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Between The Sheets (19. September 2013)

Power suit-wearing Marion is late to her 7 year old son Alex’s parent-teacher interview. Teresa is Alex’s teacher, dedicated to her students... and harbouring secrets.
In an age of helicopter parenting versus full-time daycare; where coffee groups remain a battleground as much as the boardroom; where having it all might not be worth having after all, a child’s classroom becomes the setting for a charged unraveling of adult relationships.

Between the Sheets is the premiere work from Canadian writer Jordi Mand, a taut examination of modern femininity and not to be missed
With Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Beth Allen

A call to arms by the many female creative types throughout Auckland and New Zealand, Royale Production’s Between The Sheets, playing The Basement Theatre from November 19th, is a retort to comments about the Auckland theatre scene being dominated by the men.

Teresa, a third-grade teacher in her late twenties, meets Marion, the mother of one of her students, for a her parent-teacher interview of which Marion’s son Alex is the subject. It’s revealed that Teresa is involved in an extramarital affair with Marion’s husband - and so the differing viewpoints and life paths of these two women suddenly converge with dramatic results.

The debut work of Canadian playwright Jordi Mand, Between The Sheets is a psychological drama feature a cast of two women. Set in the confines a classroom this could be any English speaking country in today’s contemporary world.

Premiering at the Nightwood Theatre in Toronto as part of their 2012 season, it earned strong reviews and proved an evocative piece to many in the audience - including hallowed New Zealand performer Jennifer Ward-Lealand.

Ward-Lealand, a delegate at the International Federation of Actors World Congress, immediately recognised the universality of its themes to Western audiences and promptly secured the rights to bring it to New Zealand for the first time in 2013 - choosing not only to co-produce it with Royale Productions but to also star in the piece alongside Shortland Street favorite Beth Allen.

While the theme of Between The Sheets resonates with both Ward-Lealand and Allen, its all-female cast and crew during its Nightwood Theatre season also struck a chord with the pair. The work acts partly as a response to an article by Janet Mcallister in the NZ Herald back in 2012, regarding how Auckland’s theatre scene is dominated by men - leading to the Auckland season being produced by an all-female team also.

Cue the talents of Sophie Roberts in a directors role and Jane Hakaraia designing the show - and given the incredible calibre of works the lead actresses bring to this season, Between The Sheets looks set to not only provide a response to said-article, but also bring the resonating themes with it to Auckland theatre-goers.

19th - 30th November, 2013


If your life was on the line, would you fight? Would you fly? Would you risk it all to save another?

In 2013 a deadly virus devastates the Land of the Long White Cloud. A plague spreads, the undead rise, Apocalypse descends. Military outposts are set up in an attempt to control the outbreak. It is futile. Cities fall, overridden by those infected with the ‘Z' virus.

Here, at the beginning of the end, a final outpost remains: Aotea Square, Auckland City. The outpost is occupied by a skeleton crew of soldiers holding on in the hope of evacuation. When a broadcast brings a crowd of survivors, all must band together to ensure survival.

In life there are choices but in the apocalypse every choice is life or death.  

An immersive, interactive theatre experience, not for the faint hearted, Apocalypse Z is a cutting-edge journey of survival and the human spirit, immersing the audience within the madness of a zombie holocaust. Told in real time, Apocalypse Z is performed in a purpose built, fenced-off military zone in Auckland's town centre, Aotea Square.

People love scary movies. They love rollercoasters. In Royale Productions' new play, Apocalypse Z, this is taken to the extreme. A complete world is created for the play to exist in. Not only are there the traditional ‘thrills and spills' expected of the zombie genre but the play delves deeper; when the safe house is breached the audience will be called to aid the cast in re securing their safety. 

When cast members get attacked they'll need to help stem the flow of blood. When the power goes down, they will need to get it back up and running. When the transporter loses its way, they will need to guide it. When a survivor is bitten they must decide their fate – allow them the safety of company until they ‘turn' or cast them out for their final minutes of life.

Through AV, set design, lighting, costumes and props a truly authentic world is created and the audience is invited in… and then their world is turned upside down. It's not a haunted house; it's not a role-playing game. It's a play, albeit a new, fresh take on the medium. Interactive/immersion theatre removes the boundaries normally associated with theatrical performance; the fourth wall is removed. From the moment the play begins, the audience become the ‘survivors' in the story.

Apocalypse Z will transport the audience from being spectators who watch a production passively to actually experiencing what is happening around them.

Apocalypse Z is the brainchild of David Van Horn and Simon London, joined by theatrical powerhouses Andrew Foster, Charlie McDermott and Beth Allen to bring this exciting and challenging project to life. Apocalypse Z promises to deliver a unique and unprecedented theatrical experience for the 21st century.


Fasitua Amosa:  Nelson
Phil Brown:  Carver
Lauren Gibson:  Jenny
Ash Jones:  Xavier
Simon London:  Robin
David Van Horn:  Adam
Cartier Matthews and Ella Ward Smythe:  Olive

Direction / Design:  Andrew Foster 
Production / Technical Design:  Brad Gledhill 
Production / Stage Management:  Stacey Donaldson
Producers:  Beth Allen and Charlie McDermott
Associate Producer:  Oliver Rosser 
Assistant Stage Manager:  Sophie Bloomfield  
Makeup / Special Effects Design:  Shay Lawrence
Special Effects Assistant:  Hayley Oliver
Script Advisor:  Pip Hall
Stunt Advisor:  Glen Levy
Graphic Design:  Oliver Rosser
Costume Design:  Charlie Baptist
Operator:  Rory Maguire

Zomcrew at The Edge: 
Programming Manager, Arts:  Craig Cooper
Producer, Development Programmes:  Vanessa Thompson
Publicity:  Alex Ellis
Event Manager  E Ticketing:  Adam Dauphin
Technical Event Coordinator:  Julie Towson
Theatre Marketing Executive:  Roxie Haines 


‘When the audience arrive they will immediately be thrust into the role of survivors who have gathered in hope of being transported to safety.' Says Creative Producer Charlie McDermott, ‘We will ask them to accept challenges that will affect the outcome of the show and to make life and death choices. Choices that ultimately reveal their true selves'.

‘We want to seriously unsettle the audience and give them something totally different to the conventional theatrical experience.'

 ‘We want people to be involved but we also want to make this terrifying ride as comfortable as possible, audience members choose to be involved as much or as little as they want.'

‘Apocalypse Z is a totally new experience for Aucklanders. We have created an interactive theatrical Zombie Apocalypse and we are really excited. We want to bring young audiences, young men especially, to theatre and we want them to be excited by it. But most of all we want to tell a great story.'

