Bang Bang You’re Dead

Kapiti College, Wellington

11/02/2009 - 21/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details

"I wanted to kill you but I didn’t want you dead. How else could I tell you what’s on my mind without you interrupting?" The angst-ridden cries of a troubled teenager ripple through this production as Josh grapples with the realization that there is no reset button in life.

"I need to know Josh, why?"

Mad World Productions, in association with Kapiti College and the Fringe Festival, present Bang Bang You’re Dead, written by American playwright William Mastrosimone in the wake of a spate of high school shootings in the USA, and directed by Siobhan Malley and Cody Packer.

Bang Bang You’re Dead is a resource for dealing with a seemingly broken world that’s violent, unhealthy, unfair, and beyond the power of anyone to fix, except today’s generation. Mad World Productions takes you on a mesmerising journey into the mind of a troubled teenager. The performances are breath-takingly believable as these teenage actors truly understand the angst, frustration and feeling of isolation that their characters suffer from.

The playwright, William Mastrosimone, offers this play "as a free gift for students to perform in schools, garages, street corners, parks, house of worship – anyplace there can be communication and discovery about how we’ve made the world’s violence our own. And how we can change it." But don’t be fooled. This is no simple school production; rather it is a way to start a dialogue with our frustrated and exceedingly isolated youth.

Bang Bang You’re Dead deals with the darkness of the soul that some must battle. It is too late for Josh, played by 17 year-old Andrew Gosnell, he has made his decision and must now live with the consequences but his experience may serve as a warning to others who struggle with their own personal demons.

Bang Bang You’re Dead was first performed by this cast in October 2008. Audience response to what was meant to be a one-off performance was so intense that a second performance was quickly scheduled. Again the seats were filled quickly and people had to be turned away at the door.

The performances from these talented young actors were heart-breaking and many in the audience were wiping away tears as the house lights came up. We were approached by many people who saw the shows and encouraged to get it out in the public arena. The decision was made to take the production to the Fringe Festival, to try and reach a wider audience, to open others’ eyes to the possible violence that our misunderstood youth can cause, both to themselves and to others. It is an issue that is difficult to deal with but one we mustn’t be afraid to try and understand.

Bang Bang You’re Dead is directed by Drama teacher Siobhan Malley and Year 13 student Cody Packer, and stars Andrew Gosnell as Josh; a character based on the tragic story of Kip Kinkel, who killed his parents, and then took a gun to school and killed two students and wounded 22 more in Springfield, Oregon. Andrew is supported by Renee Duffell, Nick Stewart, Teri Gibbs, Robyn Mathie, Aaron McPhail, Hen Priestley, Shevelle May, Lara Gieseke, Laura Ringrose and Cody Packer – all Year 13 students at Kapiti College.

What we must remember is that while there is life there is hope. We can learn from the mistakes of others and look to this generation to light the way for those who follow.

Bang Bang You’re Dead
is on at Kapiti College,
February 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 19th and 21st 
as part of the 2009 Fringe Festival.
Entry is free, seating is limited.
Doors open at 7pm, with the show starting by 7.30pm.
Seats can be booked through Siobhan Malley at or on 0273899971. Any queries are welcome.

A one-hour roller coaster crammed with social relevance

Review by Yolande Brophy 12th Feb 2009

Bang bang: BE A MAN!
Bang bang: the weight of personal history gives way to the darkness within.
Bang bang: this is the one that didn’t get away.
Bang bang: five deaths wound thousands with a ripple effect as mothers, fathers, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends lose their loved ones.
Bang bang: there for the grace of God go any of our young people.

It is hard to imagine how our tender, beautiful youth can possibly perform a show of such emotional power effectively and equally difficult to see how the play would work without a young cast. A one-hour roller coaster crammed with social relevance.

Using Greek tragedy as the platform, playwright William Mastrosimone develops the spine of his raw journey through the chorus. Played with strength, spirit and endurance by Teri Gibbs, Renee Duffell, Nick Stewart, Matt Eller and Robyn Mathie adeptly supporting Andrew Gosnell in the lead role and in turn supported by a robust ensemble portraying a variety of roles.

Their ‘haunting’ of the cocky but fatally thin skinned Josh provides a portal of expression as the voices in his head attempt to offer insights to who he is, why he did it, how he could and ultimately – the essence of teenage turmoil – what he felt. And of course in true adolescent style they each want to know, "Why me?"

In many ways questions are left unanswered. This play does not pretend to solve the ranging issues the youth of today face but offers hope in the sense that awareness develops discussion and generates greater understanding with less isolation. We hope.

In Josh’s world of football and video games it doesn’t take much to turn childhood games into a devastation gruesome reality. Burdened with a high IQ, feeling like he doesn’t measure up to parental expectation and seeking approval from peers and family he desperately tries to make himself visible. Sound familiar?

A rite of passage with his grandfather quickly turns to schoolyard humiliation, sparking such a fury of emotion that he never stops to consider that his actions have wide-ranging consequences. That in fact GAME OVER is it, in real life: no reset button, no rewind, no future.

Fierce with the instant gratification of firearm wielding authority, his strident statement that holding a gun gives you a PhD, and that he could’ve made history if someone hadn’t tackled the gun from him before he reloaded, is later undercut by the reality of those moments replayed.

Disturbingly he tells his mother, "I love you," before killing her, exposing the real powerlessness of his situation by not being able to do anything but pull the trigger. Powerfully the chorus pulls him and us into their lost world with a litany of things they miss and will never experience. Anger, theirs and his, dissolves into remorse, sadness and loss.

This Fringe production, compassionately directed by Siobhan Malley and Cody Packer, is minimally set, emphasizing the intensity of performance. Lighting too is sparse, using few dramatic effects very effectively.

And the final moments combining archival footage with casual shots of the actors, along with snapshots of their childhoods, is both a brave exposure of themselves and a chilling reminder of what can happen when the signals are ignored.

Lest we forget. "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" – Edmund Burke.


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