?

There’s one person who’s seen a bit of her interview, and she is definitely coming along. And there’s a few others coming along. It’s exciting but also terrifying.

How do you think they might react?

That’s really hard to say – it’s verbatim text, but in theatre things are magnified, sometimes because we have had to to make their voice clearer and/or differentiate from other characters. So, I try and prepare them for the fact they may see some of their mannerisms on stage, or a heightened version of it. Or the voice used may be slightly more nasal than how they naturally are, etc.

I think I’m most sensitive to making sure that the context is clear. I want them to feel like their thoughts have been communicated clearly.

How would you react if you were incorporated into a show?

Depends what the show was. But I think it’s confronting. I think I’d probably be nervous, but also want people to like my character!

How long did the show take to develop?

I started working on it four years ago, but it really ramped up at the end of last year. Our working script has changed A LOT.

What is Alice Canton like as a director?

Generous, inquisitive, smart, funny, challenging, passionate. I’m so very glad she is part of this wonderful team. She’s a born story teller, and though her body of work is very different, in many ways, from WEAVE, I think we share a similar ethos and questions around theatre. It’s been an absolute delight working with her.

Any favourite moments to share from the development of the show?

Every single person I sat down with enlightened me in some way. I came away from every single one thinking – this is it! This could be the show, their entire interview – and then transcribing each one and finding more gems. It was a real pleasure to learn a bit about each person and how they view their world.

Also, last week Alice and I were having a re-scripting session with our dramaturg Anya Tate Manning, and at about midnight, after dinner Admiral Ackbar turned up to give some notes.

Weave is on 4-15 April.
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