new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Brunton


Alan, partner in life, partner in theatre 

Alan and I founded Red Mole Enterprises in 1974. Alan’s scripts led performers into a theatrical world of daring and mystery and such great beauty, they would become delirious with excitement and commit everything to the work. Alan made magic even with subjects as unlikely as the history of the New Zealand Labour Party. We first performed his Comrade Savage at the Newtown Community Centre in 1989. The writing was so powerful that even after weeks of rehearsals, the actors still wept every night in many scenes – as Karl Marx danced Joe’s mother to heaven, as we chanted All things we ask for all the people pulling wooden carts with tiny figures, when Harriet said adieu to her comrade Joe, Mr Prime Minister now, in the empty dining-room at Parliament, or at their meeting (entirely invented by Alan, there was no record of this event) years later in the outback at a station, he with flowers pleading, then dying on his hard bed waiting for the light to announce he has won back the caucus . . .  but the lines we spoke at the end of the play, marching with our drums through the swinging doors and into the street, tore us apart. These are lines written by a master:

PHUT    And what did he leave us? Anything at all?

CROWD    He left us a voice.

PHAT / PHUT    The sound of ourselves.

CROWD    For the first time.

PHAT    For the first time we made the sound of ourselves.

CROWD    What can we say? What can we do?

PHUT    Fall! We must fall!

CROWD    Together. Fall together.

PHAT    Fall into step!

CROWD    In step together. Ever and ever.

PHAT    So long.

CROWD    So long. 

PHAT drums. CROWD, disperses. A single light blinks. PHUT and PHAT get close to it. 

PHAT    Think we’ll ever see his like again.

PHUT    Never. There was only one. Then it broke. The vessel             that brought him here.

PHAT    What’s left for us?

PHUT    The light.

PHAT    Oh, kindly light.

PHUT    Lead us.

PHAT    Yes. Lead us, kindly light.


Dearest Alan, you are a brilliant light. We are shaken with grief now. You filled my life with inspiration. You gave our daughter Ruby joy and laughter, and a passion for writing. I loved you. Every moment of our life together, I loved you. Now my heart is broken. But your voice still rings out through the windows and doors of this house, down the street to the Bay, to the island and indigo sea, around The Esplanade and up The Parade and across the valley and over the Makara hills – whoosh! – shouting out to the evening star, to the rising moon and the night sky and the whole universe – the show is about to begin! You enter the immense theatre, the audience is ready to fly, you start as always, strong and urgent: Let me speak I have something to say. And we listen. Breathless. Enchanted. Forever.  


New York City, 1981


Last updated 05 December, 2002