My nana, Lucy Jessie Cotter, came over from Fiji with her parents in the early 1940s and caught meningitis on the boat. When she left Fiji, she could hear. When she arrived in New Zealand, she was completely deaf.
Speaking to her through sign [language] and finding another way to communicate, I think that's when my performing brain started clicking into gear.
Nana was hilarious. She had this cheeky sparkle in her eyes, as if she was up to something and thinking of ways to make you laugh.
On the weekends, I spent a lot of time at her house in Māngere. She had a secret little lolly jar in her room that only we knew about and there was a box of toys to play with, but I'd always go straight to the brass monkeys and crocodile.
The crocodile is actually a walnut cracker that belonged to my great grandfather, so I'm guessing both pieces travelled over with him from Fiji. That's a little fairy tale I like to tell myself, anyway.
The monkeys lived next to the fireplace, and the crocodile lived by the TV. I'd make up stories with the monkeys and the crocodile just swam on the floor while I was watching TV. They were my little friends and I remember really liking the weight of them.
Nana was in her late 70s when she died, in 2014. It was one of those surprise ones, out of the blue. We cancelled Christmas that year.
We were packing up everything at her house when I found the crocodile and the monkeys hidden away in a chest. A wave of memories took me straight back to childhood and I told them, "You're staying with me forever now."
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I keep them right at the top of my bookshelf. They might not look that pretty but they have sentimental value in my heart. I love the monkeys — they're so classically me. I'm just like a little cheeky monkey sometimes.
This lockdown has been a particularly hard one, the unknowing of it all and trying to get back to normality. That's what Mauri Tau was about [loosely translated as "play", Cotter created the work for Silo Theatre; it premiered digitally in July then streamed during August and September when Auckland went back into lockdown].
Sometimes you gotta stop and breathe and go for a walk. Settle your spirit, still it and just turn off for a bit.
— as told to Joanna Wane
Scotty Cotter (Tainui, Ngāpuhi, Fiji) is one of four performers in Silo Theatre's virtual end-of-year production Break Bread, "a millennia-spanning epic of triumph over disaster". Channelling the spirit of Silo's traditional Christmas show, it will stream daily from November 29 to December 19 at 7.30pm and 8.30pm, with an added show at 4pm on Sundays. Tickets cost $25 and can be booked at silotheatre.co.nz