Apocalypse Z (March 2013)

Shorty Street star Beth Allen (Brooke Freeman) is taking a on a new project this April – but it’s not something for the faint hearted!

When she’s not filming at Shortland Street, Beth is runs the Royale theatre company with her husband Charlie McDermott, and this time round they are producing a show of epic proportions.

Apocalypse Z is an immersive theatre experience that let’s audience members become part of the show.

The show tells the story of a life after a deadly virus has run rampant in the city and zombies have taken over. Set in Aotea Square, the show is designed to let the audience participate in the action – if you dare.

Starring Simon London (he played Rafael Durville on Shorty) and David Van Horn (he played Bree Hamilton’s boyfriend Dr Kevin Johns), the show is a terrifying experience that will leave audience members on the edge of their seats.

Apocalypse Z runs from April 13 – 27 th at Aotea Square.


Apocalypse Z (The Whimsical Banana review)

17. April 2013

Can you imagine quiet and peaceful Auckland being overrun by zombies?   How long do you think you will last in a zombie apocalypse?  Zombies have become quite the phenomenon across a range of entertainment mediums but have yet to make an appearance in live performance…until now.

Apocalypse Z is theatre like you have never experienced before; it is a unique blend of interactive and immersive theatre.  You are invited to suspend your disbelief as the show challenges the conventions of theatre, breaking the Fourth Wall by plunging the audience at the cold face of a zombie outbreak right in the heart of the city.  We are told that the only chance of survival is a safe zone that has been erected at the corner of Aotea Square.

As you make your way in to the outpost, from the armed guard keeping watch up high to the ARC (Armed Rescue Coalition) personnel performing tests on you to ensure you are not infected, you quickly forget reality and easily get sucked in to this world where Auckland is under threat.  The rain certainly helped make things feel all the more ominous!

Once inside the safe house, true to the horror genre, that sense of security is predictably short-lived as a new threat arises in our midst.  As things begin to unravel, the tension and sense of impending danger consequently increasingly escalates. I thought the video wall which revealed CCTV footage of within the outpost and the surrounding grounds was a clever touch.  That combined with some brilliantly timed and executed theatrical effects was very effective in keeping the audience on edge.

Between the polished script by Simon London and David Van Horn, excellent direction and set design by Andrew Foster and superb, authentic performances by the cast, this is one slick theatrical production.  I did feel the boundaries could have been pushed a little bit more though and there could have been potential to make it a lot more terrifying – but that’s just the seasoned horror fan inside me speaking!  Having said that, overall the show is genuinely quite scary and the action and drama that unfolds will get your heart racing.

I do not want to give too much away as the “magic” of the experience is in the fear of the unknown and not knowing what to expect.  It is definitely not for the faint of heart but if you are looking to experience a fresh, thrilling new take on theatre with a bit of bite – pun intended! – and you want to see how you would react in a zombie apocalypse, this is not to be missed!



Bard Day´s Night (May 2012)

The multi-talented Beth Allen is at it again and this time she's bringing a new twist on Shakespeare to the stage with Bard Day's Night, the latest play from Beth's own production company Royale Productions.

Bard Day's Night sees celebrated actor Michael Hurst join forces with two of New Zealand's freshest writing talents, including former Shortland Street actor Natalie Medlock, for an outrageous and at times profound view into one actor's attempt at self destruction.

Set after the conclusion of his play, the show follows Hamlet coming home to his dingy flat to face the final curtain. But can he make up his mind to do it? Hilarity follows when Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello arrive to help the hapless prince decide whether or not to be or not to be... or not.

You can catch Bard Day's Night at the Basement Theatre in Auckland for one week only from Monday 21st May.

Beth's festive Toy story   (December 2010)

Shortland Street's Beth Allen is gracing the stage for Toys, a special adults-only Christmas play at Auckland's Basement Theatre.  Beth, who plays Shortland Street's bad girl  Brooke Freeman, stars alongside Shorty castmates Angela Bloomfield and Ari Boyland (The Tribe's KC/Shorty's Brodie Kemp)  in the play about Children's toys.
"Toys is a naughty Christmas comedy, where several toys (like Viewmaster, Barbie and Ball) gather together to discuss what happened to their owner," says Beth,who thinks this play mignt provide the well-needed laughs over the busy holiday period. "I love making people laugh, [especially] at a time of the year when we're all tired."

Toys: Like a lolly lucky dip (6. December 2010)

Review by Lillian Richards

Christmas is about relief. It’s about letting go: of the year, of weight control, of your wallet, of inhibitions. Well that’s a secular interpretation but one at least that suits the loosely Christmas themed show Toys

Written for The Basement, with Christmas time in mind, Toys is about free-wheeling fun, about laughing and having parts of you touched by actors and having to touch parts of those actors in return (if you’re sitting in certain seats that is). Being toyed with, I guess.

Last year Medlock and Musgrove (sounds like a legal firm) wrote Christ All Mighty! for the 2009 Basement Christmas show which was full of delightfully clever, loaded back-handers at the ‘Jesus myth’. This year they’ve written something all together more, well, plebeian.

We don’t really have a class system here but I’ll state categorically that I’m not using that term pejoratively, well not conclusively. Where Christ All Mighty! implied, Toys screams. Where Christ All Mighty! cajoled, Toys insists. Is it wrong to put the two next to each other like this? Maybe.

The purpose of the exercise though is this: Christ All Mighty! felt like it was holding a candle up to Monty Python (how can anything mocking Jesus not be?) whereas Toys feels aglow with the comic sensibilities of someone more like Rich Fulcher (Bob Fossil from the Mighty Boosh).

There is a juvenile thrust to the scripting that, depending on how the actors choose to respond (ignore it, indorse it, confuse it), can either come off as naive personification or overwrought joke blowing.

You see toys are actually designed for people who find farts amusing as opposed to regrettable, so there is a high level of overt child-like self-absorption, superficiality, unexplained rage and unexplored petulance in the script. But toys are also designed for children, a child-like view of the world is simply in a way that is both moving and funny, and it’s those actors who pick up on this that are the most successful at bringing Toys to life.

What’s really interesting about Toys, as with the past 2 Christmas shows at The Basement where they’ve employed a rotating cast of actors, is the scope for interpretation within the script. I saw the opening night on Thursday as well as the following Saturday night performance and it was almost like seeing two different plays.

Improvisation (for those actors crazy and brilliant enough to be good at it) is rife and once you know the basic script outline you can marvel at just how far into the woods some people wander.

Nic Sampson deserves notable mention here for almost entirely reorganizing the character of Jack In The Box; better even than the Scottish humour and the cavalier stage presence is the fact he looks like Beetle Juice.

Gareth Reeves also plays Jack in the Box and did so with, although too much sexuality (the script is laden, it doesn’t need more), pretty compulsive stage presence, good delivery and timing.

