Sunday, July 16, 2023

Red Mole & the Romance of Alan Brunton

Martin Edmond: Bus Stops on the Moon (2020)

This morning (16/7/23), the Stuff news site posted an article listing three "unmissable Kiwi docos" at this year's New Zealand International Film Festival. One of the three is award-winning documentarist Annie Goldson's latest film Red Mole: A Romance, which will be premiered there:
Red Mole: A Romance explores the origins, performances, personalities and fate of Red Mole, an experimental theatre troupe that took young NZ by storm in the 1970s. Red Mole was founded by poet Alan Brunton, ex-University of Auckland English Department, along with Sally Rodwell his partner in art and life. The two assembled a talented group of performers and musicians around them. An indefinable genre of poetry, dance, mask, fire-eating and rock music, Red Mole appeared everywhere from camping grounds to the Opera House. The troupe reached heights with its satirical cabaret at Carmen’s Balcony and the apocalyptic performances based on Brunton’s poetic scripts. Red Mole left Aotearoa for New York City at their peak where they received some acclaim until the demands of the city led to its core fragmenting. Red Mole: A Romance is both a social history and a poignant personal story told in part by Ruby Brunton, Alan and Sally’s daughter, herself a talented poet and performer. It draws on an extraordinary archive of scripts, videos, music, photographs, posters and more.
You can find a full list of Festival venues here, and - for those of us based in Tāmaki Makaurau - a full list of the films which will be on offer locally.

Red Mole was, I must confess, rather before my time. My own acquaintance with the mercurial Alan Brunton came later on, when he'd returned to Wellington and was busy with his publishing imprint Bumper Books. I've written more about that here.

Alan Brunton (1946-2002)

This new film seems very apposite, then, coming as it does hard on the heels of Martin Edmond's fascinating Red Mole memoir Bus Stops on the Moon (2020), pictured above.

I have watched the film of Red Mole's production of City of Night, Brunton's wildly eccentric adaptation of Aeschylus's Oresteia, though, so I do have some idea of what they were capable of!

For anyone interested in NZ poetry or theatre, it would clearly be crazy to miss this film.

brief #28: Alan Brunton (October 2003)

Scrolling back through my own archives, I find that I've reviewed three of Alan Brunton's books over the years: Fq (2003); Grooves of Glory (2005); and his selected poems Beyond the Ohlala Mountains (2013), as well as editing a special Brunton issue of the alt lit journal brief (#28, 2003).

Ave atque vale, Alan & Sally - you're both still sorely missed.

Michele Leggott & Martin Edmond, ed.: Beyond the Ohlala Mountains (2013)

Alan Brunton (26/10/2002)

Alan Brunton

Select Bibliography
[from my collection]


  1. Black and White Anthology. Taylors Mistake: Hawk Press, 1976.
  2. [with Sally Rodwell] Day for a Daughter. Wellington: Untold Books, 1989.
  3. Slow Passes: 1978-88. Introduction by Peter Simpson. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1991.
  4. Romaunt of Glossa: A Saga. Wellington: Bumper Books, 1998.
  5. Moonshine. Wellington: Bumper Books, 1998.
  6. Ecstasy. Wellington: Bumper Books, 2001.
  7. Fq. Wellington: Bumper Books, 2002.
  8. Beyond the Ohlala Mountains: Poems 1968-2002. Ed. Michele Leggott & Martin Edmond. Pokeno: Titus Books, 2013.

  9. Performance:

  10. A Red Mole Sketch Book. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1989.
  11. Grooves of Glory: Three Performance Texts. Wellington: Bumper Books, 2004.

  12. Prose:

  13. Years Ago Today: Language & Performance, 1969. New Zealand Cultural Studies. Wellington: Bumper Books, 1997.

  14. Edited:

  15. [with Murray Edmond & Michele Leggott] Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960-1975. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2000.
  16. The Brian Bell Reader. Wellington: Bumper Books, 2001.

  17. Video:

  18. Heaven’s Cloudy Smile: Two Poets Go for a Walk, dir. Sally Rodwell – with Alan Brunton & Michele Leggott. Wellington: GG Films / Red Mole, 1998. Video Cassette.
  19. Red Mole’s City of Night, dir. Alan Brunton & Sally Rodwell. Wellington: Red Mole, 2000. Video cassette.

  20. Secondary:

  21. Alan Brunton: Author Page. Auckland: nzepc, 2004.
  22. brief #28 (Oct 2003): Alan Brunton. Ed. Jack Ross. Auckland: The Writers Group, 2003.
  23. Celebrating Alan Brunton: A Concert and Book Launch for Fq. Auckland: Friday 6 December, 2002.
  24. Edmond, Martin. Bus Stops on the Moon: Red Mole Days 1974-1980. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2020.
  25. Howard, David, & Michele Leggott, ed. "'When You Give So Much’: Some Recollections of Alan Brunton." Auckland: nzepc, 2002.

David Howard & Michele Leggott, ed.: 'When You Give So Much' (2002)