Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

06/11/2012 - 10/11/2012

Production Details

Written by Mike Bartlett
Directed by Sophie Roberts

Presented by The Actors’ Program


“Hip, incisive… 13 demands to be seen” – Time Out, London.

Fourteen of Auckland’s hottest new faces are ditching their training wheels to showcase their talents with award winning UK playwright Mike Bartlett’s work 13, from November 6th at the Basement Theatre.

After a year of working with top respected arts professionals including Sara Wiseman, Michael Hurst, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Michele Hine, Cameron Rhodes, John Callen, Charlie McDermott and its patrons Ian Mune and Sam Neill, the grads of The Actors’ Program have chosen the highly acclaimed 13 as their presentation vehicle. The grads will tackle themes such as personal responsibility, the hold the past has over the future and the nature of belief itself through this new work by Bartlett.

Across London, people wake up from an identical, terrifying dream. At the same moment, a young man named John returns home after years away to find economic gloom, ineffective protest, and a Prime Minister about to declare war. But John has a vision for the future and a way to make it happen.

Penned in 2011 – the year which saw the London Riots stem from what some described as a disenchantment of a forgotten generation as governments around the world fall and thousands take to the street in protest – Bartlett’s work captures a malaise many people are finding in this day and age. Its frank depiction was summed up in a review from respected UK newspaper The Guardian – “Bartlett has pinned down the unease that is currently in the air; the sensation that we are sleepwalking into some kind of disaster.”

Groundbreaking, anarchic and at times outspoken, Mike Bartlett has become one of British theatre’s enigmatic young playwrights. His early works became fringe favourites in the United Kingdom, and in time Bartlett found himself creating works for the National Theatre in London and for the BBC. In 2007, Bartlett became the Royal Court Theatre’s “writer in residence”, and in 2010 the playwright earned his biggest accolade to date – a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre for the play Cock.

Though set in London, its emotive narrative is one that Auckland audiences will still find all too relatable given the political and social shifts taking place in New Zealand. It is fitting that the graduates of the year long Actors’ Program will be performing and producing 13; it is their generation the work speaks to most.

The Actors’ Program is an independent and privately run one-year acting course concentrating on providing actors with the tools they need to be effective practitioners in the world of stage and screen. It delivers a wealth of knowledge to a younger generation of aspiring New Zealand actors.

13 plays
6-10th November 2012 | 8PM
The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, CBD
Concession $18 | Full $22
Bookings through iTicket – 09 361 1000 or www.iticket.co.nz

Jordan Selwyn:  John
Simea Holland:  Rachel
Anoushka Klaus:  Amira
Jess Sayer:  Holly
Tatiana Hotere:  Edith
Lauren Gibson:  Ruth
Samuel Christopher:  Stephen
Mikassa Cornwall:  Shannon/ Sally
Steven Ciprian:  Zia / Terry / Sir Christopher
Alex MacDonald:  Mark
Holly Shervey:  Sarah
Torum Heng:  Martine / Alice / Esther
Jordan Mauger:  Rob
Louisa Hutchinson:  Pauline 

Sophie Roberts:  Director
Royale Productions:  Producing Mentor
Charlie McDermott:  Production Manager
Kirstie O'Sullivan:  Voice Coach
Michele Hine:  Movement coach
John Verryt:  Designer
Andrew Potvin:  Lighting Design and Operator
Elephant Publicity:  Publicity 

Theatre ,

Challenge accepted

Review by James Wenley 09th Nov 2012

I got a sneak preview of 13 when I went to the shows at the upstairs Basement Studio the night before. A cacophony of shouts and screams impossible to ignore rose from the floorboards below. Whatever was happening downstairs, it sounded explosive.

13 is an audacious choice of play for The Actors’ Program graduation showcase: the first public performance from the first year of actors from a program that has arrived to radically shake up acting training in New Zealand. Much rests on the fortunes of these 14 actors to demonstrate the program’s success. No pressure then.

13, by British playwright Mike Bartlett is a very challenging prospect. The characters are challenging: some actors are required to invest in multiple roles, some need to maturely convince in roles with playing ages much older than their own. These characters are juicy too; troubled, vulnerable, oh so flawed. But more than this, 13 is a play of challenging ideas. And it’s the big ones: politics, culture, religion. All presented against a contemporary London with a vacuum of meaning and generational unease. We see protests, state violence, filicide.

13 is the perfect showcase of artists with not just something to prove, but something to say. [More]  


Make a comment

Strong energy between actors in commendable production of ambitious play

Review by Poppy Haynes 08th Nov 2012

Across a discontented city, Londoners are all wracked by the same nightmare. Students protest fees hikes, a resentful granny vandalises her bank, a precocious child appals her mother with atheism and aloofness, the Tory Prime Minister considers war with Iran.