Because the script changes depending on who’s hands it falls in to, I feel it’s mandatory to see this show twice as without the god-like understanding of what’s script and what’s edifice /acting /direction (which, by the way, is done lavishly yet tightly by Cameron Rhodes and Toby Leach, the only issue being some actors were a little hard to hear and needed to speak clearly and face forward), you don’t get to see the play flex its muscles. You miss it shifting from weak to brilliant, from pointless to powerful. And you might fail to experience some worthy nuance if an actor one night fails to uncover what could well be revealed the following night.

Like a lolly lucky dip you’re at the mercy of the night’s selection and what on the Thursday was a slightly garbled, ill-fitting, laugh/gag, lewd fest turned out on Saturday to be a truly funny, lovingly rendered, comprehensible ‘who done it?’. I guess that’s part of its brilliance, that it lowers to meet some and extends to reach others.  

My sensibilities are more suited to the Saturday night ensemble. Gareth Williams sang Michael Jackson back to life.  Angela Bloomfield was a pitch-perfect Barbie, self obsessed and vapid but with energy, charm, quirk and the most watchable facial story telling I’ve seen in a while. Beth Allen as Barbie’s sidekick Share A Smile Becky was all-American exuberance and optimism and Allen and Bloomfield are a powerful comic duo with great timing, pace and playfulness.

Brett O’Gorman played a ball with such sweet innocence that what was innuendo came off as accident, which added depth to a potentially one-dimensional character. Bruce Phillips as Viewmaster was highly successful in translating the antiquated toy into a slightly strung-out English Teacher type of dubious sexual proclivity.

The two characters that seemed comparatively irredeemable, no matter who was playing them, were Teddy Bear and Snake Eyes. Teddy Bear seems to suffer from a lack of gravitas with not much in the way of script to help a slightly mundane character along and Snake Eyes is an unsuccessful mix of egoism and misanthropy which comes off as unrealistic and quite confusing. However both roles still roused much laughter, if a little less than their more craftily scripted counterparts.

The set design is both fitting and strange in some places (the green sheer fabric in Barbie’s house seemed at odds with her native pink) but the overall atmosphere is a bit like the Log Flume, which is to say creepy, whimsical and appealingly childlike. The lighting is simple and effective, not dimming the audience too much which helps to create a greater sense of communion with the actors; a nod to the audience’s crucial part in this play.

A bag of pick n mix lollies is really the right metaphor. Bright, appealing, moreish (sic), not really nourishing but satisfying when you’re wanting something sweet, something to get you high and overall exactly what you hoped: a relief.  


Theatre review: Toys (3. December 2010)

Let's get this clear right at the start: do NOT take your children to Toys. Despite the name it's definitely NOT a show for kids.

It's dirty, very dirty. And bloody hilarious.

Penned by writing duo Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove, Toys is the third in the Basement's recent tradition of a Christmas show featuring a revolving cast of leading actors, following the success of The Reindeer Monologues and Christ Almighty over the past two Decembers.

Each year the money it makes goes to improving the theatre, which is a venue with the acting community at its heart: it's run by actors Charlie McDermott an Beth Allen. After paying for air conditioning and toilets for the actors upstairs, this time around it plans to renovate the upstairs area further so there is a second space for theatre groups to perform in.

The back story for Toys, is that it's Christmas at seven-year-old Charlie's house, but he has been whisked away in a big white truck with flashing lights on top.

From Viewmaster to Barbie, teddy and a Jack in the Box, a range of toys deliver monologues as we try to get to the heart of what really happened to Charlie and whether the toys are trying to get their own back.

Sexuality is pretty fluid in Charlie's bedroom. Viewmaster is a bit of a perve who has a Kevin Bacon fetish, while wheelchair bound Share-A-Smile Becky is utterly in love with Barbie - and quite literally gets into ... erm ... Barbie's box.

The whole concept is pretty much a bit of pre-Christmas fun and hell do the actors enjoy it. There were a couple of forgotten lines and a moment where Jack in the Box, played by Gareth Reeves, had to pop down into his box to recompose himself. But it simply added to the fun - and nobody had more fun at last night's premiere than a red paint covered Harry McNaughton who played a red ball. All the performers were hilarious, but McNaughton was the show stealer with his bouncing all over the stage like a big red happy simpleton.

With a revolving cast you never know who you are going to see take on the roles each night, which adds to the surprise element. This year the cast is: Andi Crown, Angela Bloomfield, Ari Boyland, Barnaby Frederic, Barnie Duncan, Ben Wall, Beth Allen, Brett O'Gorman, Bronwyn Bradley, Bruce Phillips, Byron Coll, Charlie McDermott, Chelsie Preston-Crayford, Dan Musgrove, Dave Fane, Gareth Reeves, Gareth Williams, Hannah Banks, Harry McNaughton, Ian Hughes, Jacque Drew, Jarod Rawiri, Jeff Szusterman, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Jessica Wood, Jordan Blaikie, Madeleine Sami, Michele Hine, Millen Baird, Morgana O'Reilly, Natalie Medlock, Nic Sampson, Oliver Driver, Renee Lyons, Robyn Malcolm, Ryan Richards, Sam Snedden, Siobhan Marshall and Yvette Parsons.

If you've seen a lot of heavy theatre this year, get some light Christmas relief, take your friends and head along to Toys for a damn good laugh.

Toys is showing at The Basement until 18 December.


"Toying" around (29. November 2010)

Several Shortland Street stars are set to perform in Toys this December, a brand new Christmas play from the writers of last year's smash hit, Christ Almighty!

Created by Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove, Shortland Street's Beth Allen (Brooke Freeman), Angela Bloomfield (Rachel McKenna) and Ari Boyland (Brodie Kemp), will join a revolving cast of 37 other actors, to bring this hilarious, adults-only, festive show.
"Toys is a naughty Christmas comedy, where several toys (like Viewmaster, Barbie and Ball) gather together to discuss what happened to their owner, Charlie," says Allen, who is not only acting in, but also co-producing the show. "Audiences can expect lots of naughtiness, lots of laughs and tonnes of talent."

With a brilliant host of talent lined up, including Oliver Driver, Chelsie Preston-Crayford (The Cult), Robyn Malcolm (Outrageus Fortune) and Bronwyn Bradley (Go Girls), Allen says that people's enthusiasm for the show has been amazing.

