Punk band, The Scavengers once sang about true love being beautiful. You could also say that Daffodils is a gorgeous romance story set in New Zealand where the aforementioned are from. The play is actually a Kiwi cabaret based on a real life love story between two teenagers, a farm girl named Rose and a Teddy boy called Eric. The pair are actually the parents of New Zealand screenwriter and playwright, Rochelle Bright and the production celebrates New Zealand’s finest recording artists including Crowded House, Bic Runga and Chris Knox, to name a few.
We sat down with Rochelle Bright to learn more about the sonic and visual splendor behind the heady love story that is the ballad of Eric and Rose.
Can you briefly introduce yourself? How long have you been working in the arts industry?
Hi, I’m Rochelle Bright. I’m a screenwriter/playwright currently based in Auckland. With my collaborator Kitan Petkovski, we are Bullet Heart Club. I studied at Tisch (New York University) and the projects I enjoy the most are collaborations with bands. It has been more than 10 years now that I’ve been in the arts industry – working in various roles from writer, composer to producer.
Can you briefly describe your production, Daffodils?
Daffodils mixes iconic New Zealand songs with theatre to tell the story of my parents. It’s true, my grandparents and parents both met at the exact same place by the daffodils by the lake – 20 years apart. It’s become a family legend. Yet while their love may seem fated, life is always much harder and more complicated. This production takes you right into their personal journey, played by two actors (Todd Emerson & Colleen Davis) with a live band made up of LIPS (Stephanie Brown & Fen Ikner) and Abraham Kunin.
Why do you think audiences should come and see Daffodils?
If you love good music (indie, pop, rock, electronic) this is a good show for you. If you love a good love-story, this one is a heartbreaker (we’ve heard many a sniffle in the theatre). Daffodils is performed in a unique way – the two actors never once look at each other. They give everything to the audience. From the responses we’ve had so far from those who have seen the show, I would think audiences should come to see Daffodils because it’s a story that feels close to home and at the same time it hits you with music you’ll love.
Daffodils features a great soundtrack by artists like Crowded House, Bic Runga and Chris Knox to name a few. What’s your favourite song that is used in this production? Why did you choose this?
Oooooooo… hard one. Each track in the show is part of the great NZ songbook. They’re all favourites. I guess… the section we’re most proud of in the show is connected to the song, “Language” (by Dave Dobbyn). This song speaks to a generation of men who struggle to communicate. I choose the song because it so perfectly expresses the dramatic moment without being cheesy/saccharine. We were so nervous the night Dave Dobbyn came to see the show. Thankfully he liked what we did!
How did you come to pick the songs in this production? Were there any that were left on the cutting room floor? Why?
Throughout the writing process each song was picked differently. For example, listening to Crowded House late one night while almost asleep, I could picture the key turning point in the story. This was the first song I picked. Later on while skyping with my Mum, she told me a story about my Dad when they were dating. There was a kind of sadness in her voice that when I listen to a particular The Mutton Birds track I hear/experience the same feeling – so that song was added. Some songs felt like they picked themselves – if you’re doing iconic NZ songs, you gotta have this…. One of the best discovery moments was looking at APRA’s Top 100 NZ songs of all-time list and finding a song by Blam Blam Blam. I had not heard it before as it was before my time, but as soon as I listened to it, I knew it had to be added. Blam Blam Blam’s songs represented perfectly the tension in our country during the 1980’s. There wasn’t any cutting room floor songs per se; we did try swapping one song out with another during an early read through but we always found ourselves going back to the original song list.
The production features some great images by Garth Badger. Do you have a favourite image from this production and why did you pick this particular one?
We shot all the images in one wild crazy day with Garth in his studio at Thievery. It was super hot and we had to put our lead actress Colleen Davis into a full on wedding dress. We shot from above with a confetti gun. The result was stunning, like a snow globe. This imagery is followed by my parents’ actual 8mm wedding footage. It’s my favourite moment – as the new and the old come together in a really beautiful way. We love working with Garth, he’s such an amazing creative force!
Do you have a favourite scene in the production? What’s it about and why did you choose this one?
Another really tough question. The great thing about live theatre is that in every show the performers find new moments. In each performance they shine and create magic in different parts. So for me my favourite scene changes. It’s the delicate moments when in a performance the band, actors and story just hit a special sweet spot. It can be a really cute flirt, or a moment when the cast simply break apart in front of you. Music plays a huge role in this show, so sometimes it can be a musical gesture. For example, at the moment I think my favourite musical part is during a Mint Chicks song, the band has added a little Brian Wilson salute in the backing vocals, which I just love!
Daffodils is about young lovers, Eric and Rose. How would you describe their relationship? Is it one people should aspire to?
Their relationship is true to life – through slightly romanticised through my eyes. There is a natural/immediate push and pull between them. Both stubborn and proud, they put their own feelings aside for others. Drawn on details from family and friends, their relationship is based on true events. The way Eric speaks to Rose is taken from letters my Dad wrote to my Mum. Elements of fiction have been added, to keep the story moving and to protect my family. I think we all hope/aspire to meet someone who we truly love. We also know that to keep such a love is the hardest thing we can do in one lifetime – especially when we cannot control the actions of others.
What are Eric and Rose’s favourite vinyl records? Do you think these sum them up as individuals?
Eric and Rose meet in 1964. Rose would be listening on repeat to Gene Pitney “Only Love Can Break a Heart” & Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’”. Eric, he’s got a different style, with The Beatles “Hard Day’s Night” & The Rolling Stones “Little Red Rooster”. Have a listen to these tracks, and you’ll hear them: Rose the farm girl and Eric the Teddy boy.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell The AU Review about your adaptation of Daffodils or future works?
This year we finished a Daffodils Ep – Lips Remix with the band and we are currently working on adapting Daffodils into a feature film. We’re really excited to be working with Rose and Eric’s story again in this new medium.
Bullet Heart Club is also working towards a couple of new stage shows; one is a collaboration with an Australian artist and the other with artists from Sweden. It’s early days, but you can follow us at bulletheartclub.com to see what comes next.
Daffodils plays at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta from May 12-14. For more information and tickets visit https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/daffodils/