Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

12/03/2010 - 21/03/2010

Production Details

Highly Anticipated New Zealand Theatre Work Premieres at the New Zealand International Arts Festival

The highly anticipated season of 360 premieres during Festival 2010 at Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre.

Chapman Tripp Theatre Award winners Carl Bland, Ben Crowder and Peta Rutter reunite for this innovative production that seats the audience on swivel chairs in the middle of a circular stage.

Looking outwards, the audience will be surrounded by 360 degrees of theatre action as the story of the prodigal son unfolds as he opens the door to the past he left behind. 

Their earlier collaboration, Head, won them a Chapman Tripp Award for most original production in 2005.

All three artists are Auckland based and have worked extensively in theatre, television and film. Real life husband and wife Carl Bland and Peta Rutter played husband and wife Albert and Judy in The Dentist’s Chair by the Indian Ink Company.

Ben Crowder is the co-founder and director of Theatre Stampede. He studied drama and playwriting at The University of Otago, postgraduate drama at The University of Auckland and The John Bolton School in Melbourne.

In 2005 Crowder received a STAB Commission which resulted in his collaboration with A Nightsong Productions – Carl Bland and Peta Rutter. The result was Head,  a major push into the realm of contemporary technologies in the theatre that won them the 2005 Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Most Original Production, and went on to a sell-out season at AK07.

The creative team for 360 includes set designer John Verryt, lighting designer Brad Gledhill, with costumes by Elizabeth Whiting.

360 is is co-produced by the New Zealand International Arts Festival and the Auckland Festival and presented with support from Creative New Zealand.

WHEN:  12-21 March  
12 Mar, 8pm; 13, 14, 20, 21 Mar, 2pm & 7pm; 16, 17 Mar, 7pm
WHERE: Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre

1hr 10mins

Young Gee: Milo Cawthorne
Mid Gee: Edwin Wright
Old Gee: Brucew Phillips
Father: Ray Henwood
Brother: Jonathan Kenyon
Sister: Olivia Tennet
Seal: Rosalie van Horik

(from an original design concept by Carl Bland, Ben Crowder and Peta Rutter)
Set: John Verryt 
Costume: Elizabeth Whiting
Original Music & Sound:  John Gibson
Lighting & video: Brad Gledhill

1hr 10 mins, no interval

A thrilling theatrical experience

Review by Lynn Freeman 18th Mar 2010

While He Reo Aroha and The Arrival have been kicking around for a while, we also saw two world premieres of New Zealand work.

360, another wonderfully original show out of Auckland, has the audience sitting on swivel chairs while the action goes on above and around them on a circular stage.

It could so easily have been a gimmick and to be honest the storyline needs work, but the concept is as superb as its execution. From a fuse that runs around you, to a swan that swims past you, to someone being blown out of a cannon over your head, this is a thrilling theatrical experience. And Rosalie van Horek, if you’re reading this, you are the most amazing on stage seal – ever.
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A new spin on an old tale

Review by Mark Amery 13th Mar 2010

Auckland’s Nightsong Productions and Theatre Stampede have premiered in Wellington a joyous, theatrical tour de force.

A triumph in 360 degrees, it has the brilliant conceit of being staged with the audience in the round, planted on swivel chairs while the action occurs on a circular ramp around them. This could so easily have been a case of style over substance, but instead the work’s strength is that content, form and structure reflect each other beautifully. [More]
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A triumph stylishly staged

Review by John Smythe 13th Mar 2010

What a wonderful new way to present a play: on a circular stage with the audience on swivel chairs in the middle; it’s theatre ‘in the round’ reinvented as ‘on the 360’. At this circus we are seated within the ring while the acts play out around us. And to complete the inverted premise, instead of running away from home to join the circus, our hero runs away from the circus to see the world and seek his fortune.

Whether we take it as literal or a metaphor, 360 puts a twist on the classic tales of The Prodigal Son and Odysseus trying to return home. There’s a faint echo of Voltaire’s Candide and Ibsen’s Peer Gynt in there too. Young Gee (Milo Cawthorne), finding his vaudevillian family life repetitive and predictable, leaves his family to make it on his own, vowing only to return when he has become a millionaire. But just as he is ready to head home, something happens and he cannot bring himself to return.

I won’t reveal what happens but will say that, in my experience and observations, such an event would bring an itinerant adult-child back home even faster. But we’re talking inversions here, so fair enough. Perhaps. Except doesn’t leaving a primal relationship unresolved mean the story it engenders is not yet ready to be told?

