Saturday, July 22, 2017


Should cannabis be legalised? For medicinal use, or for general use? In a country with a professed target to be smoke-free by 2025, is it a good idea to be legalising a product which is mostly consumed by smoking it?

None of these questions is answered by the comedy Weed, but with cannabis back on the political agenda big-time, Circa Theatre has revived Anthony McCarten’s 1990 play.

The backdrop to the original production in 1990 was the removal of agricultural subsidies, and the need of farmers who had previously carried on with a loss-making farm to diversify into new areas to turn a profit. This has mutated into a more nuanced critique of the pitfalls of marginal hill farming in modern New Zealand.

It’s quite a long play, so with a 6:30 start we had only a short window of opportunity for some dinner. We decided to give Eva Street newcomer Shepherd a try, as it’s had some good reviews and also its pedigree, being the love child of Ti Kouka cafĂ© and Golding’s Free Dive. The menu is an eclectic mix of flavours with an emphasis on Korean and Japanese fusion-type dishes. As were in a bit of a hurry we ordered a selection of dishes to share: steamed milk pikelets with mushrooms – theses turned out to be like steamed buns; confit duck porridge; cured salmon with kimchi; and fried rice with kale and kimchi. This all turned out to be very flavourful, and also plenty to eat! Unfortunately we had to rush out without a chance to try their desserts but I think we’ll be back when we have a little more time to give them another go.

I’d already picked up the tickets so after a brief pause at the bar, we took our seats. The play is a four-hander, focussing on the two main characters, the farmers Henry and Jack, looking to diversify into growing weed; Jack's nephew Hugh, who has some hands-on knowledge about the subject; and Terry, an artist who had befriended one of the farmers at a conference in Wellington – the point at which the play opens – and is totally enamoured of an idealised rural lifestyle.

The premise of the play is that the bank is about to foreclose on Henry’s loss-making hill sheep farm. With the help of his neighbour’s lawyer, he manages to get an extension of six months, and between them the two farmers devise a plan to grow cannabis to pay off the mortgage. Their initial calculations go awry as they discover the realities of the pot-growing business. Henry is increasingly taken advantage of by the manipulative Jack, and as the six month deadline approaches is desperate to wash his hands of the whole affair.

The whole thing makes for two hours of comedy, angst, and a plot twist. Great fun!

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