Penguin oil man's story told

By Anne-Marie Emerson


A one-man show about a Southland politician with a passion for penguin oil is coming to Wanganui.

Hatch, by Geoff Chapple, tells the bizarre - but true - life story of Joseph Hatch [1837-1928], who served as Mayor of Invercargill and the MP for Invercargill during his long life.

However, Joseph Hatch is most well-known for his business venture on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island: rendering down Adelie penguins to extract oil.

During the three decades of his operation, around three million Adelie penguins were killed and their oil used in the rope-making process.

In the face of financial difficulties and dubious public opinion about his business activities, Hatch embarked on a lecture tour of New Zealand and Tasmania to promote the virtues of penguin oil.

Auckland actor Stuart Devenie, who plays Hatch, said the play imitated one of Hatch's lectures.

"It may sound unpromising but there is a lot of humour and irony," he said.

Devenie is on very familiar terms with the character he plays, describing Hatch as "an irascible old bugger".

"The audience ends up very conflicted. Although what he's doing is appalling, his humanity appeals."

Devenie has played Hatch for five years and during that time has found himself in some interesting situations. Several audiences have become so worked up by Hatch's character that they started arguing with him.

Devenie has met descendants of Hatch, and has performed in several buildings in which Hatch himself gave lectures.

"I performed in Christchurch, and after the show a woman came up to me and told me she was Hatch's great-great granddaughter," he said.

He admits that after five years Hatch has got under his skin. ""he is quite an extraordinary character to play."

Hatch will be performed at the Davis Lecture Theatre, 7.30pm tomorrow and Saturday.

During his time in Wanganui, Devenie will also be holding an acting workshop on Saturday and Sunday, drawing on his 40 years' experience in acting, directing and teaching.

More information on the show and workshop is available from the Whanganui Regional Museum, phone 3491110.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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