"I like to think it's because it's terrifying, and enormous fun. Doing this play makes you brave, and makes you surprise even yourself. You also get to wear a silly costume and make people laugh!"
Allen, who was also involved in Medlock and Musgrove's previous two Christmas plays, Reindeer Monologues and Christ Almighty!, says she loves the style of these unique productions.
"I love that rock-n-roll feeling of the shows themselves, where the audience (and often us) don't know what the performers are going to do next," says Allen. "Seeing the enthusiasm of so many amazing actors to get up on stage and have a play is so cool. I also love making people laugh at a time of year where we're all tired and could do with one or two!"

Toys plays at the Basement Theatre in Auckland from December 2 - 18th.

TOYS (18. November 2010)

Toys - A Play By Natalie Medlock & Dan Musgrove
From the writers of last year's smash hit Christ Almighty! comes another serving of yuletide mischief. It's Christmas time at 7 year-old Charlie's house, and Charlie has gone away in a big white Christmas truck, with flashing Christmas lights on top. Something terrible has happened to Charlie; and his toys have got some explaining to do...

Join the revolving cast of 40 actors from stage and screen as they ask the tough questions: will Ball survive being thrown at the ranchslider again? Is Viewmaster and his obsession with Kevin Bacon really to be trusted? Will Barbie have to go and live at the dump?

Toys. They're not for children.

Contains coarse language.

Starring: Andi Crown, Angela Bloomfield, Ari Boyland, Barnaby Frederic, Barnie Duncan, Ben Wall, Beth Allen, Brett O'Gorman, Bronwyn Bradley, Bruce Phillips, Byron Coll, Charlie McDermott, Chelsie Preston-Crayford, Dan Musgrove, Dave Fane, Gareth Reeves, Gareth Williams, Hannah Banks, Harry McNaughton, Ian Hughes, Jacque Drew, Jarod Rawiri, Jeff Szusterman, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Jessica Wood, Jordan Blaikie, Madeleine Sami, Michele Hine, Millen Baird, Morgana O'Reilly, Natalie Medlock, Nic Sampson, Oliver Driver, Renee Lyons, Robyn Malcolm, Ryan Richards, Sam Snedden, Siobhan Marshall and Yvette Parsons.

Directed by Cameron Rhodes and Toby Leach.
Design by Simon Coleman.


Review: The V word (27.08.2010)

Click here to edit textI should probably give this some context before you shut down your browser window in horror. Last night I went to The Vagina Monologues, which has just opened at the Basement Theatre in Auckland. If you're not familiar with the play, here's the basic rundown: It comprises a series of stories about girl-bits presented in monologue form with the ethos behind it all being celebration of the vagina.

The monologues are based on interviews with around 200 women conducted by the play's writer, Eve Ensler, and since it started doing the rounds in 1996 it's become a very famous play around the world. Unsurprising really, it has the word "vagina" in the title after all.

So yes, I was familiar with the concept of the play but despite much critical acclaim over the years, I've never been particularly interested in the idea of watching a bunch of women talk about their downstairs region. That's just not me, you know?However, the current New Zealand season of The Vagina Monologues features past and present Shortland Street stars, and you know how I love me some Shortland Street, so when the invite arrived I thought - okay, let's do this thing.

There is a cast of 20 in total, but on any given night you'll end up with an ensemble of five actresses because the performers change out each show. Last night I was lucky enough to stumble upon Brooke from Shortland Street (Beth Allen) with the bonus of Loretta from Outrageous Fortune (Antonia Prebble). Both were very engaging, as were the other ladies who joined them - Gabrielle Henderson, Rachel Nash and Jodie Rimmer.

In addition to the monologues there were vox pop vignettes projected on to the wall that featured a collection of local women, of varying levels of fame, answering questions about their vaginas. Included in their number were Anna Hutchison, Katrina Hobbs, Virginie Le Brun, Shavaughn Ruakere, Carol Hirschfield and (get this) Judy Bailey.

Judy Bailey talking about her vagina! I get that it's a very forward-thinking, womanhood-embracing play but hearing Judy Bailey say some of the things she said was akin to hearing a hybrid of my mother and my favourite primary school teacher talk about her whatsit. Not comfy. Overall it was a fun night and even though I don't quite buy into the whole "being one with my vagina" thing, I still had a chuckle here and there and definitely appreciated the talented performances (how they managed to remember all their lines and then deliver them in a variety of accents is beyond me).

So in honour of my jaunt to the theatre comes the interaction part of today's entry. The bit where I invite you to discuss the topic du jour. Tee hee.

As always you're welcome to contribute in any way you'd like, but I'm particularly curious to know if your family had any nicknames for your downstairs when you were a kid. For example my parents used the term "sweetie". What the heck? "Don't forget to wash your sweetie". Urgh.

My sister refers to it as a "tinky" with her daughter. Boys, I'm sure you can contribute in reference to your little fellas as well. Then, of course, there are a huge number of terms for our parts that we use as adults as well (this was covered in the play - snatch, beaver etc), which ones do you prefer and which ones do you hate?

PS: Sorry for using the V-word so liberally in this entry, I think it's safe to say I've been desensitised to it after last night's performance. Go see the play and you'll understand.

Review by: Jane Yee

Review: The Vagina Monologues (27.08.2010)

A play all about ‘down there’, hmmm. Really? What’s there to talk about? How would that make an interesting play - wouldn’t it just be a little odd and possibly uncomfortable?

Unless you have read Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues or seen it performed before, these could be some of the thoughts floating around in your head. Come on, admit it!

After attending the second night of The Vagina Monologues at The Basement I can tell you that yes, it is a play all about Vagina’s. Secondly, it makes for a VERY interesting, thought provoking, warm and funny play. And no, there’s nothing odd or uncomfortable about it, quite the opposite in fact.

It has been 8 years since the last professional production of The Vagina Monologues in Auckland, and this time round they’ve done it with a revolving cast of 20. There are some big names making up this pool of actresses and one thing they’re definitely not lacking in is talent!

The Vagina Monologues is made up of a number of monologues brought to life by different characters ranging in age, race, ethnicity and sexuality (initially Eve Ensler performed every monologue herself).

The monologues are compelling shorts which blend together to form a tapestry of experiences tinged with sadness, anger, fear, shame, humour, hope and / or empowerment.

Last night I had the pleasure of watching Antonia Prebble, Beth Allen, Gabrielle Henderson, Jodie Rimmer and Rachel Nash. Each of these actresses brought something special and unique to the characters she played yet also had a nice synergy as a group on stage together.

With sass and spunk Antonia Prebble delivered a great monologue on the angry vagina. She listed her character’s reasons and summed up that a more vagina-friendly world would eliminate tampons, g-strings and the chilling unpleasantness of visits to the gynaecologist.

Beth Allen deftly portrayed pain, confusion and panic during one of her monologues when her character feared she’d lost her clitoris. There was a happy ending to the tale however and again Allen captured the elation and joy of her character’s freedom and empowerment.

