By HUGH COLLINS
As he prepares to tour the length of the country, legendary Kiwi actor Michael Hurst certainly isn’t naive about how fortunate he is to be a performer in post-lockdown New Zealand.
“I am probably one of the few people in the world that can do this at the moment.
“In England and in America, theatre it’s just not happening so we are extremely lucky, it’s a great feeling.”
Best known for his roles in the popular 90s TV shows Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, Hurst is taking The Daylight Atheist on the road for several weeks — including a whistlestop performance in Arrowtown.
Written by NZ cartoonist Tom Scott, it’ll run in a variety of spaces, including an old dairy factory in Norsewood, and the historic Oamaru Opera House.
Hurst first performed the piece with the Auckland Theatre Company last year and saw it as an ideal show to take around the country.
“I thought ‘gosh this is a really good show to take because it’s a solo performance and it’s easy to get into spaces’,” Hurst says.
“I have a philosophy which is not to be daunted by any space.”
When asked if it’s a challenge working with a different space each night, Hurst says he’s thrilled to be moving from venue to venue.
“It’s very liberating … I’ll be playing in tiny places, little sheds, even a living room at one point.
“It just keeps you fit, really match-fit.
“That’s one of the best things about it. You can adapt the size of the piece, it keeps me on my toes.
“[I’m] looking forward to it immensely.”
The play follows Tom Scott’s father, an Irishman who moved to NZ in the 1950s.
“It’s basically him telling his story, it’s very funny and ultimately quite sad.
“Tom Scott is a brilliant writer and a great humourist.”
The play gets its name as the character wrestles with the idea that it’s easy to be an atheist in the daytime.
But when the darkness falls, so to speak, the outlook can become a little different.
“It’s a bit about what you believe and what you don’t believe.”
From a technical perspective, Hurst says the show’s very simple — he’ll be travelling the country with only his friend Jono.
“We basically roll up, unpack, put it in, put it on, spend the night and take off the next day.
“It’s really on the road stuff.”
Despite not having any other actors or performers to feed off, the 62-year-old loves going it alone.
He even goes as far as to say that it’s impossible for him to make mistakes — which makes sense considering there’s no one else depending on his lines.
“Once you start, you jump in and by the time you get to the end of it it’s almost like it’s gone without me knowing really, you go into a kind of a state where this performance comes through.
“For me the time flies, it never feels like a long show, I love it.”
While Hurst has plenty of experience as a screen actor, and even a director, he maintains the theatre’s still his first love.
“I love being on stage, it’s something that’s really in my blood, I think.
‘‘I love all my work but I tell you if I could make a living and if there was enough theatre to do it in this country, that’s probably all I would need to do.’’
Hurst performs ‘The Daylight Atheist’ at Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall on Saturday July 25. Tickets are $25 and available from Eventbrite.