On the other hand, it’s the journey not the getting there that counts. If indeed “life is like going for a walk,” as Old Gee (Bruce Phillips) opines, it only ends when you stop. Meanwhile he – Gee – travels in circles, anti-clockwise of course, morphing from Young Gee into Mid Gee (Edwin Wright). At one point he literally swans through life …

Old Gee is the narrator, starting at the end and inviting “memories that touch you on the shoulder and ask to be seen”, so we only get the snippets that matter to him. He has become a satellite moon, doomed to deflect light from himself to others –his ever ebullient family – while trapped in endless orbit, unable to re-enter their atmosphere without, I assume, burning up.

Personally I would have liked some clarity as to what Young Gee’s role and function was in the circus (what sort of gap did he leave?), how Mid Gee made his millions (was it in any way related to his original skills?) and why he felt unable to return, despite that being his plan all along (did guilt have something to do with it, perhaps?).

Mid Gee does deliver a potent meditation on the halfway point in life, summing up his sense of impotence. Most of the characters get to muse on their lives and life in general, betwixt and between the vaudeville scenes and the odd whimsical vignette, all stylishly staged. Some of the verbal content I tune right into, other parts seem too wordy for what it is saying (a bit like the way some painters wallow in words when trying to write about their work).

But enough of the ‘bread’ – on to the circus! Father (Ray Henwood) is happy to accept the inevitable cycles of life. Brother (Jonathan Kenyon) knows life is an illusion and is content to practice the magic of it. Sister (Olivia Tennet) attempts to tap-dance her way to happiness when she is not being shot from a canon or having knives thrown about her. She has a special relationship with their loveable performing Seal (Rosalie van Horik), whom she aspires to emulate when she grows up (sealing her fate, perhaps?).

The major illusions – canon and knives – are splendidly executed and the song and dance acts are delightful (original music by John Gibson; choreography by Megan Adams). The fuse that sparkles right round the circuit before detonating the canon is as magical a moment as we have enjoyed this Festival.

The design elements, originally conceived by Carl Bland, Ben Crowder and Peta Rutter – who are also the creators and directors, with Bland and Rutter as writers – are exquisite. John Verryt’s gauze-curtained circular set is full of pop-up surprises. Brad Gledhill meets its challenges and opportunities brilliantly with his lighting design, and adds some extraordinary old film footage via video.

Elizabeth Whiting’s costume designs are fantastic and John Gibson’s sound design is excellent. The visual feast is completed with the swan made by Kate Parker and the seal realised by Main Reactor, not to mention the invisible forces who work as much below stage as back stage to bring so much of it to life (stage manager, Mitchell Turei; assistant stage manager, Pip Smith).

As the first homegrown world premiere to grace this International Festival, 360 is a triumph.  I trust this marks the beginning of a long and fruitful life, before and beyond next year’s Auckland Festival (which co-produced it with the NZIAF). It certainly adds a sparkling gem to the homegrown treasures this Festival is bringing to light.
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Good theatre makes the world go round

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 13th Mar 2010

There is one thing absolutely clear about New Zealand’s theatrical contribution so far to the 2010 International Arts Festival is that it has been outstanding. The major shows such as The Letter Writer, Apollo 13, The Arrival, and Ship Songs demonstrate an achievement of a very high order. One can now add 360 to this impressive list.

Our old inferiority complex of not being quite good enough when we compare ourselves with overseas is long dead. We have a flowering of wit, imagination, and skill in staging and performance that we should be celebrating. And we should be doing that in the best way possible which is by attending the performances.

360 is a collaboration between two Auckland-based theatre companies: A Nightsong Productions and Theatre Stampede and its novelty, which, by the way, isn’t a gimmick, is that the audience, limited to 85, is seated on swivel chairs and sits in a circle surrounded by the circular stage.

Just as I got over my childish desire to swing my seat round and round just for the hell of it the play started with a wonderfully old-fashioned family circus act that had me fooled for a second or two that a live seal was on stage too. The seal and later a bird are scene stealers but then so is each member of the cast.

The story covers 50 years and is about a man called Gee who is looking back on his life and what happened to him when, as a young man, he left his family and the circus to make a fortune, find fame, and live his own life. He is played old by Bruce Phillips, middle-aged by Edwin Wright, and young by Milo Cawthorne.

Eventually he returns (a nicely staged railway scene) and he comes to realize that as a Tom Stoppard character says “a circle is the longest distance to the same point.” During this journey – Gee calls it “a walk” – he is looking for himself and the love that once enveloped him.

On the way we see a knife-throwing act that looks remarkably real, Gee’s sister being shot across our heads as a cannon ball, and occasional glimpses of the moon; and film of a man jumping off the Eiffel Tower; and Ray Henwood as the father amusingly pottering on dispensing advice on everything; while Olivia Tennet appears as a chanteuse singing Maybe God is Sexually Shy; and Jonathan Kenyon rattles off a vibrant song and dance act.

At times it is not always clear in its intentions but it gave this slightly jaded theatregoer a gloriously entertaining 70 minutes.
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