2007 Wellington Theatre in Review

Various Wellington venues, Wellington

03/01/2008 - 03/01/2008

Production Details

Lynn Freeman looks back at the year that was in the Wellington theatre scene.

Saluting the unsung heroes

Review by Lynn Freeman 08th Jan 2008

This year I want to salute the unsung heroes of the theatre industry.

Some of them are so unsung and so niche, that there isn’t a category for them in the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards.  Yet, without them, the theatre would indeed be "a poor shadow", to quote the Bard. 

Andrew Brettell is a case in point.  When it comes to audio visual work, he’s nothing short of a genius.  Fat Pig, Bright Star, Copenhagen, Albert Speer (I think I’m right on that one), all terrific audio visual work that enriched each production.  But is he set? Or lighting? Or a category of his own?

Same with set painting.  Scenic artist Eileen McCann is nothing short of brilliant – think Masterclass, Monarchy, I’m Not Rappaport, just a handful of the sets she’s worked her magic on.  She’s Chapman Tripp standard, we just don’t know exactly where to put her. 

Puppet makers, mask makers, set builders, ushers, production photographers and of course the hard working stage managers, fight and dance choreographers, sound and lighting operators, they’re all part of the theatrical family. 

And of course the sponsors, because without them, some shows just wouldn’t make it to the stage.

The Chapman Tripps recognise excellence.  This year particularly in the acting categories, and most original work, the judges struggled to whittle down our lists.

One of my personal regrets is that Tanea Heke wasn’t on the best supporting actress list alongside the other three. George Henare gave heart wrenching performances in Heroes and I’m Not Rappaport, Ray Henwood was terrific in both too, and the third member of the Heroes cast, Ken Blackburn, was a treasure.

I was awed by the originality of (in no particular order) the enchanting Lovers of Central Park, Leilani Unasa’s His Mother’s Son, Fight or Flight,  For Your Safety, Willem Wassenar’s Antigone, Angie Farrow’s The Bowler Hat, Sara Brodie’s The Kreutzer, Scratch ‘n’ Fly, and one of my greatest delights in 2007, Grant Buist’s Fitz Bunny – Lust for Glory.

The Royal Shakespeare Company packed out, with the double appeal of Ian McKellan and this legendary acting troupe.  Their Chekhov was excellent, their much touted King Lear disappointing. I missed the Bacchanals’ version but am not surprised to hear it was better, without the star power and big budget.

Miriam Margolyes, however, was a charmer with her Dickens’ Women.  


Biddy Grant January 23rd, 2008

After watching the steady hand of Simon Bowden at the Laureate Awards last year I was struck that there are no awards for the people who make the events, create the opportunities, run the organisations, provide the support etc etc, so that the artists can develop their work and win awards and be fabulous. There are no awards ceremonies and of course no cash incentives for the people who are the glue that hold the arts industry's together. So we at Standing Ovation are planning to run the 'Industrial Strength Awards' this year, to honour these people. Because 'we in the background' have not raised the money for the event, or secured sponsors or even a venue - we will of course let you all know when we have sorted all that. For this first Industrial Strength Award ceremony we will remember to honour those who have been around for ages - doing the good work - but who many of our younger community see as just old people on the fringes!! Names which spring to mind are Dawn Sanders - how many Sheila Winns? - Peter Frater - behind the scenes for how many festivals and shows? and so on. We promise a great night - even if we all have to pay our own way, as is usual!

Kate Blackhurst January 9th, 2008

Good point Lynn, these people deserve recognition! A few shows I really enjoyed in 2007, which I haven't seen mentioned much are Doubt and Heroes at Circa and Circa 2 respectively. Solo drama was represented expertly by The Case of Katherine Mansfield at Downstage and The Orderly at Bats. One of my higlights and lowlights was seeing an interpretation of Shakespeare that really worked - Revenge of the Amazons at Bats - and one that really didn't - Othello at Downstage. There was a lot of variety from vintage 'period dramas' such as The Winslow Boy and Uncle Vanya to contemporary classics such as The Hollow Men and Footballistic. I moved to Wellington two years ago for the theatre - good decision.

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