Friday, February 26, 2016

Love's Labour's Lost

How to relax after a hard day’s digging? Why, with a Shakespeare comedy, of course.

But wait…what’s this “hard day’s digging”? As part of my employer’s community involvement, we spend one day of the year volunteering. Our team also try to combine this with a team-building effort. Past years have included doing maintenance and cleaning at a kindergarten, and doing environmental work on Matiu/Somes Island.

This year’s activity was to help extend the Makara Peak mountain bike network. The network of tracks, for mountain bikers and for walkers, is entirely built by volunteers, under the supervision of the Department of Conservation. Our task on this day was to excavate a new track along a marked course. This is all done by manual labour – you can’t get diggers and excavators in to what is essentially bush terrain.

We started early, with me picking up a few colleagues along the way, then drove up to Karori, where we stopped at the Marsden Village Café for a bacon butty. We arrived at the end of the sealed road, and were then driven up the track to a place where we were to begin the new part. Almost immediately, there was a rocky outcrop, and the first team was delegated to break up the rock and make it passable. As we progressed further, more teams in groups of three or four were given various tasks. Ours was to cut into the ground to make a level track, at a height previously marked out. Part of this involved digging out rocks and roots of plants that had already been cut down. Pretty tiring work!

At lunchtime we downed tools and headed for a local pub, One Fat Bird, where we’d pre-booked for lunch. We sank a couple of well-earned beers as well. At around three we headed back to the city.

After dropping everyone off, I headed home to prepare the picnic for the evening show. After parking the car we walked up the hill through the graveyard to the Botanical Gardens, to The Dell. This is an area behind the café, where the Summer Shakespeare Trust put on a different play in the open air each year. This year, Love’s Labour’s Lost was the production.

We claimed a space on the grass and set up our picnic, then settled in to watch the play. It became apparent almost immediately that there was something up with this production: all the male characters had distinctly high-pitched voices, and all the female characters were suspiciously hirsute. Nicola explained to me that the play was set in France, but even so, I suspect that the director had switched the genders. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that the director, Ania Upstill, is artistic director for a company call the Lord Lackbeards…I think there’s a clue in that name.

If you want to know what goes on in Love’s Labour’s Lost then read this synopsis. They seemed to get through it competently enough, and in the end they finished with a song and a dance. The whole thing finished up at around 9:15 and we walked back through the now-dark graveyard, and thence home.

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