By Nathan Joe
What does it mean to be the one who draws the numbers from the ballot? To send your loved ones to war? Written to show the absurdity of conscription, Those Left Behind shows a group of women performing their civic duties despite the part they might end up playing in their own family or friends being sent to war.
Though the scenario seems like a distant horror to New Zealanders today, viewers might be reminded of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games or Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.
Nathan is an Auckland-based playwright and critic and graduate of the New Zealand Broadcasting School.
Winner of the Playmarket b425 award in 2015 and 2016, Nathan’s plays Hippolytus Veiled and Like Sex have been staged at Auckland’s Basement theatre and Wellington’s BATS theatre.
Nathan’s play Who is Sada Abe? Part One: Bullfight of Love was shortlisted for the 2015 Adam NZ Play Award and his 2013 work Flesh off the Boat was selected for development as part of Playmarket's Asian Ink programme.
Nathan Joe: Those Left Behind Influences/Inspiration
My primary influences for Those Left Behind have been dystopic or nightmarish visions of our world. The oldest example on my list is Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, a unsettling short story set in a village that hosts a horrific event revolving around a lottery. Then there’s the more popular and mainstream example of The Hunger Games. I think you can’t help but draw parallels between the two. The way randomness and luck plays a part.
From a playwriting perspective, Caryl Churchill’s Far Away informed the absurdity of the piece heavily. Again, for the way that banality is tied to violence. Samuel Beckett’s Come and Go is pretty the least direct influence. But the images of older women circling around the same lines, repeating the same old routine, haunted me.
And, of course, the short film supplied to us as the central provocation behind Luck of the Draw (Ballot at the Government Statistician’s Office). The documentary realness, the normality, the cold historical fact of it all. The final image of the film is of everyone gathered around in their Sunday best. As if this is just another day at the office. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.