Doco on Dame Ngaio Marsh mines UC connections

08 February 2011

University of Canterbury links abound in a new documentary about famed whodunit author and distinguished Canterbury alumna Dame Ngaio Marsh, to be screened on TV One's Artsville this Sunday.

Doco on Dame Ngaio Marsh mines UC connections - Imported from Legacy News system

Inspector Roderick Alleyn (actor Peter Elliott) is aided in his quest to discover his creator, Dame Ngaio Marsh, by Dr Bruce Harding (right). The pair are pictured during a break in filming for the documentary Ngaio Marsh - Crime Queen at Ngaio Marsh House in Cashmere.

UPDATE 11/2/11: UC Communications has just been advised that due to protests about the proposed midnight slot TVNZ has now delayed this broadcast to mid-year when it will receive a better timeslot.

University of Canterbury links abound in a new documentary about famed whodunit author and distinguished Canterbury alumna Dame Ngaio Marsh, to be screened on TV One's Artsville this Sunday.

The documentary project was spearheaded by film-maker Aileen O'Sullivan, herself a UC alumna, while her key research advisor was Dr Bruce Harding, Research Associate in the Macmillan Brown Centre at UC.

Dr Harding said the forthcoming 70-minute documentary, Ngaio Marsh - Crime Queen, filmed in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, "retrieves and explores for posterity, the life and impact of a great Canterbury character who also happened to achieve a global reputation".

Dr Harding, curator of Ngaio Marsh House (Marton Cottage) in Cashmere where Dame Ngaio lived from 1906 until 1982, got to know Dame Ngaio while he was a student at Canterbury University in the 1970s.

"My role was to facilitate filming at Marton Cottage, to help with key research data in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, and to provide archival images for the documentary. I also assisted modestly in some of its filming at Ngaio's house. I regard Aileen's achievement as the very best kind of biography," he said.

UC alumna Dr Joanne Drayton, who wrote the 2008 biography, Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime, also provided assistance and appears on screen with Dr Harding. Both receive credits for their input into the film, which has been designed for film festivals and arts channels in the UK and US, where Marsh's crime novels still sell well.

Other UC alumni appearing in the documentary are Dame Ngaio's "theatre intimates", Elric Hooper, Jonathan Elsom, Annette Facer, Gerald Lascelles, Rosemary Greene and David Hindin.

Dame Ngaio (1895-1982) studied painting at the former Canterbury College School of Art from 1915 to 1919. Internationally renowned as one of the original "queens of crime", alongside Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie, nationally Dame Ngaio was recognised for her contribution to New Zealand theatre.

She returned to her alma mater in 1943 with a modern-dress Hamlet production and became involved with the Canterbury University College Drama Society. Over the course of three decades Dame Ngaio's directorial flair impacted on aspiring young writers and actors, among them Sam Neill, who starred in her last production with the students - A Midsummer Night's Dream - in1969.

Dame Ngaio was awarded the University of Canterbury's first honorary doctorate of literature in 1962 and delivered the Macmillan Brown Lectures the same year, speaking on the theatre. In 1967 Canterbury University named the new theatre at Ilam in her honour and she directed Twelfth Night for the inaugural performance, footage of which is shown in the documentary.

Dr Harding said he hoped Ms O'Sullivan's "moving and probing documentary will alert more Kiwis as to how [Dame Ngaio] became New Zealand's best-selling author and used that income to pursue a dazzling career as an empowering thespian mentor and friend to many talented young at this University and beyond".

TVNZ's Artsville screens at 12.00am Sunday 13 February, with the episode available on TVNZ On Demand following the screening.

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