Paul Maunder

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Paul Maunder (born 8 February 1945) is a film director, playwright and "cultural activist" from New Zealand. He is best known for his 1979 film of the Albert Wendt novel Sons For the Return Home, his 1983 play Hemi, about the life of James K. Baxter and his work in community-based theatre.


Maunder was born in Palmerston North and attended Palmerston North Boys' High School.[1] He studied at Victoria University of Wellington, the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney and the London Film School.[2] He received a doctorate in Theatre and Film Studies from the University of Canterbury.

Returning to New Zealand, Maunder worked for the state-owned National Film Unit. In addition to directing a number of the documentaries the unit was best known for, he directed three drama productions which were screened on television: Gone up North for a While, One Of Those People That Live In The World and Landfall (the film debut of Sam Neill).

In 1971, Maunder formed Amamus theatre troupe in Wellington, staging improvised documentary plays on historical subjects such as The Great Depression and the 1951 Waterside Lockout. The group was then influenced by the work of Jerzy Grotowski and devised a trio of plays: Gallipoli, Valita and Oedipus, which examined the Kiwi psyche. In 1975 they were invited to the Festival of the Open Theatre in Wroclaw, Poland. In the 1980s, under the new name of Theatre of the Eighth Day, the group performed a series of political plays, followed by a study on the poet James K Baxter, before embarking on a bicultural series of works, examining the clash of the Maori culture with the settler arrivals. In 1987 Maunder was awarded a Commonwealth Study Grant to make contact with the Popular Theatre Movement in Zimbabwe. Returning to New Zealand he worked in the Community-based theatre framework, setting up the Cultural Work Centre in Petone. A number of partnerships followed, fpr example, with the Tokelau community and with the Auckland Unemployed Workers Rights Centre.[3][4]

He played one first-class cricket match for Central Districts in the 1961-62 season.[5]

Paul Maunder currently lives in the small town of Blackball on the West Coast where he works with a Community-based theatre group, Kiwi/Possum Productions. The group has mounted a series of plays written by Maunder on local issues: 1080 (Poison and Purity, the Pike Disaster (Goodnight, Irene), Race relations (The Cave Above the Pa), Mine Closures (The Judgement of Ben Alder); Heritage(Ted, Poppy and WW11), Mental Health (A Brief History of Madness); and the transition economy (The Measures Taken).[6] These plays tour the Coast and usually further afield. Maunder is also curator of the Blackball Museum of Working Class History. His recent publications include: Torndao and other stories written overtime (Maitai River Press), Coal and the Coast- reflections on the Pike River Disaster (Canterbury University Press) and Rebellious Mirrors- community-based theatre in Aotearoa/New Zealand (Canterbury University Press.



Most of Maunder's plays are on subjects related to politics, class, activism, the history of the labour movement or the NZ experience.

  • I rode my horse down the road (with Amamus)- 1971, Downstage
  • The Wall Street Banks in London Have Closed (witih Amamus) 1972, Downstage
  • '51 (full length, year unknown) - documentary on the 1951 New Zealand waterfront dispute[9]
  • Strangers Downstage
  • Gallipoli 1974 Unity Theatre and national tour
  • Valita 1976 Unity Theatre
  • Oedipus 1977 Unity Theatre
  • Pictures 1980 Wellington Art Gallery
  • Electra 1981 Mitchelltown Amphithatre
  • State of Play 1982 The Depot
  • Hemi (1983) - Depot Theatre, Wellington.[10]
  • State of Play (full length - no date or production listed) [10]
  • Ngati Pakeha (1-act, 1983) - Depot Theatre, Wellington[11]
  • Desire in a New Age (full length, year unknown) [9]
  • Prophets from the Margins (2002) [12]
  • Death (and Love) in Gaza (2006) - BATS Theatre, Wellington.[13]
  • Big End (2007) - no known production yet.[14]
  • 'Poison and Purity (2010) - Regent Theatre, Greymouth, Old Lodge, Hokitika, NBS Theatre, Westport.
  • Goodnight, Irene (2011) - Regent Theatre, Greymouth, Old Lodge Theatre, Hokitika, Dunedin
  • The Cave Above the Pa- (2012) Regent Theatre, Greymouth, Old Lodge Theatre, Hokitika.
  • The Judgement of Ben Alder (2013): Regent Theatre, Greymouth, Old Lodge Theatre, Hokitika, NBS Theatre, Westport, Motueka Players, SYmposium of APplied Theatre, Auckland.
  • Ted, Poppy and WW11 (2014). Regent Theatre- Greymouth, Old Lodge, Hoktika, NBS Theatre, Westport, Lyttleton Boating Club, Riverside Community Hall,
  • A Brief History of Madness (2015). Regent Theatre, Greymouth, Seavie Hall, Seaview, NBS Theatre, Westport, Mapua Hall.
  • The Measures Taken. Regent Theatre, Greymouth, Old Lodge, Hokitika, NBS Theatre, Westport, Oddfellows Hall, Reefton.


  1. ^ PBHS Website
  2. ^ 1992 Playmarket Directory Appendix 1
  3. ^ Big Smoke - Auckland University Press
  4. ^ Maunder, Paul. Rebellious Mirrors. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2010.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Cinema of Unease
  8. ^ nz immigration new zealand shopping at
  9. ^ a b Playmarket: Buy NZ books and NZ plays online - Order a Script
  10. ^ a b 1992 Playmarket Directory p61
  11. ^ 1992 Playmarket Directory p120
  12. ^ Victoria University
  13. ^ Theatreview
  14. ^ Court Theatre readings