Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

02/07/2008 - 07/07/2008

Production Details

Thomas Sainsbury will direct David De Lautour, Tori Spence and Todd Emerson in his play Beast, opening at the Basement on July 2nd. Beast will also star Benedict Wall, Stephen Fitzgibbon, Kate Rylatt, Michelle Blundell and Tasha Wilcox.

Three siblings drive north…
Their car breaks down…
They walk to the nearest town…
They are never seen again.

This is their story.

The genesis for BEAST is Writer/Director Thomas Sainsbury’s countless late night car rides through the New Zealand countryside. His imagination would always get the better of him. Once he swears he once saw a completely white humanoid dart across the road and disappear into the tree line. Thomas also had a car tail him for over an hour. These mixed with his penchant for horror films, got him writing. Taking 3 siblings, similar to the siblings from his own, he decided to literally drive them into the scariest shit ever. A town of strange locals and a foreboding factory in the distance.

BEAST is the result. A Horror. For the Stage.

The three siblings will be played by David De Lautour, Tori Spence and Todd Emerson. David’s past roles have included leads on Power Rangers, Being Eve and the American television show What I like about you. Tori’s previous roles include leads on The Tribe and Atlantis High. Todd has starred in Amazing Extraordinary Friends, The World’s Fastest Indian and Shortland Street.

The strange locals the siblings happen upon will be played by Benedict Wall (Outrageous Fortune), Stephen Fitzgibbon (Vitner’s Luck), Kate Rylatt (Suburbia), Michelle Blundell (‘Tis pity she’s a whore, Based on Auckland) and Tasha Wilcox (Shortland Street).

BEAST was written and will be directed by Thomas Sainsbury. This year Thomas has directed his plays LUV, at The Basement, and Loser and the Herald Theatre. Last year Thomas took part in World Interplay, an international conference for playwrights under 25. Thomas is also currently writing two screenplays and is writing drama for Radio New Zealand.

Join Felix, Justine and Max as they face their worst nightmare.
…and yours!

The Basement, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Wednesday 2nd July, 8pm
Thursday 3rd July, 8pm
Friday 4th July, 8pm
Saturday 5th July, 8pm
Sunday 6th July, 8pm

All $18

David De Lautour
Tori Spence
Todd Emerson

Benedict Wall
Stephen Fitzgibbon
Kate Rylatt
Michelle Blundell
Tasha Wilcox

Writer/Director - Thomas Sainsbury
Producer/Art Director - Kristin Malcolm
Sound Engineer/Operater - Matu Ririnui
Lighting Designer - Katrina Chandra

Classic horror/thriller also funny, a scream in fact

Review by Sian Robertson 03rd Jul 2008

Two brothers and a sister hit the road north to attend a funeral: highly-strung Felix, self-absorbed Max, and sensible Justine, who’s a mum, which in Max’s eyes has made her as dull as dishwater. Travelling without a map, they take a wrong turn and end up trapped in a small out of the way town after their car breaks down.

Something’s not quite right, and not just in an inbred small town way… There isn’t a phone they can use, it’s the beginning of hunting season and there seems to be no one available to fix their car. Things go from frustrating to disconcerting to terrifying for the three siblings as the secrets of the town become apparent and they struggle desperately to leave.

Todd Emerson is at his finest as the self-righteous, vegetarian slacker, Max, who is criticises his brother and sister every step of the way then hides behind them when he’s scared, bringing a comical contrast to his siblings’ more conservative natures. David Delautour is also funny as the unassuming but slightly OCD Felix. Victoria Spence is solid in the role of their sister Justine who, though annoying at first, comes into her own when things start really going wrong.

A suitably sinister set looms as you go into the theatre – to get to your seat you have to walk down a dark curtained corridor that winds round the back of the theatre, with rusty saw blades and hunting traps lying against the walls and sinister music. Once inside, there’s seating everywhere, around a central stage area, encroaching on the set – beside the bed and around the car. (Yes! There’s a Suzuki Swift as part of the set!) The cast does a great job not tripping over us (especially fumbling round in the near total darkness between scenes).

I’ve seen a number of plays lately that don’t pay service to the never-turn-your-back-to-the-audience tradition. It takes a keen awareness on the actors’ part to make sure they move around and aren’t facing the same way for too long, but adds realism, in a fly-on-the-wall kind of way. You get used to it. Also in such an intimate theatre setting there are no audibility issues.

