AN UNSEASONABLE FALL OF SNOW
29/07/2014 - 09/08/2014
MICHAEL HURST IN HIGH-OCTANE WHODUNNIT
Following their critically acclaimed production of Mo & Jess Kill Susie, Theatre of Love proudly present another Gary Henderson classic, An Unseasonable Fall of Snow.
One way in, one way out. Deep down, Liam knows why he’s here. He has the answers to Arthur’s questions, but Arthur’s looking for far more than answers. A compelling mystery, with an unforeseeable twist, that interrogates truth, consequences, and the ultimate value of human life.
New Zealand theatre hero Michael Hurst, whose recent projects include directing The Brokenwood Mysteries for Prime TV and starring in ATC’s The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate, is the secretive and strategic interrogator Arthur. In a career spanning over 30 years, Snow marks the first time Hurst will perform on The Basement’s upstairs stage, a rare chance for audience’s to see Hurst’s high-octane acting up close.
Hurst is joined by Ryan Richards as troubled youth Liam, off the back of his hit solo show, A Boy Wonder. Hurst says: “I am keen to be directed. I love the process of exploration and to see how far we can go. Theatre is in my blood. I spend a great deal of time these days directing television, which I love, but I find I need to get back to the stage regularly or I go a bit mad. I feel most at home on stage; I thrive there.”
From the team that brought you the Auckland premiere of Henderson’s Mo & Jess Kill Susie; direction by 2013 Wallace Arts Trust Emerging Artist award-winner Matt Baker; production design by Ben Anderson (Just Above The Clouds), who will take inspiration from cult TV series The Wire; lighting design by Amber Malloy; with another original soundtrack by Ora Simpson. Described as a “down-under Pinter for the 21st Century” by the Sunday Star Times, Gary Henderson is a local playwright with an international reputation. Recipient of the 2013 Playmarket Award for his significant artistic contribution to theatre in New Zealand, his other plays include Skin Tight, Peninsula and Homeland.
An Unseasonable Fall of Snow was originally commissioned for the 1998 International Festival of Arts and has had productions in Wellington, Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney and Dublin. Aucklanders will be hooked as they unravel this poignant whodunnit.
AN UNSEASONABLE FALL OF SNOW
plays at The Basement, 7pm
Tuesday 29 July until Saturday 9th August,
Tickets $20-$25 from www.iticket.co.nz
Pre-sale tickets $16 (until Monday 14th July)
Praise for Theatre of Love’s MO & JESS KILL SUSIE:
“The performances pull you along. This is for audiences wanting a shot of adrenalin. – Janet McAllister, NZ Herald
“A tense, sweaty 75 minutes in the theatre” – Simon Wilson, Metro Mag
“The success of Henderson’s writing was evident in how many of the audience slowly started to sit up and cover their eyes as the actors began the lead up to the dramatic ending.” – Liz Constable, Keeping up with NZ
Arthur: Michael Hurst
Liam: Ryan Richards
Director: Matt Baker
Production Design: Ben Anderson
Production Design Assistant: Marshall Bull
Lighting Design & Operation: Amber Molloy
Sound Design: Ora Simpson
Publicist: Kristina Hard
Publicity Photographer: Liesha Ward-Knox
Produced by James Wenley for Theatre of Love
Ice-cool puzzler with a twist
Review by Janet McAllister 31st Jul 2014
The twist in Gary Henderson’s short 1998 mystery is just the right level of difficult: it’s solvable but hard enough that you’ll feel pleased you got it, with the help of some cleverly-spaced clues. On opening night, the solution was revealed earlier than the script indicates, possibly deliberately; this focussed attention on the second-half debate about moral responsibility.
With slicked ash-blond hair, pin-stripe blue shirt and drawn demeanour, Michael Hurst as Arthur looks like an inspector in a Scandinavian detective novel. But all is not as it seems; for one, he and his young interviewee, Liam (Ryan Richards), are speaking about Wellington.
