2b or nt 2b?

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

06/05/2008 - 10/05/2008

Downstage Theatre Bar, Wellington

18/02/2008 - 20/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

What would Hedda Gabbler say if she could text Antigone?

It’s true – the more things change the more they stay the same! Take six characters from classic plays, give them each a mobile and a laptop and let them loose on today’s modern world.

2b or nt 2b takes characters from  Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Midsummer Night’s Dream ,  Chekhov’s Three Sisters and The Seagull,  Sophocles’ Antigone and Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. But has anything really changed for today’s modern teens? Hamlet and Antigone have disyfunctional families, Helena and Masha moon over unattainable boys and Irina and Hedda feel trapped in their boring lives. As present day teenagers they all end up on whatsthepoint?.com a website for those searching for  meaning in life – and the play follows their plans to meet up.

The script combines modern language from the text and internet realm, with poetic and lyrical language from the original plays. This creates a quirky story that illustrates how great tragedy and comedy are as alive and well today as they were when written about hundreds of years ago.

This production 2b or nt 2b will utilise the wild enthusiasm of six seventeen year old actors with experienced writer and director Sarah Delahunty.  Sarah has been working with young people in the theatre for the past thirty years,  “They are my favourite age group to teach and direct”  says Delahunty, “so open and ready to try anything, with a freshness and energy that is a good balance to my possibly wiser and definitely more world weary take on life.”

Sarah has written and directed plays for the 2005 and 2006 Wellington Fringe Festivals – Superbeast and Eating the Wolf (a feminist take on the Red Riding Hood story which John Smythe called “the find of the Fringe” in 2005). She even joined the five young female actors on stage in her role as the narrator. In the last three years, two of her plays have toured New Zealand secondary schools – Driving U Crazy, about driving safety for teenagers and – Another Planet – covering issues around healthy and unhealthy relationships.

2b or nt 2b?
18-20 Feb 2008, 9:30pm, Downstage Theatre Bar, Courtney Place, Wellington
Cost: Full $12 / Concessions  $10 / Fringe addict $9    Door Sales Only  

Olivia Shields, Alice Pearce, Alice Sisley, Jason Shakes, Caitlin McNaughton, Alice Lean.

Olivia Shields, Alice Pearce, Alice Sisley, Jason Shakes, Caitlin McNaughton, Alice Lean. 

50 min, no interval

Comic gem from a serious subject

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 11th May 2008

Not in the comedy festival, though it could well have been, is 2b or nt 2b? It is one of the three shows brought back to Downstage for Best of the Fringe.

Performed by six of Sarah Delahunty’s senior drama students, 2b or nt 2b? takes six famous characters from dramatic literature, including Hamlet, Hedda Gabler, and Antigone, and merges them with six troubled, alienated, confused, muddled modern teenagers with laptops and cell phones who all meet up on The Bridge to Nowhere (probably somewhere near Foxton) after linking up on www.whatsthepoint.com. 

The result is a play that deals with teenage suicide and it does it with comedy which never allows us to forget that while we laugh (and I laughed more at this show than at anything I saw at the Comedy Festival) the underlying seriousness of the theme is always present. It’s a comic gem.


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An excellent idea, intelligently realised

Review by Helen Sims 29th Feb 2008

2 b or nt 2 b? takes six characters from six classic plays and re-envisages them as 2008 teenagers, replete with cell phones, computers and plenty of angst. Writer and director Sarah Delahunty wrote the play for her senior drama class – obviously to extend their knowledge of classics, but also to help them connect with the feelings of characters without complexities of language or changing social mores getting in the way. If this diverse mix of tragic heroes and heroines could correspond today, what would they say? Despite my initial doubts this turns out to be an incredibly successful exercise, with the six young actors of the cast throwing themselves into their roles with enthusiasm and skill.

The play begins with Hamlet (Jason Shakes), the only boy in the group calling a help line with voice recognition capacity. When prompted to ask a question he responds “To be or not to be?” This does not compute. An angry and suicidal Antigone (Caitlin McNaughton) gets played the Carpenters after she is put on hold by another helpline. Masha (Alice Lean) is hoping to chat with Konstantin on-line whilst ignoring the text messages she is receiving from Medvedenko. The hapless Helena (Alice Pearce) is complaining about he supposed friend Hermia on in an internet chat room. Irena (Olivia Shields) interrupts her hum drum existence working in the Foxton post office to call a technical support helpline. Hedda’s (Alice Sisley) plans of world domination are interrupted by a call from her Dad to check she is doing her homework.

