Downstage Theatre, Wellington

17/02/2013 - 25/02/2013

Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

12/08/2014 - 16/08/2014

Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science & History, Main Street - the Dark Room, Palmerston North

16/07/2014 - 19/07/2014

Production Details

Three strangers find themselves in a room.

Why are they there?

Why are they there together?

These questions drive the mystery and tension of this tight, fast paced drama which twists and turns from the apparently real to the definitely surreal.

The room in question, in Downstage Theatre, is being used as a theatre space for the first time!

“I wrote the play specifically for the space. I like a challenge!” says writer/director Sarah Delahunty, who in 2012 won the National Playwriting for the Young Competition for the second time. 

Two of the young cast have already some international acting experience. Both Neenah Dekkers-Reihana and Robbie Nicol were selected to perform onstage at the Globe Theatre in London as part of the SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company.

Neenah has also been recently see in Tigers of Wrath at Circa.

1st Gear Productions has brought several other successful productions to the Fringe – 2b or nt 2b (Pick of Fringe 2008), Medea Songs (2010) and Crazy Joint Love (2011).

In 2012 they had a sell out season with the 1960’s rock musical HAIR

A room in Downstage Theatre
17 – 25 February 2013
021 294 4023


In 2013 Affinity won Best Theatre in the Wellington Fringe Festival and was nominated Most Promising Newcomer and Best Sound in the prestigious Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. 1st Gear productions are thrilled to be showcasing Wellington’s newest talents in Palmerston North. 

The Dark Room, Palmerston North
16 – 19 July 2014, 7.30pm
$12.00 to $20.00
Book here

Neenah Dekkers-Reihana:  Gabe
Robbie Nicol:  Ian 
Sylvie Mc Creanor: Estelle 
Alex Kerr:  Doorkeeper 

Te Aihe Butler:  Sound design 

Kate Burian:  Stage manager lighting and sound operator

A tight, perceptive allegory

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 13th Aug 2014

Timing, as they say, is everything. In life, in art, in – well – everything. Sarah Delahunty’s tight four-hander, with room for only 30 in the audience, deserves mention for the element of timing that both runs throughout the piece as a motif and, in dramatic, terms holds the mettle of the drama together.

It’s a neat little play that explores the collision of actions in real life and how they resonate beyond. What happens when events link us? What if there are repercussions beyond death from such events? I’m not going to spoil the dramatic setup, but in light of its execution, I recommend this tight piece to Auckland audiences. 

Well-paced direction supports the initial frenetic energy of characters who collide in an unknown space. Who are they and where are they? Why are they here? The references to Sartre’s No Exit are at first latent then more obvious in a meta-theatrical vein as characters refer to the play in an effort to solve their present dilemma.

The internet provides some clues for the trio but eventually proves fruitless; this situation is more ‘real’ than a life that is edited and presented on Facebook, and valid knowledge comes not from Google, but within. Bruce Mason, The End of the Golden Weather, ‘Hotel California’ and other more recent popular culture references (as clues) locate the drama in present times, but the characters have one thing in common: they need to escape. But, first, they need to understand their unique affinity with one another. 

This strong concept brings to the fore the extremely watchable Neenah Dekkers-Reihana, who is unafraid to bring full emotion to the claustrophic space. I enjoy her sense of ‘play-against’ that emerges with actors Sylvie McCreanor and Robbie Nicol. All three do justice to the insightful text, and their timing will only get better as the short Basement season beds in. Alex Ker is a cool, flippant host, a bit too smarmy at times, but obviously comfortable in the undefined locale. Perhaps there is more potential here to explore the space between the words as the trio is ever-hungry for clues from their host. What range of tactics can be employed to lead or deflect his captured trio?  

I enjoy the flashbacks as a way of carving into the backstory that leads to the present situation which involves a particular handgun, and a longer version of the play might explore this further. In the meantime, this 65-minute drama is a contemporary allegory of what happens in purgatory. It’s a tight, perceptive piece that deserves to be seen by wider audiences.  

Tonight, I am profoundly aware of Robin Williams’ passing announced today. As one of the characters in this drama brings to the fore this theme of finding the escape hatch from life, the play has strong resonance. My own present awareness of Williams’ death underlines the central theme at the core of this play: timing, and our choice to engage with the situations we find ourselves in. In a singular moment Williams chose the escape hatch to end who knows what pain, but the ramifications of that choice will linger for eternity. Affinity is an ideal play for teenagers and adults to connect on profound issues that we all think about.


