Episode 22: The Governor (Part 1)

As preperation for our upcoming look at Utu, we ring in 2017 by dissecting the (in)famous TV mini-series The Governor. A sprawling historical drama covering over half a century, The Governor explores the life and career of Sir George Grey – twice Governor and 11th Premier of New Zealand, and arguably the most influential figure in the country’s early colonial years. Split into six self-contained feature-length parts, the series explores Grey’s legacy and personality by examining the impact he has on the lives of others. This week we discuss the first three episodes: ‘The Reverend Traitor’, ‘No Way To Treat A Lady’, and ‘The Mutinous Lieutenant’.

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The Governor

Episode One – The Reverend Traitor

Director: Tony Isaac
Producer: Tony Isaac
Screenplay: Keith Aberdien

Cast:
George Grey…Corin Redgrave
Henry Williams…Grant Tilly
Hone Heke…George Henare
Te Rauparaha…Tamahina Tinirau
Eliza Grey…Judy Cleine

Episode Two – No Way To Treat A Lady

Director: Hugh MacDonald
Producer: Tony Isaac
Screenplay: Keith Aberdien

Cast:
George Grey…
Corin Redgrave
Eliza Grey…Judy Cleine
Ruihia…Makuini Menehira
Henry Keppel…Ken Blackburn
Susan Pitt…Celia West

Episode Three – The Mutinous Lieutenant

Director: Hugh MacDonald
Producer: Tony Isaac
Screenplay: Keith Aberdien

Cast:
Edward John Eyre…
Jeremy Stephens
George Grey…Corin Redgrave
Adelaide Ormond…Janice Finn
Eliza Grey…Judy Cleine
Donald McLean…Alan Jervis

Notes:

  • Episode One is available to watch in its entirety at NZ On Screen, and we highly recommend making time for it. Sadly, the only way to view episodes two and three (that we know of) is at Nga Taonga’s medialibrary. If you live in Wellington it’s absolutely worth making the trip – otherwise you’re probably out of luck.
  • We don’t really discuss Corin Redgrave’s background much in these episodes – mainly because information about him is very easy to find. While the interviews he did at the time of shooting The Governor contain some interesting tidbits, they mostly seem obsessed with Redgrave’s Trotskyist politics. A two-page interview with the actor in a May 1977 issue of The Listener barely even touches upon the character of Grey or Redgrave’s career until the second page.
  • While looking up the background of Judy Cleine, we came across this book review she wrote for a 2013 issue of takahē magazine. The book in question is a study of community-based theatre written by none other than Paul Maunder, the director of Landfall! New Zealand is a very small place.
  • There’s also a small blog seemingly set up by Cleine herself containing a few photos and publicity stills showing off her work both as an actress and a costume designer.
  • The age of the internet is both a blessing and a curse – putting together the research for a podcast like this in a short time frame would be extremely difficult without it, but it has some rather glaring information black holes, particularly when it comes to New Zealand theatre and actors. Anyone who had a fairly short career (Tamahina Tinirau) or worked mostly on stage (Jeremy Stephens) is very hard to find information about. We’ll be seeing Stephens again a few times though, so hopefully we will have tracked down more concrete details by then.
  • A scene in episode one where Henry Williams treats a wound in Hone Heke’s leg had to be done a second time after a slip of the tongue on Grant Tilly’s part transformed one of his lines from “That wound’s still full of shot” to “That wound’s still full of shit”.
  • One of the incidents that episode two depicts, but doesn’t quite lend enough impact to, is the devastating 1948 fire at Government House, resulting in the loss of all the Grey’s furniture and valuables, as well as George’s extensive collection of artefacts and manuscripts. He would go on to amass another significant library (including a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio) that he donated to the National Library of South Africa when his term as Governor there ended. Upon his return to New Zealand for his second Governorship, he set about amassing yet another library of manuscripts and rare books specifically for the purpose of gifting it to the city of Auckland. He even went out of his way to obtain another copy of the First Folio to reside at the Auckland Public Library. There’s a great website about the Grey Collection run by Auckland Libraries if you want more information. Or, if you have a real thing for special library collections, there’s a book all about Grey’s book-collecting: ‘Amassing Treasures For All Times’ by Donald Jackson Kerr.
  • Speaking of interesting books, there’s a recent novel by Judy Corbalis called ‘A Crooked Rib’ that fictionalises the story of George and Eliza’s relationship.

 

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