By FIONA RAE
Hold on to your fancy hats. Here comes Soapland's greatest moment: the point where worlds collide, old storylines are brought to conclusion and new ones splinter away like laser light off a disco ball. Yes, folks, Shortland Street's having a wedding. Or possibly two.
Or is it? Nothing's ever certain in the world of the soap opera, not until the vows are actually voiced — and even then there could be trouble. Friends and family do gather next week with every hope of seeing the autocratic, and fortysomething, Victor Kahu marry the innocent, and young, Anne Greenlaw at a ceremony at her family's Cambridge stud farm.
The soap opera wedding is a grand tradition. It's a perfect place for secrets and lies to be revealed or kept hidden, for characters to behave badly, for brides to get cold feet and for ratings to get a boost. More important than that, how's the frock?
"I had to put a stool up my skirt to actually sit down," laughs Emmeline Hawthorne, who plays Anne. "It was so beautifully made and they got hand-beaded Indian silk and made it into this incredibly corseted, boned dress."
"She just looked bee-yoo-de-ful," says Calvin Tuteao, otherwise known as the groom, Victor Kahu. In reality, for the cast and crew, the wedding was three days in a cold marquee, although Tuteao says it was good fun.
"Had loads of extras, making heaps of noise out here — the place was rocking."
It's been a long journey to this point for Victor and Anne: he the ambitious head of the clinic, she the naive and devout nurse who is, literally, young enough to be his daughter.
We know this, because Victor's son, Nelson, is the same age as Anne and the developing relationship between them has tragedy written all over it.
"Nelson is very Othello-like in planting the seed of doubt in his father's mind and working his paranoia — and it works," says Hawthorne, "and Anne sees a side of Victor and she just goes 'yuck!'
"She definitely feels for Nelson and she knows she feels something, but is in denial of it because one feels you have to do what is right when you've got this humungous wedding with 200 people."
So is she too young for him? Is she ready for marriage with Victor? "I definitely think she has the capacity for love and commitment and I definitely think she likes playing the responsible adult CEO wife," says Hawthorne, "but really, she's still a girl."
"Love knows no age, no colour," says Tuteao. For Victor, Anne is definitely the Priscilla Presley factor, the pure thing that is going to make his world a better place.
"She sort of makes him want to be a better man. Or try to be," says Tuteao. "I think he knows he could be better. He is a bit power-hungry. He sees himself being the first Maori president!"
And Anne has the same effect on Nelson.
It might sound a strange thing to say, but the wedding is a significant one for Shortland Street, not only because it's the biggest since Gina and Leonard, but because it's the culmination of a move towards biculturalism that began when the Hudson family moved in over a year ago.
A rich, rural pakeha world meets urban Maori culture under a marquee in Cambridge, which means a haka and some special words spoken in Maori. And that was a big thrill for Hawthorne.
"There were so many moments during the filming when it was like 'yeah, we've really got somewhere'," says Hawthorne.
"This is about the work that we're all doing and the things that we're all bringing and the commitment that we have to these stories and to the importance of seeing them. So it's been a pretty powerful and cool time at the moment."
She describes the experience as a "very special first wedding, very meaningful", although it was "really hard to go to the toilet in that dress. I was saying to the wardrobe girls, 'how committed are you?"'
PS: Nick and Waverley are also set for a journey down the aisle. Or are they?
By FIONA RAE