Something is rotten in the state . . . and the malaise is distinctively contemporary. Into this atmosphere of gloom and unease comes John, returning after a long and mysterious disappearance.

Armed with a bucket to stand on and a somewhat amorphous message of tolerance, spirituality, and social revolution, John begins preaching in the park, gathers a following, explodes on social media and is soon the face of a protest that is anti-war in name, but in spirit is more a focusing of the country’s general discontent.

But the prophet-cum-political activist and the Prime Minister have a shared past, and the Prime Minister knows things that can decide whether John’s groundswell flourishes or fizzles. These are the circumstances of British playwright Mike Bartlett’s audacious play 13. And this is the play The Actors’ Program has chosen for its inaugural graduation production.

The fourteen graduating actors rise to the challenges of Bartlett’s script, giving a performance that is energetic and compelling. The skills of director Sophie Roberts, voice coach Kirstie O’Sullivan and movement coach Michele Hine are evident, as is the students’ professionalism.

All the characters are played with commitment and authenticity; scene transitions are swift and unobtrusive; both small-group and crowd scenes are cohesive (these are clearly actors who know how to play off each other’s energy); and there is solid vocal technique across the board.

The actors even make a good go of channelling the different accents of London: no small feat. It’s tricky enough to go from a New Zealand accent to any type of English accent without sounding generically posh. While the accents aren’t flawless, the vocal landscape the actors created is nonetheless impressive, from the East-End academic to the snotty private-school lawyer, to the American diplomat family.  

The team makes good use of the wide and relatively shallow playing space. The width of the stage area means scenes can chop and change quickly, shifting attention from one side of the space to the other and into the middle of a new scene almost before the preceding one has finished. This helps maintain a sense of momentum. The width of the playing space is particularly effective when scenes are overlaid simultaneously; the sense of things coming to a head is created in part by the overlapping voices but also by the vista of conflicts between the different characters.

The intimacy of the theatre (low ceiling, tightly packed seating, actors close to the audience) makes for a particularly sensory experience: you can smell the fumes of the graffiti-ing protestors’ spray paint, you can feel the vibrations created by the actors’ physicality in the protest scenes, John’s loudspeaker is an in-your-face volume.

That nearly all the sound is created on stage adds to the sensory immediacy. The notable exception is the cacophony of cellphone rings in a moment that seems almost straight out of Cinderella: the clock strikes and the coach/ pumpkin spell is broken – except that John has been playing fairy godmother at a protest, not a ball. The fairytale touch is appropriate given the fable-like qualities of the play.

13 is a good choice for a graduation show. Collaging together a number of different characters’ stories, it’s a play without the hierarchies of main character and minor characters. Each actor has an opportunity to show his or her potential.

I don’t want to cherry-pick names because the play’s real strength is the energy between the actors rather than the performances of any particular individuals but Lauren Gibson should be commended for her Prime Minister – she not only captures prime ministerial authoritativeness but also gives an authentic performance of an older role.

Jordan Mauger, Holly Shervey and Louisa Hutchinson form an intriguing, conflict-riven family unit. Alex Macdonald is a convincing posh asshole, Samuel Christopher is a convincing posh atheist. Anoushka Klaus, Steve Ciprian, Mikassa Cornwall, Tatiana Hotere, Torum Heng, Simea Holland and Jess Sayer all form particularly strong relationships with other characters and are great in protest scenes.

For a cast that seems to include a lot of young women, it’s a testament to the actors’ abilities to embody their characters that it doesn’t feel like a play with an imbalance of young women. And Jordan Selwyn plays a multi-dimensional John – from a man of quiet charisma to a suit-wearing, loudspeaker-wielding, evangelising Youtube-hit.

While a good choice for a graduation show, Bartlett’s script itself also leaves me with some niggling dissatisfactions. John’s earlier disappearance remains a mystery and without a backstory for his prophet-like return it’s hard to come to grips with his character’s true motivations. The play is overt, even heavy handed, in its philosophical meditations and soul searching: atheism vs spirituality, cultural relativism vs spreading democracy, the market vs the state. The shared nightmares, along with John’s messianic abilities to see people’s illnesses, are non-realist components in an otherwise realist story and much is made of them, especially the nightmares. But Bartlett does not commit to this magical-realism, and neither the nightmares nor John’s super-human knowledge are fully explored or utilised in the story. To me the nightmares are too important to the plot to be functioning only on a metaphorical level.

Nevertheless, Bartlett’s ambitious play makes for enjoyable theatre – it carries the audience along – and the Actors’ Program graduates have put together a commendable production.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council