Pack of girls tackling rugby on Taranaki stage

For eight years Tash Paton has been gearing up to tackle one of the top things on her bucket list – direct a play about rugby.

This week she’ll be watching from the sidelines as her opening night team of actors go play-by-play in Pack of Girls.

This classic New Zealand comedy sees rugby live on stage and follows the fortunes of a self confessed rugby widow called Pam.

Fed up with her husband’s misguided dreams of sporting stardom, Pam brings together a motley crew to form a seven-a-side all female rugby team.

Pack of Girls is on at Little Theatre from August 7 to 17

What ensues is a boisterous battle of the sexes, complete with racy banter and on stage tackling.

Paton hasn’t played rugby herself, but says she spent many, many hours of her childhood on the sidelines supporting her rugby playing brother.

That connection with rugby carried on into her adult life and she was part of a group of girls who started a tradition of going to a Blues v Chiefs game in Auckland every year.

Tash Paton with referee Glen Jackson before the Super Rugby Final in 2016 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington

While rugby has been a small part of her life, it’s theatre that has captivated Paton the most, and from a young age too.

She’s starred in many plays, worked on costumes, been a stage manager, and has generally either been on stage or backstage for most of her life.

It was in a backstage role that Paton originally worked on Pack of Girls, about eight years ago when she lived up north.

The play was so wonderful to be a part of, so well received and filled with so many fantastic roles that Paton immediately knew she wanted to direct it one day.

“So for at least eight years it has been on my bucket list, and it’s been very dear to my heart since.

“It tickled my fancy, I suppose. It’s really neat, it’s a hilarious comedy, it’s Kiwi and it’s a little bit rough around the edges with some of the language.

“And it’s a little bit of a girl power story.”

While Paton is nervous about her directing debut she’s also quietly confident, saying everything has come together how she wanted it to.

“In my head it’s exactly how it should be. I don’t want to change anything.”

She says her first directing experience has been both challenging and rewarding and she’s even worked with the playwright David Geary, who is coming to watch the show during the New Plymouth season.

“I’ve learnt so much over the process of this, and I’ve had amazing support and help from the theatre community.

“Everyone who has been involved has been so helpful to me. I’ve been so blessed.”

The Pack of Girls cast is made up of some Taranaki theatre stalwarts like Shawn Stanley, some newcomers like Skye Durdie, and some who are returning to the stage after a hiatus, like Holly Winter.

Paton says she is enjoying working with such a varied and talented cast and she’s really proud of what they have achieved.

“They’ve all taken direction so well and they’ve understood what my vision is. I’m so pleased with how they are going,” she says.

“In fact, I’m really happy with everything.

“Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope everyone else see it like that too,” she says, laughing.

Words by Taryn Utiger