Regent Theatre, Greymouth, Greymouth

16/09/2015 - 19/09/2015

Production Details

The mad (people who are ‘out of their minds’) have always been an uncomfortable presence for ‘normal society’, for they judge that normality and penetrate its facades. 

In Medieval times they were seen as part of the continuum of society and were part of the conversation. They are regulars in Shakespeare’s tragedies and every court had its fool. 

But then the mad were incarcerated in asylums and isolated from ‘normal society’. Freud and the talking cure appeared and it was believed that madness could reveal the mechanics of human society and human personality formation. 

That in turn went out of fashion as modern medications dulled the wild impulses and people could be managed into performing normality. The mad no longer have anything to teach us. 

Except that it is currently proposed to consider their employment future as a commodity to be invested in and speculated upon via social impact bonds, which would seem to indicate a society truly ‘out of its mind’. 

Regent Theatre, Greymouth/Mawhera,
September 16-19, 7.30pm. 

Script: Paul Maunder

Cast: Heather Fletcher, Jason Johnson, Frank Wells, Caroline Selwood, Paul Maunder, Elisa Wells, Mikaere Hanna, Francis Darwen and Stasha-lee Beukes.

Design and lighting: Paul Kearns.

Theatre ,

A moving experience that makes you wonder …

Review by Karen Grant 18th Sep 2015

Playwright Paul Maunder is known for his style of intimate staging. In A Brief History of Madness he further challenges his cast, as they must explore the realms of madness with antics and complicated monologues delivered within touching distance of an audience of friends and others from the local community.  

The stage is wherever the action is, and the audience follows to the spartan set that brings us into the Seaview Asylum in the 1930s, a time when the mad and the inconvenient were hidden away from ‘normal’ society. In this production Paul explores this concept. We are the privileged onlookers, carefully escorted and allowed to observe Freudian psychoanalysis in action; the new technique to unlock and understand disorders of mind.  

As the stories of each are revealed, the interest in these stories is deepened by knowing that they are drawn from the history of the West Coast. We hear of lives damaged by tortured pasts, and of freedom denied by others with power or money. And as we listen we become aware of the ravings and footsteps of others moving in, around and outside the room we are in. It all feels a bit claustrophobic and knotted sheets hanging around the set reinforce the thought of escape.

The second part of the production is set in a modern hospital and explores the ‘Seaview Project’ where the insane are now seen as a commodity to invest in and to shape into a profitable workforce. The goal is no longer investigating and understanding the insane. Now the objective is to categorise the unwanted behavior and eventually hit on the right drug or fashionable treatment that will stupefy it out of existence.  

I really enjoy this production and while I think all of the cast presents well, Mikaere Hanna and Jason Johnson deserve special mention as they are both outstanding in their roles. The action and dialogue holds my interest throughout, there is a nice cup of tea at half-time, and from the stories that are told, I want to know more about the threads of history woven into them.

Chatting to others at half-time and after the show confirms to me that many of us feel we have see-sawed out-of-kilter at some time or other. Accepting this should be the new norm. Why force ourselves to conform to a bland majority, devoid of independent thought or action? If we continue to pluck the fluff and stray threads from a rich tapestry, what would we have left? 

Paul Maunder and his cast have examined madness and normality, and delivered a moving experience that makes you wonder at the morality of it all. The production finishes strongly with the entire cast singing beautifully. With spirits lifted again, we return our empty tea-cups to the trolley and head home.   

Only two more shows to go this week at the Regent Theatre in Greymouth, tonight and Saturday night, 7:30pm start.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council