Gabrielle Henderson was an unknown to me but now I would go to show just to watch her!

Her first standout performance was at the start of the second half and one of the most emotionally heartfelt pieces of acting I have seen recently. In a monologue that explored gang-rape as an instrument of war, Henderson elegantly delivered an incredibly moving account of her characters sense of self before and after being tortured for days.

In a highly contrasting monologue Henderson had the entire audience in hysterics. Her portrayal of a sex worker who loved to make women moan was nothing short of brilliant as she proceeded to demonstrate, amongst others; the wasp moan, the semi-religious moan, the power moan and finishing with the penultimate surprise-triple-orgasm-moan. 

Jodie Rimmer was entertaining and endearing with a monologue about naming things. Firstly frogs and their naming ceremonies right through to her ’itsy bitsy’, because if a thing remained un-named it was un-tamed and unknown.

Rimmer seemed to really connect with the audience. She effortlessly developed a warm and easy rapport, making her monologues compelling and sincere.

Rachel Nash was a delightful surprise and I particularly enjoyed her monologue on ‘down there’. Nash took on the character in all her mannerisms right through to a flawless accent. She seemed to transform before our eyes and captured the characters shame and secrecy perfectly.

To further develop the camaraderie there were three audio visual cuts of well known NZ women projected onto the wall answering questions such as; what would your vagina wear and what would it say? To which there were an array of answers including; glasses, a tutu, combat boots, through to, let’s go, oh god and thank you.

Lastly the play was tied into a neat little package, ending with a tune by Julia Deans, just as it had begun with one from L.A Mitchell and started the second half with Flip Grater. Some more well known NZ women sharing with the audience.

So, don’t miss you chance to share in some great stories, an abundance of accents and plenty of laughs. Take from it what you will, but you will take something away with you.


The Sinful Monologues (25-27 May 2010)

he format is the same as for The Awkward Monologues, which showed at Te Karanga Gallery in February this year: seven ten-minute pieces by seven different writers, played by seven actors.
These monologues are an evolutionary step in a very good direction. While Awkward had some juicy highlights and some, well, awkward moments – admittedly a tough theme to tackle – Sinful is an almost seamless buffet of tasty new writing, made flesh by some excellent performances.

Wrath is written by Vivienne Plumb and performed by Robyn Paterson. A hitch-hiking teenager chats candidly and incessantly to the driver about the mundaneness and misfortune of her young life. I’m not entirely sure where ‘wrath’ comes into it... nevertheless, Paterson is very funny and it’s a well-written piece that kept me guessing to the end.

Shenequa is a Ukrainian prostitute who imparts her wisdom and experience to a somewhat nervous new girl on her first night at the brothel. Dena Kennedy’s gristly lines are chomped with gusto by Andi Crown in a slick and very funny piece. Directed by Martin Wood.

Lilith gets to the fiery gates of Hell and has quite a lot to say for herself before she signs God’s contract. Beth Allen plays a feisty Lilith, in Lily Richards’ light-n-tasty treatise on the original battle of the sexes.

Low End
Writer Nic Sampson and actor Gareth Reeves got the most laughs in this wry piece about a jaded, faded rock ‘n’ roller looking back on the highs and lows of his days with the band.

Pride and the Sin Tree
A creepy little number, not as funny – but definitely as sinful – as the rest. Julia Croft is spine-chilling as a young woman who gets her own back at her childhood tormentors. Venus Stephens’ writing is a bit flowery at times (but then she does say in the programme that she ‘writes to channel her inner Barbara Cartland’, which I think is selling herself short). Pride wraps up nicely with a snappy, bloodcurdling ending, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Food for Thought
Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu is masterful at the tragically funny. She had me in stitches with her melancholic monologue about how her eating disorder ruined her life. A pithy, grim comedy written by Morgana O’Reilly.

The Week
Ash Jones is delectable as an overly-suspicious, jealous friend who’s obsessed with reading between the lines of his best friend’s newfound happiness. Written by Anders Falstie-Jensen and directed by Dena Kennedy.

The Sinful Monologues are bitterly, laugh-out-loud funny and I unreservedly recommend going to see this short season while you can. I was still laughing on the way home.
Review by: Sian Robertson, 26. May 2010

Killer Joe (2009)

A play by Tracy Letts
September 11th  -October 3rd 2009
Preview Night: September 10th 2009
Ansel - Craig Hall
Chris - Charlie McDermott
Dottie - Beth Allen
Sharla - Sara Wiseman
Killer Joe - Colin Moy

Simon Coleman - Set Designer
Hannah Woods - Costume

Move over True Blood: the real trailer trash are coming to town The Basement Theatre, in fact, from September 11th. Heads roll, shatter and blow in Killer Joe, the savagely funny, pitch-black comedy by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Tracy Letts, making its New Zealand debut.

The play focuses on the Smith family, a greedy, vindictive clan of trailer-trash Texans who hatch a plan to murder their estranged, naggy, alcoholic matriarch to cash in on her insurance policy. Unable to bring themselves to do the deed, they hire Killer Joe Cooper, a full-time cop, part-time contract killer. Once he steps into their trailer, their simple plan quickly spirals out of control.

Shortland Street star Beth Allen appears with real-life love Charlie McDermott (last seen in Silo Theatres The Little Dog Laughed) as Dottie, the ingenue younger sister to McDermott's Chris. 'There is a edge of inappropriateness to Dottie and Chris's relationship, says Allen. It is a totally different character to Brooke on Shortland Street; Dottie is sexually unaware, while at the same time providing some of the play's most shocking moments.

Alongside them, playing their parents, are Sarah Wiseman (Mercy Peak, Outrageous Fortune) and Craig Hall (Outrageous Fortune's slippery Nicky). Wiseman and Hall are thrilled to be portraying the brazen Sharla and clueless Ansel. 'The family live on a diet of television, fast food and bad decisions,' says Wiseman. 'It is fantastic to be part of such a visceral, in-your-face theatre experience.'Colin Moy (In My Father's Den) will appear as Joe, the well-heeled contract killer who throws the family into disarray.

Black as Texan oil and funny as hell, Killer Joe will be a wild night out at the theatre. Lock up your daughters: Killer Joe is on the loose.

'Deeply Funny [it has] the addictive pull of a classic thriller'
- The New York Times

source review

"Killer Joe" review #1

The naturalism is in your face and mixed with an almost absurdist storyline. The characters are superbly played! I'm thinking perhaps Harold Pinter is not dead, perhaps he has moved to America and changed his name to Tracy Letts! On top of that the style is realised perfectly through every facet of the production. These guys are real theatre badasses: they even smoke on stage!
The production standards totally blew me away! A TV that goes on and off (and plays content appropriate to the situation), the lighting, the sound effects and the way it was encased in a fake ceiling made it the first show I've been to at The Basement (nee Silo, nee Jeffery James Theatre) in which one is not acutely aware of the low ceiling in that space.