They all log into a chat room called “What’s the Point.com” to vent their frustrations. Hedda sees her opportunity – this sorry bunch will make a “good line of buttons” for her to knock down. She organises a rendezvous on the “Bridge to Nowhere” in the Hutt at midnight. They turn up, and the debate over who has the worst life story and whether they should end it all, takes up the rest of the show. The final showdown, between Helena and Hedda, pits the optimistic romantic with low self esteem against the domineering but frustrated fatalist against one another. It all works out in reasonably feel good fashion, but humour and irreverence are still maintained – especially when Masha hilariously mimes killing a seagull. The audience is prompted to consider the passivity of these characters and the nature of tragedy. They realise that they could change the plot.

Delahunty and her cast are to be congratulated for this short, sharp piece of theatre. It’s an excellent idea, intelligently realised.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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2b or not 2b needs to be everywhere

Review by John Smythe 20th Feb 2008

In the past I have got very excited about writer/ director Sarah Delahunty’s challenging revisitings of ancient folk tales, in Superbeast (2006) and Eating The Wolf (2005 – review now appended to the Superbeast one on this site). Now she has found the seriously comic resonant links between six classically tragic characters and today’s angst-ridden teenagers.

In 2b or nt 2b Sophocles’ Antigone, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Helena (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Chekhov’s Masha (The Seagull) and Irena (The Three Sisters), and Ibsen’s Hedda (Hedda Gabler) are all 17 year olds with little in common except the title question.

Each starts feeling very alone and misunderstood.

Hamlet (Jason Shakes) is irretrievably upset at his mother for marrying his uncle so soon after his father’s death. But when he rings a helpline he gets the classic Telecom automated response: "To help me direct you call, please tell me what you’re calling about" and when he puts THE BIG QUESTION the results are achingly funny.

Antigone (Caitlin Mcnaughton), daughter of Oedipus, is from the most dysfunctional family ever. It hardly helps her when she gets put on hold to the tune of a mushy love song.

Masha (Alice Lean), an Emo in mourning for her life, is waiting for Konstantin to come on line while the mundane Medavenko harasses her by text.

Helena (Alice Pearce), in unrequited love with her ‘best friend’s boyfriend Demetrius, is lost in the forest, having way weird experiences and worried she may have smoked too much dope.

Irena (Olivia Shields), wasting away in the Foxton Post Shop when she should be in New York, is totally convinced there is no way out, and she too has an awfully unhelpful Help Desk experience.

Only the bored and resentful Norwegian brat Hedda (Alice Sisley), sent to study with her Aunt and being offered incentives by her father to perform well in NCEA, is determined to take control of her own life. The trouble is she does this by manipulating others, at the point of a gun if need be, and her idea of ultimate power over life is self-inflicted death.

So amid these wacky warpings, 2b or nt 2b is confronting the phenomenon of teenage suicide head on. And their inexorable progress via virtual meeting on www.whatsthepoint.com to an actual midnight meeting on The Bridge to Nowhere, high over a lethal abyss, is genuinely dramatic: how can they possibly step back from this?

The key is that they’re no longer alone, even if they do now have to compete for whose life is the most tragic. The process by which they come to the tipping point and find ways to move on is accurate as well as funny – or should I say it is funny because it is accurate.

Delahunty wrote this beautifully crafted piece for her senior ‘1st Gear’ drama class. In the intimate Downstage Theatre Bar, the deep understanding the actors bring to their roles and the way they work as an ensemble combine with simple traverse staging, equally simple lighting and sound, and impeccably timed ring-tones and test alerts, to ensure a thoroughly entertaining 50 minutes. Personally, I arrived knackered and left beaming and buzzy.

2b or nt 2b ticks all the boxes for theatrical, educational and sociological value. It needs to be published and available as acting sets in every high school and civic library (expletives included: this is the real world, if not of all 17 year-olds then certainly of some they know, and it needs to be authentic). It deserves to be translated into every language that already includes those classic in their repertoire.

It deserves to be performed and seen whenever and wherever possible. Professional companies that deal with youth theatre at any level, touring schools, attracting youth into their theatres and/or producing youth theatre shows, should include it in their repertoires.

Which is not to say it’s not enlightening and hugely entertaining for older generations: it most certainly is. Any venue with lunchtime, early evening or late night slots should snap it up.  

This play is way too good to just vanish after three performances. 2b or not 2b needs to be everywhere.


peter edward February 21st, 2008

You guys have definately missed a good show. Best I've seen for a long time. Suits all ages as reviewed. Lovely acting from them all and I especially loved Alice Pearce's memorable acting. Put some pressure on fringe to give them a decent shot next time... with room for more seats at least

Simon Pleasants February 21st, 2008

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr! No sooner do I find out about this play than the short run denies me the chance of seeing it. "Oh, woe is me! To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!"

Thomas LaHood February 20th, 2008

I was upset by the short season of three performances for this show, which meant I'll have to miss out. I do hope it comes back some way or another.

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