Poking about in my library’s extensive drama section, an oddity given my derision for the theatre but I have books on everything, lo and behold I came across a copy of a (back then), the much vaunted New Zealand play, “The Tree”, written by a Stella Jones.
I date my purchases and see I obtained this book in 1963 although I don’t recall reading it.
It transpired the play was written in 1957, was largely ignored, then perchance, was run in Bristol whereupon reflecting our then deference to the mother country, it was immediately acclaimed here.
The New Zealand Players, our first ever professional theatre, toured the nation playing it, with critics falling about themselves, lauding it.
I certainly recall The New Zealand Players, after in the mid 1950s being taken along, suitably awed at such (then) an illustrious experience, and watching them prance about performing “Oh What a Lovely War”.
Anyway, I sat down and read “The Tree”.
It would be unshowable today but what struck me was the plot. It involved a household with three late teens daughters, reminding me of how life has changed in New Zealand.
Why? Because two of the three daughters immediately said yes to out-of-the-blue marriage proposals from blokes they’d just met.
An exaggeration? Not really. Back then, any girl unmarried at 25 was deemed on the shelf, a humiliation to be avoided at all cost.
Here’s the interesting aspect of that. In simple-life New Zealand back then, expectations were small, thus the marriages were durable.
That situation exists today for a sizeable part of the undeveloped world, notably in rural Muslim communities, or African and Asian villages and rural central American nations.
The key character in “The Tree” is the oldest daughter Hilda who rebels against this dreariness, waxes enthusiastically about wanting to see the world, something exotically unheard of in those days, rejects her beau and buggers off to do exactly that.
The growth of city living is seeing the same phenomenon occurring in all developed nations.
Girls are rejecting their traditional marriage and breeding roles, resulting in all European nations now requiring large-scale migration to sustain their population.
South Korea and Japan have the same dwindling populations for those reasons, but haven’t yet come to terms with tolerating alien migration.
It’s probably fair to say that today, any New Zealand girl under the age of 30, with a university education (currently about 50%) who marries and has children, is viewed as an oddity.
We’re certainly living in times of great change.