FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Parry, Lorae (1955– ), feminist playwright, was born in Sydney and moved to Auckland for her last school year in 1972. After training at the New Zealand Drama School and working at Downstage Theatre, from 1979 she worked in Britain with other New Zealanders in the ‘Heartache and Sorrow Company’, writing and performing in London and at the Edinburgh Festival. She co-wrote Strip with Lynne Brandon and Celia West, and rewrote it on return to New Zealand, playing the lead in its run at Wellington’s Circa Theatre (1983), prior to its performance by several New Zealand professional companies. Frontwomen (pub. 1993) enjoyed sellout seasons at the Depot, Wellington, in 1988, and Maidment Theatre, Auckland, in 1989. It examines a rare theme in New Zealand drama, ‘the love that exists between women who lead ordinary and sometimes extraordinary lives’.
As playwright, actor and director Parry has been committed to empowering women in theatre and demonstrating through drama the importance of women’s lives. Cracks, ‘a rough edged contemporary fairy tale’, published 1994 and performed that year at Taki Rua, Wellington, is set in Sydney and examines the effects on character of class and roots. Eugenia (Taki Rua 1996, pub. 1996) explores the nature of sexuality and gender, while challenging the encircling social mores. Contrasting public and private lives, past and present, and drawing richness from comedy and tragedy, it is Parry’s most significant achievement.
Since 1988 she has been involved in ‘Hen’s Teeth’, a women’s comedy collective, known especially for the satirical ‘Digger and Nudger’ sketches, and was instrumental in founding the Women’s Play Press which has published Frontwomen, Cracks, Love Knots by Vivienne Plumb, Ophelia Thinks Harder by Jean Betts and The Case of Katherine Mansfield by Cathy Downes. Parry held the Victoria University writing fellowship in 1998. GB
She leads a mutiny, steals the Captain’s clothes and whips his naked posterior, but when Charlotte encounters a troupe of actors during the Waikato land Wars, the drama really begins. Vagabonds (2002) is an exuberant exploration of aspects of New Zealand’s historical past. Lorae Parry takes three real people — Charlotte Badger, an escaped convict with a colourful past who was New Zealand’s first recorded Pakeha woman, and Mrs Foley and Mrs Swan — and imagines a series of increasingly outrageous incidents set against the backdrop of the Waikato Land Wars.