Rage: Sunday Theatre on One

8:30pm Sunday, September 4 on TV One

Rage is the story of star-crossed lovers set against one of the most turbulent times in New Zealand’s recent history – the 1981 Springbok tour.

Carol Keriama (Maria Walker), is a beautiful young Maori policewoman who goes undercover and falls in love with Des (Ryan O’Kane), a charismatic student protestor at the heart of the anti-tour movement. To save his life, she has to reveal her true identity, knowing it will destroy their relationship. Their hearts are broken, as the nation itself is ripped down the middle over the most noble of ideals: that all human beings are created equal.

Prior to the tour, New Zealand had pursued a reciprocal sporting relationship with South Africa, inviting Springbok rugby teams to tour and sending All Black teams to the Republic.

But the boycott by 28 countries of the Montreal Olympics in 1976 brought home to Kiwis the brutality and injustice of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

It came as a shock to many then, when the New Zealand Rugby Union announced it had officially invited the Springboks to tour New Zealand in the winter of 1981.

At that moment, the anti-tour protest movement was born, and white South Africa’s pride and joy landed in New Zealand to spend 56 days under siege, as the normally demure little nation at the bottom of the world came close to civil war in protest over their presence.

Rage co-writer and producer Tom Scott says it always struck him that the story of the Springbok tour had never been dramatised.

“In 1981, you couldn’t go anywhere without it (the tour) coming up, any dinner party, smoko room or conference hall,” he says. “Anywhere you went, people talked about it.” (He was himself a long-time anti-apartheid campaigner.)

The tour was an event which shocked and rocked the nation. Tens of thousands of rugby fans roaring approval had to attend games played behind razor wire and under massive police protection. Outside the rugby grounds tens of thousands of protestors were equally loud in their denunciation. Protestors fought running battles with rugby fans, and the police. Hundreds of people were injured, many of them seriously. Miraculously no one was killed.

Well beyond the field of play communities, workplaces and families were bitterly divided. No middle ground was tolerated.

But Scott says as soon as the tour was over, the conversation stopped and nobody wanted to talk about it.

“It was one thing we all walked away from: the great debate became the sound of silence.”

It wasn’t until much later, whilst chatting with his brother-in-law police Superintendent Grant O’Fee, that the pair started swapping stories about 1981 and the ideas for Rage started to form.

Grant O’Fee says he and Scott had had debates about the tour for years.

“I was a Detective Sergeant in Wellington during the tour,” he says. “And I was an undercover agent about ten years before then.

“With Tom, I would tell stories from my view point, and he would tell his. Then one day he suggested that we could put a story together. “

He says what attracted him to Rage was that he wanted to give a police perspective to it.

“I think that’s what we’ve both achieved: both the perspective of protestors and the perspectives of police are shown. Ultimately the villain of the story is apartheid. It’s not the protest movement, it’s not the police and it’s not the rugby union.”

Missed an episode of Sunday Theatre – The Audi New Zealand Season ? Full episodes are available on line. Go to www.tvnz.co.nz and click ‘on demand’.

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