The setting is the inside of a caravan, Southern USA, somewhere in Texas.  Chris (Charlie McDermott) returns to the caravan of his father Ancel (Craig Hall) after being kicked out of his mother's house. He needs cash to pay back a large debt owes to some fairly dodgy sounding characters.
Right from the get go the acting is fantastic, the accents are flawless and I feel as though I am really getting a good glimpse of a culture totally different from my own, and of a stunningly beautiful half naked woman - Chris's stepmother - Sharla (Sara Wiseman).

You get to see almost everyone at least partially in the nick and they are all super hot. The superb acting makes it a bargain at twice the ticket price!
Chris has come to discuss something of a delicate nature with his Dad - his mother's life insurance policy. We never see the unfortunate woman but it is pretty clear she's not well loved by any one in the play. The challange for Chris is to convince his Dad to inlist the help of "Killer Joe" (Colin Moy) in order to do away with "mom" and take the cash for the good of the family - including Dottie (Beth Allen) who is Ansel's simpleton daughter.

That's all I'll reveal about the story. If you want to see how it all pans out you'll have to go and see the show, and I strongly recommend you do!

It is heavily supported by a crew that it makes the overall production so slick that I think future audiences are in for a real treat! The dialogue is snappy, real and at times hillarious. When there are moments of silence we get to really appreciate them because of this.
However, there is something that bothers me and I don't know if it's the play, the interpretation or the fact that the opening night audience, it would seem, refuses to see the play any other way than as a violent absudist comedy.  Well who am I to argue with them? They certainly have had a fabulous time and lots of laughter ... but I am looking for something more sinister, there has been such promise and such a building of tension, then in a final flurry of activity it is suddenly all over!

I don't know if they are directed this way or not, but the actors break character for the curtain call before the lights have gone down on the last scene - which leaves me feeling quite disturbed and it makes the play feel a little like an acting exercise - diffusing the strength of the performances.
To be completely honest I am left feeling very alone in the room, everyone is cheering and seems over joyed, but I am feeling empty because I am, in an instant, realising that the play - while brilliantly written and performed (in terms of the characterisation and dialogue) - is ... well ... meaningless. 

Now I am not one of those people that needs to know the meaning of every moment or to have a moral point rammed down my throat at all; I am quite happy to find it in simpler things, even in character itself ... But I truly can't find anything meanful to take away with me and I'm wondering what I have missed.

On the way home it dawns on me that the characters (every one of them) are real gems for any actor, but they don't really develop throughout the story. In particular the title role "Killer Joe" has some quite massive changes to his life during the play, yet his dialogue stays cool as ever and so does Moy's performance. I'd like to have seen director (Cameron Rhodes) encourage Moy to let us in on what's going on for Joe because from what I have seen he appears to be exactly the same guy at the end as he was at the start, and I have a suspicion that his role could be the key to this play meaning something.
Reviewed by John Smythe, 12 Sep 2009

Killer Joe review #2

f you're good at suspending disbelief, and find threats and guns entertaining, you'll probably quite enjoy Killer Joe. When a Texan trailer park family engages a contract killer to kill their ex-wife/ mother for the insurance money, you just know they're asking for trouble.You even know what kind of trouble they're asking for; Joe ain't got his nickname for his fishing, y'all.

Cheap thrills are the goals of this show rather than believable characters or a plausible plot with a point to make. The relatively brief glimpses of nudity and violence are both voyeuristic and disturbing - a cleverly uneasy mix. They don't feel gratuitous - but the white-trash stereotypes do.

The Smith family are dumb. They beat each other up, they whore each other out, they wear a lot of denim, they offer beer as a cure-all in every crisis (makes more sense than tea, after all). Unlike the Wests in Outrageous Fortune, none of the Smiths is three-dimensional enough for the audience to care what happens to them - they're unsympathetically written by a middle-class playwright (Tracy Letts) to be laughed at by middle-class audiences.

The acting, directed by Cameron Rhodes, is mixed. Sara Wiseman has excellent stage presence and steals her scenes as the tarty second wife, Sharla, and Beth Allen does a good job as the sweet, idiot-savant daughter Dottie (displaying her innocence with a Mickey Mouse T-shirt). But Craig Hall plays the stoner dad by disappearing into the background, while Charlie McDermott's contrasting vigour as the good-for-nothing son is welcome but equally one-note.

Colin Moy looks uncomfortable and impassive as the all-important title character - Dottie says that Joe's eyes hurt her when he looks at her, but that intensity is missing. Like the characters, the accents are unconvincing - too fast for a Texan drawl. But this, coupled with the well-paced exchanges, means things roll along at a nice clip. Simon Coleman's hyper-realistic trailer home set looks like it's taken a lot of effort, and it's pleasingly busy and filthy: coathanger TV antenna, lampshade askew, broken blinds.

This is a shallow show but, hey, if you're not looking for something deep and meaningful, it would love to take you for a ride.

NZ Herald, 14th September 2009

Killer Joe review #3 by James Wenley

“Mamma tried to kill me when I was little,” Beth Allen’s Dottie says casually. She’s a naïve Texan girl who lives with her trailer trash family.
 Killer Joe, by American playwright Tracy Lett, invites us into the trailer of the Smith family. The play opens with the bark of dogs, a knock at the door, and a nude Sarah Wiseman (with her beaver out for all the world) emerging from her bedroom to answer. Son Chris (Charlie McDermott, who continues to impress me as an actor) has been kicked out of home by his mother after beating her, so has come round to stay at his fathers (Craig Hall). Dottie comes out sleep-walking. The television set, forever on, is the centre of their universe. That should give a hint about the type of family we’re dealing with in this play.

Shall I give another? Chris has the idea of hiring a contract killer to off his mother so they can collect the life insurance that would go to Dottie. Enter Killer Joe (Colin Moy).

The play is entirely set in the Smith’s trailer (a grungy set, with couch, table, and noticeable grime down the oven side – such attention to detail!). It had me from the beginning. Starting with the brilliant conceit of the contract killing, the play has a number of twists and turns as the contract goes horribly wrong. Moy’s Joe is a remarkable figure – a man of few words, who conveys an ever threatening fearsome presence, but displays a real awkwardness when he attempts to woo Dottie. He has the best lines too – he considers women to be “black-hearted, evil and old.”