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Cleverly constructed journey of discovery never less than involving

Review by Joy Green 18th Jul 2014

The stage Affinity plays out on is small, and enclosed on all sides: on two sides by walls, on the other two by the audience which is, deliberately, few in number and very close to the action. This makes for a space which is both intimate and claustrophobic.  Apart from a walled entry point to the right of the audience, there is no set except for a rope light around the stage and a picture turned to the wall at the rear.

The play begins when The Doorkeeper (Alex Ker) appears as a Janitor-like figure cleaning the space, and surveying the audience with a knowing look but no speech before exiting.

Immediately after a young woman, played by Neenah Dekkers-Reihana, is hurled onto the stage.  Her anger is palpable as she rails against her situation as she perceives it. She has been abducted, she thinks; she is being held hostage – though why and by whom has no idea. She doesn’t even clearly appear to know who she is herself.  Every time she tries to leave, she is prevented by some invisible force which repels her back into the room making her even angrier.

The power of this anger becomes clearer when she questions the returned Doorkeeper, the force of her fury pushing him around the stage, but dragging no answers from him apart from the first of several amused and gnomic utterances, which include the line “Welcome to the Hotel California” – a clue perhaps.

Next another initially nameless character, a man (Robbie Nicol) this time, is propelled onto stage clutching his laptop and reeling off facts; the computer is almost an extension of himself, or he is an extension of it. He immediately falls foul of the young woman’s wrath, being pushed around the stage by what he identifies quite dispassionately as “Psychokinesis” and sets about investigating the situation by manipulating the information he has to hand.

The third reluctant arrival is Sylvie McCreanor, playing a scared, tearful young woman who is convinced she is trapped in some kind of nightmare. 

The problem is that we – and they – don’t know where or who they are.  They don’t recognise each other, or, initially have any recollection of their past lives, although they have plenty of intel about the wider world. The man, accessing the internet, identifies himself from a single email as “Ian Paul”.   The frightened young woman accessing her Facebook profile discovers that she is Estelle and, according to the postings on the page, she is dead though she isn’t sure that her apparent demise isn’t just part of her dream.

The Affinity of the play’s title, Ian informs us, refers to an algorithm used by social media that matches information with advertisements it determines are relevant to users based on the things they share, the sites they visit, the comments they ‘like’, and it’s important here: Gabe, Ian and Estelle’s actions have somehow given them an affinity for each other, and they need to discover what it is, to find out what connects them if they are to explain how they have come to be here – wherever here is – and how, perhaps, they might get out.

All of the actors inhabit their roles quite completely: Ker amused and insouciant as the Doorkeeper; Dekkers-Reihana radiating a manifest rage that frequently overwhelms the precise; distant Nicol and the clearly terrified McCreanor. Their commitment never falters, which ensures that even in moments of quiet and humour, the theatrical experience is never less than intense.

Delahunty takes us on a cleverly constructed journey of discovery:  Oblique  hints are given by the Doorkeeper throughout: that reference to the Eagles to begin, a line from Leonard Cohen, a reference to the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Satre. Each is investigated by Ian, via laptop.  They soon know they “can check out any time they like but … never leave”, what happens “when the fiddler stops”, and that, according to Satre, “Hell is other people” – possibly each other.

Another significant clue is revealed when the picture is turned round, revealing a portrait of Bruce Mason. This leads Ian to text from The End of the Golden Weather that takes each of the three into memories of their childhood and uncovers the key influences that have shaped them into the people they have become and ultimately led them to this shared space.

Slowly the seemingly random pieces of the puzzle come together so that we get a glimpse of sky here, a shadow taking shape there in a way that draws us along, fascinated with Gabe, Ian and Estelle. When, at last, the final piece is put in place, the outcome is satisfying, even affirming, as the three discover that while Hell may be other people that doesn’t mean that other people necessarily have to be Hell.  

The empty smallness of the set and the sparse but very effective sound elements that overlay key moments in the action work in very well with Delahunty’s accomplished writing and the young actors’ focused performances to create an experience that is never less than involving. While Delahunty is particularly renowned for her work with young people and the piece is presented by – and plays off – a young cast, it’s much more than a ‘teen play’: there is a universality of message here that can speak to all of us. 

If you get the opportunity to see Affinity, either in its last couple of nights in the Darkroom, or when it transfers to The Basement in Auckland, you should certainly take it.


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Profoundly insightful; deserves a long life

Review by John Smythe 18th Feb 2013

Once more playwright/director Sarah Delahunty and her 1st Gear Productions team have created a gem that draws on classics – contemporary this time – to throw far-reaching light on, and into, the ‘adolescence on the cusp of adulthood’ experience.

