Meet the Makers: Eleanor Bishop

17 September 2018

September is Aotearoa's first-ever New Zealand Theatre Month. To mark the occasion we're catching up with some of the country's best theatre makers – like director and playwright Eleanor Bishop.

David St George

What's your name and 'job title'?

Eleanor Bishop, director and playwright.

What inspires your work?

My own personal experience of moving through the world as a woman.

“[My work] often expresses itself as a desire to understand why things are the way they are, and to challenge that they can't change.”


For the last five years, my work has focussed on understanding violence towards women.

My process involves reaching back through history to discover the roots of these ideas (and often locating the expression of the ideas in canonical theatrical material and/or material from popular culture). I am also passionate about learning about others' experiences and putting those stories on stage.


Body Double directed by Eleanor Bishop

What makes New Zealand theatre special or unique on the world stage?

We think very deeply about what the relationship between performer and audience is, and what the work is trying to do. We care about accessibility and we care about our audiences. I think this is because our broader culture is generous and humble. Secondly, as a young and small theatre culture, there aren't strong divisions between traditional theatre, post-dramatic theatre, contemporary performance, dance and live art. So, it feels like anything is possible.

What excites you most about the future of theatre making?

The breaking down of divisions between professional and community art-making.

“Seeing people hold space with their stories and presence in professional settings and that this is rightly held up as high art.”


Work by Alice Canton and Barbarian Productions exemplify this.

What shows have you seen recently that have had a big impact on you and why?

I loved Akram Khan's Giselle that was in the 2018 Auckland Arts Festival. I know that story well and grew up seeing a lot of ballet, but had somehow forgotten that the second act involves a chorus of rageful women. I also really loved Ana Scotney's The Contours of Heaven which I saw at the Basement earlier this year. This was a different approach to verbatim material and worked on me in a very emotional, un-rational way which I really enjoy as an audience member.

What are you working on at the moment and when might people be able to see that?

Touring my piece Jane Doe through New Zealand. Jane Doe is a theatre show reflecting on rape culture in our communities that I first made in the United States when I was studying there, and we took to Edinburgh Fringe last year.

21 – 23 September, Arts Festival Dunedin, NZ
25 – 29 September, Sydney Fringe, Australia
20 – 21 October, Nelson Arts Festival
25 October, Hawkes Bay Arts Festival
30 Oct – 3 Nov, BATS Theatre, Wellington

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