In the best traditions of “in-yer-face” theatre, the play contains many belly laughs, mixed in with some very disturbing scenes. One, involving a KFC chicken leg, had me almost physically sick. The ending, where everything comes out, involves the most thrilling, and realistic fight scene I have seen. It involves blood, a gun, and a refrigerator. The play is worth going to just to see these final two minutes alone. But on top of that it has a very clever script and characters you love to hate.

A Texas thrill-ride with some big laughs and even bigger shocks. Go see this one too.



 ‘I can’t believe I’m getting married.’
‘Yeah. To the man of your dreams, you lucky bitch.’

Nicole's getting married. Elvira's organised the party. Giselle's come for the booze. Lara's up for some party pashing. Rochelle needs some attention. Caroline isn't sure what's going on. And Megan is out for revenge. Little Blonde Hen, a biting comedy, follows a group of girlfriends as their evening disintegrates into drunken debauchery. Nicole's wedding is right around the corner and although everything appears on track, deep down there's some brooding.
Abigail's Party meets The Women, Little Blonde Hen is a play about joy, despair and penis straws.

Little Blonde Hen was penned, and will be directed by, award-winning playwright, Thomas Sainsbury. In the last two years Thomas has written and produced his plays LUV, Loser, The Mall, Beast, Gas and The Feminine. He is currently residing in London where he has overseen productions of his plays "A Simple Procedure" and ". . . And then you die." Thomas’s plays The Mall and Loser have been published by Play Press. Loser and his play Main Street are currently being adapted for the screen.

Little Blonde Hen will be performed by some of New Zealand’s top acting talent. The play will also be a reunion for The Tribe stars Tori Spence, Antonia Prebble and  Beth Allen. The mousy Caroline will be performed by Serena Cotton (Insider’s Guide to Love). The kleptomaniac Giselle will be performed by Claire Van Beek (The Needies). And the lascivious Lara will be played by London resident Jessica Joy Wood (The Ferryman, A Simple Procedure). Elvira and Rochelle will be played by Outrageous Fortune beauties Antonia Prebble and Siobhan Marshall.


The cast includes some top talent and quite a few household names… Antonia Prebble takes a break from the increasingly popular Outrageous Fortune to play the highly strung Elvira. The bride to be, Nicole, is played by The Tribe star Victoria Spence. Well known Shortland Street actor, Beth Allen plays the not so likeable Megan .The hen’s night begins at Elvira’s (Prebble) who has a strict schedule for the evening, armed with stop watch and clip-board. There are penis straws, Tequila shots, attempts at party games and plenty of gossip and giggles. Throughout the rest of the evening we become familiar with the particular problems of each of the diverse female cast.

Little Blonde Hen is a warm and witty story about women… their sometimes complex and meaningful relationships with each other and also how they choose to present themselves to the world.

The character flaws are greatly exaggerated which does not trivialise so much as create more opportunity for the intelligent humour that this play is built upon. This is a delightful journey that makes fun of the dramas we create for ourselves. Wonderfully written and directed this show is a true success in every respect; not least of all because of the very talented and strong cast of leading ladies!

By Renee Kirk


Written, directed, designed and operated by Thomas Sainsbury
Produced by Roberto Nascimento
Fingerprints and Teeth Productions

at 420 Bar, 323 K Road, Auckland
From 11 Jun 2009 to 14 Jun 2009

Have you ever been at a hen's night?  Or have you ever had a hen's night of your own?  If the answer is "yes" to either of these questions then you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Thomas Sainsbury's Little Blonde Hen...
As I enter the bar - yes, the play is performed at K Rd's 420 Bar (above the Rising Sun) - I am apprehensive about the show: A bunch of women getting drunk and behaving like idiots is it the kind of thing you can only enjoy if you are doing it too ...?

Luckily the acting is so good that I do enjoy it, very much.  But without the convincing cast and their snappy comic timing, such a play could potentially be painful. 
In Little Blonde Hen seven women gather for an evening of pre-wedding debauchery:  They start at home, they nibble on nibbles, shoot tequila and comment on each others' weight and clothes before heading to the night club - where the real butchery begins.  But this is also where some audience members might've lost interest if the acting and direction wasn't spot on. 

Maybe it's just because I'm a woman and I've been in the women's bathroom at a bar and heard it all before ... It's quite a stretch to make drunken drama into real theatre and it's the mark of good actors and a good playwright (and director) that it becomes something other people might want to watch. 
Nicole (Victoria Spence) is the bride-to-be who provides a sort of groundline for the extremity of her girl friends' characters.  Nicole's getting cold feet over the wedding, her heart is sweet, but we're just not sure if her future husband is. 
Caroline (Serena Cotton) is her future sister-in-law. She's never met Nicole's friends before and isn't pleased with what she sees:  Lara (Jessica Joy Wood) is much too wild; Elvira (Antonia Prebble), Nicole's Maid of Honour, is more into the hen's night than the bride herself;  Megan (Beth Allen) is back from overseas and has something up her sleeve; Rochelle (Siobhan Marshall) can't bear to share the spotlight, even on her friend's hen night; and Giselle (Claire Van Beek) just can't seem to stop taking things...

Little Blonde Hen takes a look at modern women, or at least modern women within the competitive context of a night on the town.  Sainsbury writes carefully within realistic parameters and the result is a voyeuristic peek into their lives. 
If what we see through the 'window' is a superficial view of seven women, that means they are not only ones to have a good time.  Their audience will have a great night as well.


The Feminine (2007)

Written and directed by Tom Sainsbury
at Cross Street Studios, Auckland
From 12 Dec 2007 to 15 Dec 2007

Performed by Glen Pickering, Beth Allen, Todd Emerson, Nisha Madhan, Christabel Smith

“What’s going on? Where are all the men?”
“It’s too hard to explain.”

The Feminine, a speculative drama, is the story of a new world order.
When Adam Cooper, an English Teacher at a prestigious girl’s school, is diagnosed with testicular cancer he thinks his life is over. A new treatment, however, gives him hope and he willingly undergoes it. But there are complications.

In fifteen years he wakes from a coma.
In fifteen years the world has changed dramatically.
In fifteen years Adam’s masculinity will have him hiding for his life.

"Both Beth Allen and Christabel Smith show real versatility and depth in their variant supporting female roles as Cecelia the flirt, a blokeish cabbie and a gruff prison guard (Smith); Jenny the psycho nurse and a grouchy security guard (Allen)."

The black & white set, mostly straight lines save for the sveltely curved chairs, evokes a level of class that far outweighs the obviously meagre budget.  Lines of tape on the floor represent walls, halls and pathways.  There is no lighting board or technical sound design.  Like Sainsbury's previous work The Mall, in the same arena, The Feminine is pure theatre, relying entirely on its script and live performers to enthral its patrons.  

