Acclaimed New Zealand playwright Robert Lord`s final play, Joyful and Triumphant (1992) is set in a small New Zealand town, and offers a forty-year (1949-1989) cultural and social history of his country`s society through the vicissitudes of the extended Bishop family and neighbor Alice Warner. This article examines how Lord, through, the use of eight scenes comprising eight Christmas Days at the Bishop family`s home over four decades, demonstrates significant changes in New Zealand society regarding such contentious issues as race relations and sexuality. The play also demonstrates that political differences between New Zealanders can be overcome, as evidenced by the late-blooming friendship between the patriarch of the Bishop family, George, a working-class supporter of the left-leaning Labour Party, and the affluent, middle-class Alice, a fervent supporter of the conservative National Party. At the same time, the play demonstrates the ideological fluidity of New Zealand`s two main political parties in the 1970s and 1980s, and questions the point of blind adherence to either of them.
In addition, the play examines the rituals and stresses of Christmas, demonstrating that gender roles during the festive holiday remain essentially unchanged from 1949 to 1989, while ruefully acknowledging that the growing degree of political correctness in New Zealand, as in the case of George`s well-meaning daughter, Rose, sometimes results in unwitting victims.