These Two Hands - a memoir
Written and read by Renée
With music devised and played by Neil Billington
Produced by Adam Macaulay
In 2016, aged 88 Renée wrote her memoir, These Two Hands. It was published in 2017 by Mākaro Press. It tells her story in a series of patches, like a quilt. Each patch is either an account of an event in her life, an unpublished poem or story, an extract from one of her plays or novels, an opinion piece or a reflection.
Renée is of Māori (Ngāti Kahungunu), Irish, English, and Scottish ancestry. She won the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in 2018 and the Playmarket Award for a significant artistic contribution to New Zealand Theatre. In 2017 Renee published her memoir These Two Hands and she has written eight novels and eighteen plays, among which the play, Wednesday To Come is probably her most loved work. The play shows the effect on a family of the 1930s Great Depression in New Zealand.
Renée has described herself as a lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals. She wrote her first play Setting the Table in 1981. Many of her plays have been published, with extracts included in Intimate Acts, a collection of lesbian plays published by Brito and Lair, New York.
February 2019 Victoria University Press published a trilogy of Renée's plays under the title Wednesday to Come in its VUP Classics series.
Neil Billington (music) is a former radio and television broadcaster but also a virtuoso harmonica player, who has toured internationally and performed with some of the world's leading musicians, such as renowned American blues guitarist Sonny Landreth. Neil recently guested at the Tokyo harmonica festival. Although primarily a blues and jazz player Neil has performed with a wide range of musicians in many different styles. He is as adept at evoking the spirit of the great Larry Adler, or more contemporary style of Stevie Wonder, as he is the 'deep blues' of the Mississippi Delta or Chicago. Perhaps the most typical response of audiences has been their disbelief at what the 'humble harmonica' is capable of in his hands.