Silence and solitude

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Former Queenstowner Martine Baanvinger has a passion for bringing to life the stories of strong women throughout history.

They range from 12th century queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, to her latest subject, New Zealand’s own Annie Chaffey.

“It’s always been a big one for me,’’ Baanvinger tells Mountain Scene.

“I’m always looking for these stories that portray women, and I love true stories, that’s something that really appeals to me.’’

Timaru-born Annie, and her lover Henry Chaffey, became legendary figures as self-exiled hermits in the remote Kahurangi National Park mountains in the early-to-mid 20th century.

Their home, Asbestos Cottage, has been preserved, and is where Baanvinger found the inspiration for her one-woman play, Solitude.

“I was tramping in the national park and came across Asbestos Cottage,’’ she says.

“It still has a very historic character, they’ve kept it as it was, the story is displayed in the hut. I read it and thought, ‘oh my God, this woman was here for 40 years’.

“I just could not believe how you could live for so long, so isolated, and I wanted to know more.’’

She began to research the “super-intriguing’’ story, and in 2017, Solitude was born.

Because Annie died in 1953, Baanvinger was able to speak to people who had known her while she was alive.

“That was so wonderful, to have these real-life accounts from people who actually knew her, they showed me photos of her, it was so special.’’

A highlight was meeting Annie’s great-great niece in Wellington, she says.

The play has received plenty of plaudits, including a raft of nominations and awards at the Nelson Fringe Festival.

She’s now embarking on her first national run of the play with Arts on Tour NZ, including a stop in Queenstown next week.

A question and answer session will also be held after the performance, for those keen to know more about Annie’s life.

Baanvinger, originally from The Netherlands, moved to NZ after meeting her husband here in 2000.

She lived in Queenstown until 2009, where the pair owned Juice Stop at Steamer Wharf.

They’ve since relocated to Golden Bay, where she owns theatre company DramaLab.

– DAISY HUDSON

To catch Solitude, head to Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall, next Wednesday, 7.30pm. Tickets $25