Josephine Stewart-TeWhiu

This is one hell of a week for theatre in Auckland, there are four wonderful productions showing at Q and The Basement, and all of them need to be seen. I urge you to make the effort to get to The Events, All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever, The Black, or Ernest Rutherford: Everyone Can Science! Please. Please. Please.

Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu’s dark comedy about depression, The Black, was a revelation. We saw a snippet of it a few weeks ago at The Pantograph Punch’s writing showcase, and on Tuesday we saw it for real. It was refreshing to see a play about depression that made us cackle and cry at the same time. The Black goes to great lengths to illustrate and explain the presence and impact of depression on a person’s life. You can read Kimberley’s thoughts on the play here, and read Josephine’s words on its creation below. 

I’m a glass is half empty kind of person but I’m also blindly optimistic when it comes to lotto tickets and word find scratchies.

My day usually begins with black coffee, a cigarette and raging at the state of the world, and ends with bingeing on Parks and Recreation. I have watched the series so many times that it’s unhealthy. I am desperate to be friends with Leslie Knope. Leslie, if you’re reading this…

Name your three favourite places in Auckland to eat, drink and play
Eat: Ken’s Yakatori Bar on K Road. My dad took me there when I was about 13 and I’ve been a fan since. I don’t care how overdrawn my bank account is just give me the Japanese mayo, and grilled corn dripping in soy sauce and butter.
Drink: Red wine, cards and endless conversations at Freida Margolis (lovingly known to me as The Butchers Bar)
Play: Kubb in the garden/park/beach. They call me “The Needle”.

Tell us something we’d be surprised to know about you
I am terrified of aliens. Those almond eyed aliens called “greys”, you know the ones. I have done a lot of internet research about these creatures and I am scared to the depths of my soul of them. It’s my biggest fear when camping, driving a car alone at night, walking on the beach at night, in a forest, or even standing in the garden in the dark by myself. Apparently they can shape shift, and hide in bushes, and behind lamp posts, and they could be anywhere at any given moment so they’re pretty much everywhere. One day, all the Governments in the world are going to get together and disclose all of the information on them. Oh. My. God.

Pick a book and a park you’d like to read it in, anywhere in the world.
Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” in Tempelhof Park, Berlin. Ideally, she would be reading it to me while I gazed at her in wonderment and awe, whispering “Yas Queen”

Tell us a little bit about The Black…
The Black is a play about a woman called Cleo. She has two relationships in this story. One, with her therapist, Sondra, and the other is with a talking black horse (called The Black) which is a manifestation of her own depression. It is directed by Thomas Sainsbury, and has Kate McGill, Julia Croft, and myself performing in it.

What motivated you to write this play?
I suffer from depression and I got tired of the stigma around mental illness. There’s a real shame surrounding it, for both people who suffer and know those who suffer. There’s lot’s of conversations happening around breaking this wall down, and encouraging people to talk and I think that’s fantastic. However, there’s not a lot of understanding around just how crippling it is as an illness, how powerful, how abstract. What it feels like. Just how barren, empty, and darkest of the darks it is.

The Black includes illustrations and projections, can you tell us a little bit about them – the process of creating them and incorporating them into the performance?
Stop motion takes FOREVER to make. Hours. Hours of work for 20 seconds of reward. It’s painful. I first started by hand painting 16 individual frames. It took me 8 hours to put the whole thing together, and I had 1.6 seconds of footage at the end. So I quickly moved on from hand painting and started using string, paper, and pencils. The idea behind using them is sometimes it’s much easier to show, rather than tell, when it comes to something as formless and strange as depression.

What do you hope your audience will leave The Basement thinking about after seeing The Black?
I hope that people who suffer from it feel heard and represented. I hope the audience leaves with a better language and understanding around the illness. I hope people will laugh, and cry, and feel goosebumps, and then tell all of their friends to come and see it.

If everyone in the world had a theme song that played when they walked into a room, what would yours be and why?
“And She Was” by Talking Heads. I know it’s about a girl dropping acid behind a chocolate milk factory but to me it’s so much more than that! The lyrics, it’s poetry, it beautiful, it’s strange, and at it’s core, it’s rock and roll.

The Black is playing at The Basement until the 12th of September. GET TICKETS >>