In a small corner of Downstage, on the auditorium level in front of the lift, they present the world premiere of Affinity: a tight three-hander with an enigmatic fourth in attendance.

The bust of Bruce Mason has been elevated to this level and as resonant high-pitched tones penetrate the air around us, an attendant (The Door Keeper, played with whimsical dispassion by Alex Kerr) gives it a bit of a polish before receiving a phone call and leaving.

A young woman explodes into the space, as if fired from a barrel. Unnamed (later I’m told she is Gabe), she is angry, confused and sure she is being held hostage; the victim of a conspiracy. Neenah Dekkers-Reihana is in her element with this role. Already a bundle of pent-up energy, she seems to get charged-up even more when an invisible force-field throws her back into the cell every time she tries to escape.

A young man (Ian) is ejected from the lift with his laptop. His comfort zone, in this highly stressful situation, is facts. Robbie Nicol embodies this character entirely, rattling off ‘geek speak’ as his first language and resorting to Facebook and Google as soon as he finds he has connectivity. He seeks to enclose himself in a safer place by reaching into cyberspace.

When Gabe’s anger throws him against the wall, he identifies the phenomenon as psycho kinesis. It is he who realizes they can remember how to talk and otherwise function but no longer have access to their personal memory banks. 

The third arrival is Estelle, her inner turmoil intensely evoked by Sylvie McCreanor. Weepy and timid, she has suffered an unknown trauma. Finding her face on Facebook, posted by someone whose name she doesn’t recognize, only adds to the mystery. Her defining characteristic is revealed as very low self esteem engendering a belief that she is always wrong in every respect.

But who are these three? Where are they? And why?

Those who have recognised similarities with Jean Paul Sartre’s seminal existential angst play No Exit (Huis Clos; 1944) will feel rewarded when the connection is overtly made. Meanwhile the relaxed, amused and enigmatic Door Keeper offers cryptic clues to help them on their quest: “Welcome to the Hotel California,” for example, and “What will happen when the fiddler stops?”

The presence of Bruce Mason also sends Ian to his laptop, where Google takes him to The End of the Golden Weather: “I invite you to join me in a voyage into the past…” (the prologue begins); “The days of childhood slowly thread through memory like a golden snake, deeply scoring the mind, each day joined to the next by unbreakable filament …” (the opening line in ‘The Night of the Riots’); and “I am suddenly calm. Some hint of the complexity of human motive and behaviour reaches me.” (I recognise this as the breakthrough moment when the self-centred Boy realises his brother sabotaged his earnest little play because he was scared, and anger is supplanted by compassion.)

I won’t reveal who they are (or were); where they are, or why. That’s for you to find out along with them. But as you may expect, the title – Affinity – has everything to do with it.

Don’t for a moment believe that its connection to 1940s and ’50s classics renders this work less than contemporary. Consummate playwright that she is, Sarah Delahunty has written a play that is really about much more than three characters trapped in some kind of purgatory with a mystery to solve. Suffice to say the drama is her means of addressing the all-too-contemporary issue of gun control; of how our world might be if firearms were as accessible to emotionally troubled people here as they are in the USA.

Given that purpose, Delahunty’s dramatic means of exploring this theme in the context of very real, even lethal, adolescent angst works a treat. (I am reminded of Gary Henderson’s superbly crafted An Unseasonable Fall of Snow which uses the structure of an interrogation to confront the phenomenon of youth suicide.)

In No Exit, Sartre incarcerates a lesbian, a heterosexual nymphomaniac and a homosexual man together for eternity, by way of demonstrating that “Hell is other people.” Delahunty’s Affinity offers a different definition of ‘Hell’ and implies some kind of redemption is possible. (Watch what happens to Estelle.)

The small space – audience capacity: 23 – increases the intensity and allows us to feel as well as hear Te Aihe Butler’s powerful sound design. Indeed its apparent ability to fling the characters across the space, thanks to stunning physical work by the actors, is one of the production’s standout qualities.

Of course this play deserves a larger audience. It is certainly good enough not to rely on a small space for its dynamics.

Should I compare it to Perfectly Wasted, which occupied the adjoining main space for the previous fortnight? While I understand the intrinsic value in Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s devised projects with all the research, development and large cast ensemble performance involved, I have to say that as a play about adolescents confronting adulthood, and themselves, 1st Gear Productions’ Affinity is infinitely more interesting, profound and entertaining.

It may be about lives cut short but this play deserves a long life. Meanwhile, book now. 


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