Glen Pickering is schoolteacher Adam Cooper, a rare profession for a man in this day and age.  His fiancé Naomi Campion (Nisha Madhan) is an ambitious politician, preoccupied with her election campaign but still loving and attentive to her partner's plight when he learns he has testicular cancer.  Whilst undergoing the new revolutionary 'hibernation therapy' complications arise, and when Adam finally reawakens the world has changed radically, against his favour.

In this futuristic ballad, created in response to what he believes is 'a current crisis of masculinity', Thomas Sainsbury has again proven his ability to write engaging and often humorous dialogue.  The future in question is politically absurdist; in a scant fifteen years society has turned entirely on it's head, war has ended and pollution is no more.  All thanks to the blanket oppression of human males, who have been rounded up into concentration camps and brainwashed. 
Pickering's Adam makes for an ironic protagonist - a genuine, gentle, intellectual fellow facing a society which believes all men are ignorant sex crazed baboons.  His character is quietly nervous against Madhan's post feminist feisty go-getter Naomi, and while the performances merge well the relationship between Adam and Naomi seems confused.

Naomi says she loves Adam, and has even spared his life to prove it, yet she keeps him in isolation and barely communicates with him.  She stands by the system which oppresses her fiancé, and with occasional moments of exception is cold and calculating, as most women of the time appear to be.  Women have righted the world from the wrongs perpetrated by males, at the ultimate expense of their own femininity and vulnerability.

Both Beth Allen and Christabel Smith show real versatility and depth in their variant supporting female roles as Cecelia the flirt, a blokeish cabbie and a gruff prison guard (Smith); Jenny the psycho nurse and a grouchy security guard (Allen).  Todd Emerson's Daniel Parker is likeable and laughable as the present-day fresh faced rookie doctor who reappears in the future a rather different man, having experienced all that Adam has slept through and subsequently learned about.

Each scene tends to segue into the next with no lighting or sound cues, which is mostly effective while presenting little problems such as in the scene where Jenny is left locked in the room on stage and Adam escapes off stage.  Jenny was not in the next scene so had to exit, breaking the illusion of her captivity which raised a chuckle in the audience.
The main premise is implausible in realistic terms, so what's the real message here?  Is this gender-reversed medieval future world a darkly comic exaggeration of a possible worst case scenario?  Or is this just pure entertainment? The Two Ronnies' 'The Worm That Turned' springs to mind.  Another angle might be that the bold claims of world peace and environmental harmony are merely Brave New World type lies, but there is no reference even to the possibility of this in the text. 

The story is in various ways a thought-provoking adventure but in the last several scenes the play loses momentum, concluding not with a bang, but rather a kind of defeated whimper.  Again I wonder, is this classic futuristic bleak cynicism, or was the author actually a bit stuck for a more stimulating climax?
Reading Mr Sainsbury's notes on the scant programme it's clear he wants us to wonder about things:  'A cautionary tale?  Or a flight of fancy?  Dystopia?  Or Utopia?  You decide.'  Although The Feminine wants further development, I can see Thomas Sainsbury fast becoming a classic playwright of his generation, and a probable future contender for the honours discussed in the forum on this site entitled "Unpublished 'classics' of the NZ stage." 


by Peter Shaffer
directed by Jesse Peach
at Glen Eden Playhouse, Auckland
From 12 Apr 2007 to 21 Apr 2007

How can you treat a young boy who has blinded six horses? This will be psychiatrist Martin Dysart's most challenging case yet. As he dissects the mind of Alan Strang, Dysart learns more about himself than he ever needed to know.
Peach Theatre Company brings this worldwide revival of Equus to the Playhouse Theatre in Glen Eden, Auckland.
Equus is a chilling British Drama that has just reopened in the West End with Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe.
Phil Adams, Ashley Hawkes, Annie Whittle, Paddy Wilson,
Elaine Vaughan, Steve Davis, Rohan Glynn, Sarah Gallagher,
Beth Allen, David Mitchell, Vasa Tasele, Russell Golding, Karlos Wrennall


We have heard of "Who Dunnits," but this is more of a "Why did he do it?"
Told about an horrific act carried out by a disturbed young man that shocked local magistrates, playwright Peter Shaffer was inspired to "...create a mental world in which the deed could be made comprehensible."
Alan Strang (Ashley Hawkes), a petulant and deluded teenager, is guilty of stabbing out the eyes of six horses and is referred to psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Phil Adams), who attempts to discover the rationale behind Alan's abnormal actions. 

It seems there is an inconsistency between preach and practice in Alan's parents. Father (Paddy Wilson), a stickler for puritanical behaviour, gets caught in a late night porn cinema by his son.  His mother (Annie Whittle), who believes she married under her class, is unaware that the Book that keeps her strong has also poisoned her son's mind.  She does, however, make it clear that she cannot be held accountable for what her son has become.
Steve Peach's set design consists of abstract wooden frames dressed with wire suggesting rural farm fencing, reinforcing a sense of entrapment felt by those admitted to mental hospitals.  The majority of the cast sit out the scenes they're not in on standard foyer chairs, creating a waiting room tableau. This convention allows quick transitions between scenes and adds mystique to the entrance of Equus (Steve Davis), a regal and beautifully sculptured stallion. 
Hawkes' portrayal of Alan Strang is masterful from go to whoa.  Jolting the audience each time he 'snaps', he convincingly brings to life the fervent psyche that meets Shaffers' goal of comprehending the crime.  Both Annie Whittle and Patrick Wilson shine as Alan's parents.  Wilson largely adds desperately needed comic relief.  Whittle's Dora, on the other hand, gives an empathetic account of a woman scrambling to maintain her dignity.

Beth Allen plays the girl who seduces Alan in the stables and sends him spinning towards the play's climax. She offsets Alan's inability to express himself by offering us a warm young woman, honest and comfortable in her sexuality.

It is a shame that so much of the play relies on Phil Adams' Dr Dysart.  Although unarguably audible, it is an uncoloured performance lacking inner journey.  He has the difficult task of portraying a highly acclaimed psychiatrist who hits crisis point when he is forced to reflect on how he values his own circumstances. Compared to his patients' exhilarating experiences he is dead inside, ultimately deducing that numbness is the norm. 

The play still triumphs. Director Jesse Peach very tastefully encompasses the homo-eroticism intrinsic to this play and his decision to set it in Cambridge New Zealand appeals to our delight in recognition. 
Steve Peach's horses spill onto the stage bare-chested and erect. They only appear in dim light and spasmodically ripple their pectorals to enhance their power ... The choreographed stamping of hooves blends with the escalating heartbeat of Alan as he revels in their glory. And the thrill of his rise to frenzy as he becomes one with Equus wins thunderous applause.   

Reviewed by Jarrod Martin, 20 Apr 2007