An Evening with Elric (oops and Joanne Drayton)

Ngaio Marsh
Ngaio Marsh

Last evening we all got cultural and went off to the Great Hall, and a full house, to hear Joanne Drayton talk about her latest biography, Ngaio Marsh: her life in crime. So, ladies, tell us your thoughts.

Joyce: I’d like to say first off that Joanne Drayton was resplendent in red velvet and awesome black leather studded fingerless gloves. We wondered if Elric’s choice of red scarf was deliberate – had he phoned in advance to discuss wardrobe? Jane, don’t be shy – what did you think about tonight’s performance?

Jane: Hmmm. Apart from the gloves which I became entirely distracted by, I was also constantly distracted by Elric. His booming voice, and stage presence took over the whole thing for me, and I can hardly even remember what Joanna said!

Bronwyn: I loved the slide show, which was full of gorgeous pictures, both of Ngaio herself and of her theatre days. I’m noticing, girls, that no-one has commented yet about the actual content of the Conversation …

Joyce: Drayton talked enthusiastically about wanting to give Ngaio Marsh a New Zealand voice and context. Elric Hooper made much of the courageous structure of Drayton’s biography, and Drayton justified by this by saying that Marsh deserved something vivid, and even theatrical in recognition of her larger than life persona and contribution to the stage. Oh she also mentioned that Ngaio Marsh’s reputation overseas is very strongly based on her crime novels, but that Drayton felt the novels were neglected in New Zealand because they were not seen as literary enough.

Bronwyn: Yes, she said there is an puritanical earnestness about New Zealanders; that we know we should be reading, but not reading anything that isn’t good for us.

Jane: I found this an odd statement considering the amount of bestsellers, romances, mysteries and westerns that walkout the Library doors. I can’t seem to get past Elric though, and had a wee chuckle when he said he’d found things out in the book about himself he’d never known, and I did wonder if he had gone through the index looking under H for Hooper….

Bronwyn: Ladies, ladies … (sighs and shakes head). There seemed to be an inordinate interest in taxes, both as part of the book and within the audience, and a particularly lively gentleman in the front row (aren’t they always?) contributed significantly to the early discussion on this theme.

Joyce: Yes, opening for questions seemed rather a reckless and dangerous move. The inevitable question about sex came towards the end of the evening from the above-mentioned venerable gentleman in the front row (doesn’t it always?).

Jane: Did we learn anything juicy? No! Well not really, it was left open to interpretation. Joanne had obviously talked to many people about this subject, but in the end it was dealt with sensitively.

Bronwyn: I’m going to wrap up now, and end by noting something Joanne said – that she always finds facets of her own personality within her subjects, and that’s what enables her to write her books with such enthusiasm and passion.

(Ngaio Marsh fans – don’t forget today’s open home at the Ngaio Marsh House – it’s free and open from 1pm to 3pm)

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