This is an interrogation … [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Simplicity belies complexity and vice versa
Review by Nik Smythe 30th Jul 2014
This one-act mystery play by celebrated Kiwi playwright Gary Henderson, written in 1998, is an intriguing psychological study of the innermost private depths of the human condition, as mysteries often are. Precisely ‘what is this mystery?’ is the initial overriding mystery: a defensive young man is being interrogated by an officious investigator about a serious incident the previous night. But why?
That’s almost all one can reveal of the plot to readers intending to see the play themselves. Not that the element of surprise is all the tight ‘Chandler-meets-Pinter-in-late-20th-century-Wellington’ production has going for it. Along the way it probes uncomfortably into the mind of anyone who has ever felt defeated or ‘written off’ – pretty much everyone in other words. It is not unseasoned with humour either, acerbic and cynical as it is, perhaps inevitably given the scenario … But I’m saying too much again.
Production designer Ben Anderson’s noteworthy set provides an up-front sense that things are not as you might expect, let alone what they seem. A single light bulb hangs centre stage. Partly papered, partly black walls are stacked to the ceiling with clerical boxes; unremarkable furniture sits on a half-tiled white floor exposing black polythene underneath. My initial impression is that reality is either crumbling, or else perhaps clashing with another conflicting reality, metaphorically or otherwise.
Arthur (Michael Hurst), a clean-cut, white-collar, middle-management type is onstage as we enter, his browbeaten countenance belying the confident air of authority he expresses when engaging with his interview subject. Hurst maintains an impressive degree of truth in his portrayal of Arthur, given the various revelations of his own background and motivations that arise throughout the play.
Arriving through the same door we entered in, Liam (Ryan Richards) is a nervous young man, short spoken, confused, frank but guarded. The stiffness of his demeanour is for the most part very well pitched, affirming his rather repressed nature, while his pivotal outburst later on, after his defences have been broken down, don’t reach the cathartic depth the script demands.
Intriguing and thought-provoking as the performance is, I am engaged and inspired by its poignancy while falling short of being emotionally moved as such. In part Henderson’s very clever, deceptively poetic script may be a barrier to imbuing the audience with the emotional depths the characters reach. Challenging, but surely not insurmountable.
Overall however, director Matt Baker and his small cast have taken a classically simple approach to staging Henderson’s multi-layered script, to good effect. What seems at first a simple scenario quickly becomes a convoluted puzzle, while – again without giving too much away – the underlying motives of those involved are their simple, inescapable human needs and desires.
The costumes – Arthur’s ironed suit and Liam’s smartish-casual jeans and grey jacket – are perfectly unexceptional in style, reflecting the muted blandness of their respective existences, despite the emerging details of two very different lives. Beside the semi-abstract walls and floor of the set, the props too – file folders, phonebook, coffee pot and cups – are seemingly as typical and prosaic as possible.
Among other detailed aspects of humanity addressed, the script gives one pause to consider certain words we use freely in certain contexts, unaware of any potential ambiguity or misconstruction it may hold, a case in point being the meaning of the word ‘guilt’, which Arthur raises during his confrontational barrage of inquiry.
There are many more aspects of An Unseasonable Fall of Snow surrounding the play’s events and their associated significance that warrant further discussion. Said discussion, however, is the privileged domain of people who have seen the play, or at the very least read it. Twelve hours later, I’m still filling in certain details of what the hell happened in my own mind.
Recently I saw a 1960 newsreel reporting on the publicity for the original release of Hitchcock’s Psycho, whereby patrons were told they must watch the play from the beginning (latecomers were not admitted) and implored not to divulge its secrets to persons who hadn’t yet seen it. For more than simple entertainment reasons, the same principle definitely applies to this production, hence the ingenious decision to hand out programmes to the audience as they exit so that the issues revealed in the play can be addressed by the director in the programme’s text without spoilage.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer