It's not often a young playwright can claim a huge success with a first work, but not all playwrights start with something as bold and fresh as Potato Stamp Megalomaniac.

Auckland writer and actor Andrew Gunn instantly became one to watch on the theatre scene last year with his semi-autobiographical play about his own mental health. When it won one of the Excellence Awards at the Auckland Theatre Awards last year, it was of little surprise to most people except, it seems, Gunn himself.

"My response was to do a double thumbs up and say 'awesome' because I was so surprised," he says with a laugh.

"It was very surreal. The other productions were from very established companies and several had been touring and had hundred thousand dollar budgets, as opposed to our not even $5000.


"It's nice for a show that's not slick and aiming for the integrity of telling a story. Our show was quite strange, so it was nice for it to get an award."

Other excellence awards for overall production went to Te Po, by Theatre Stampede, Nightsong Productions and the Auckland Arts Festival; Auckland Theatre Company's That Bloody Woman; The White Guitar by The Conch and Christchurch Arts Festival, and Don Juan by A Slightly Isolated Dog.

Now Gunn has the daunting task of following that up. His new show, Flesh of the Gods, premieres this week as part of the Fringe Festival.

"It's not anything like [Potato Stamp]," Gunn says. "That is something that is at the back of my mind, that it gained a lot of acclaim, and it was very personal, and I'm worried that people will be expecting the same thing."

Instead, it's the story of a pantheon of gods coming to life and finding themselves in a room with a young woman like a forensic psychologist.

"We're looking at the ideas present in The Sandman and American Gods, the idea that gods are manifestations of human worship and thought and attention," he says.

It's the first of Gunn's plays that isn't particularly personal, an experience he describes as refreshing.

"It's not 100 per cent all on me anymore. Making my first two plays, it's been an absolute struggle, ultimately rewarding but an absolute struggle."


However, he may not be done with his own stories just yet. With works around mental health slowly moving into the mainstream, Gunn says it is important performers get personal.

"I feel people are really getting into the value of personal experience and personal issues as opposed to just acting. There's a real trend for people telling their own stories themselves and that's the best way we can tell those kinds of stories."

What: Flesh of the Gods
Where & when: Samoa House, March 7, 9-11.