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Source: University of Auckland

Making friends across the street – A powerful, interactive play about the value of friendship is challenging its cast to make friends with its audience in just an hour.

Directed by Professor Peter O’Connor from the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work, That’s What Friends are For features actors from the Hobson Street Theatre Company, all of whom are – or have been – homeless.
An expert in applied theatre, Professor O’Connor says it’s been “a great joy” working with the company, and that the theme for the devised piece came from them.
“We talked about, and thought about, the subject very deeply. People who have lived on the streets really understand what friendship is. To survive, you have to have good friends and also be a good friend.”
He says the play is not about homelessness as such, but more about what people who have at one time or another been homeless know about the world and can offer from their experiences.
“We want to shift the way in which the city might see people on the street, break down the barriers. At the end of the play, there is no space between actors and audience.”
And for those who might feel nervous about becoming an impromptu part of the performance, there are opportunities to paint the set – a backdrop of Hobson Street and the old Auckland City Mission – and operate the lights.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Engagement) and Professor of Planning, Jenny Dixon says homelessness is a critical issue for Auckland and affects people across our city.
“It’s also a complex issue and requires a range of solutions and creative thinking. The University of Auckland is proud to be partnering with the Auckland City Mission and the Auckland Street Choir to enable important voices to be heard through this theatre production. We hope this will lead to a greater understanding between people within our community and enable meaningful discussions to take place.”
That’s What Friends are For opens this Tuesday 26 February at The Basement Theatre in Auckland as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival. It will run until 3 March before touring to Wellington and Dunedin.


Professor Peter O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre and drama education. His research focuses on applied theatre in marginalised and vulnerable communities, including prisons.
He was the founding director of Everyday Theatre, a national theatre in education programme on preventing family violence and child abuse.
His work in Christchurch schools following the major earthquakes led to UNESCO-funded research and programme development and the development of the Teaspoon of Light Theatre Company.