new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Brunton

publications & biography

THE DOMINION     4 JUL 2002,   Page 17.

Master of magical theatre encounters

The unique theatrical voice of Alan Brunton was stilled last week. Timothy O'Brien gives his appreciation of Brunton's artistic legacy.

Alan Brunton was the possessor of a unique voice whom the arts in which he excelled will sorely miss.

Yet the sad fact is that, till his untimely death at the age of 55 in Amsterdam last week, his contribution as poet, publisher, director and actor had been overlooked in New Zealand recently.

Where 20 years ago the theatre group Red Mole had been almost a household name, playing widely throughout the country, latterly mere handfuls made it to The Space in Newtown for their last show Grooves of Glory.

Yet when I made that journey myself, it was to rediscover of a group whose signature was still unmistakable but whose art had become more deep and humane, more exhilarating in its economic theatricality, than one remembered. In the writing and performance of that piece, one could see what set Brunton apart.

Those were an unfashionable commitment to a high style, to words which intoxicated, to allusion and intelligence. There was no element of the desiccated and ironically detached observation of trivialities which often passes for profundity.

Brunton's scripts brought the whole dictionary into play because the work was about big things that mattered love, the universe, everything.

The show proved that, if public neglect had been a high price to pay for an uncompromising commitment to artistic vision, the prolific Brunton had not wasted his time failing to create.

Along with Sally Rodwell, his partner a weak and corporate word to describe such a conspiracy of minds and bodies he had continued to express the Mole's radical theatrical vision in the practice of community theatre.

But their idea of that was far from the worthy dullness that the name conjures all who took part, whatever their talent, became part of a magical encounter with theatre and ideas. It's this continuing engagement with new players that will ensure Red Mole's ideas and Brunton's visionary approach to poetry and theatre remain at large.

Brunton's death came after he and Rodwell had performed Grooves to acclaim at a theatrical festival in Norway. Here are the last words of that show.

I leave to you my previously unreleased catalogue, the A and O
of my substance, my cowboy songs, the postcards
I never sent from the Hell I lived in without you,
little dancer da da da,
I leave to you these things, this
and this, this everything,
little dancer, as you go as you go
I return the bird you gave to me
little dancer,
I return the bowl with its few drops of the Great Juice I carried along your
Silk Road,
stopping at each fountain of mineral water for a miracle
I leave for you,
where I listened to the conversations at tables
in cafes when citizens regulated the Public Interest
and all their decisions I leave
to you little dancer, there you go there you go
the nomadic nights I searched for
`the herb Lunatica' I leave to you
little dancer
because that's how much I enjoyed your company
Life goes from A to B that's it
that's the secret . . . little dancer . . .

Last updated 15 September, 2003