I got the seat next to the bed, and even as I sat down in the strange arena (feeling like we were ghoulishly packed in to watch a stoning or a dog fight) I was nervous I’d end up falling off my chair with fright right into the middle of the action (as it turned out, although I jumped several inches at one point, I didn’t actually fall off).

To say Thomas Sainsbury is an exciting new talent in New Zealand theatre is an understatement. He’s the most challenging, down-to-earth, funny and refreshingly unsettling playwright/director I’ve come across in years. He’s also a powerhouse of productivity, having written and directed four plays including this one (all black comedies) in less than a year.

Sainsbury’s predilection for weirdos, losers and loners gets you so far into their shoes you wonder if you’ll ever get them off again, making us simultaneously cringe and try to convince ourselves that it’s everyone else that is messed up.

Fortunately, with Beast, we can look on with a bit more objectivity – after all how many of us have actually been stuck in a tiny, obscure hick town with no phones and the locals after our blood? While you’re in the theatre though, it’s pretty up-close-and-personal.

Stephen Fitzgibbon, who appeared in Sainsbury’s plays Loser and LUV, is weirder than ever, and a linchpin cast member playing the parts of several scary, maladjusted locals at different stages in the play. Michelle Blundell is hauntingly subdued as Bartholomew (Fitzgibbon)’s frightened wife Anna.

Benedict Wall, Tasha Wilcox and Kate Rylatt are also sterling supporters of the main cast as various inhabitants of the town.

The effects (lighting, make up and sound) all combine to be impressively realistic. The lighting in particular creates an edge of suspense, going pitch black between scenes making it impossible to tell which direction the action’s going to come from next (there are four stage entrances, so there’s a bit of sudden neck swivelling, but not so often that it gets uncomfortable). And they got the blood the right colour!

Beast is reminiscent of several horror movies I’ve seen, though that’s because it ticks all the boxes of a classic horror/thriller. It’s also funny, a scream in fact. Sainsbury’s usual pitch-black humour cuts through the fencing wire like bolt cutters.

A rare treat for fans of classic horror films, Beast is not just low-brow, b-grade blood-flavoured chewing gum. Thanks not only to Sainsbury’s great script and directing, but also to a cast of talented professionals, the characters are well fleshed out and believable: the siblings are a typical Kiwi family, with the usual bickering and tension, making it all the more scary. You desperately want them to get out alive, knowing full well that can’t happen because it would make for a completely unsatisfactory ending.

Beast even raises some philosophical questions about social ethics and cruelty to animals, for those of us who like to intelligently discuss the underlying themes afterwards. It’s also genuinely disturbing in parts.

I’ve one complaint: Beast is only on till the end of the week, so if you’re thinking about going, go and see it tonight!  


nik smythe July 9th, 2008

i am glad to go on record as being consistently impressed with Thomas Sainsbury's work. i’m happy for wellington that two of his plays are headed their way soon. what indicates to me the quality of his writing is the calibre of actors that have repeatedly been involved, often for virtually no fiscal benefit, because it would seem the scripts are a joy to perform. i saw Beast on saturday night and it was excellent. thinking back, yes there were a couple of glitches, which would constitute spoilage to explain, but at the time there was so much going on to like it didn’t even matter in the moment. i confess to feeling i’ve reviewed enough Sainsbury’s myself, for a while anyway, partly because i irrationally worry that it might look like he’s paying me because there always seems to be so many good things to say. certainly i strive to make critical points where i see them, because i look forward to his plays getting even better. i’d hate Thomas to get corrupted by an inflated ego, but with his heady blends of social drama and satirical commentary, the fact is he’s on to something in a big way.

Paul July 4th, 2008

I agree. Somebody has to cut him down right now, so everybody can all feel better about themselves.

John Smythe July 4th, 2008

Perry, there is no reason to suppose Sian’s review is anything but honest. That you feel differently about Beast is fine, and this Comments facility is here for you to express that. But please be more specific about what you think is not good about the “writing, acting, story, content, ending etc.” Argue your case, with a ‘Spoiler Warning’ if it involves giving the show away [I’m guessing that is why Sian was not too specific]. All good professionals thrive on constructive feedback and you clearly have some to offer. Oh by the way, it’s playwright not playwrite. A wright is a constructive worker, as in wheelwright, shipwright, playwright ... O.E. wryhta "worker," variant of earlier wyhrta, from wyrcan "to work" (see work). Now usually in combinations (wheelwright, playwright, etc.) or as a common surname. Common W.Gmc.; cf. O.S. wurhito, O.Fris. wrichta, O.H.G. wurhto. [from ]

Perry July 4th, 2008

No offence to Sian but can someone else please review Tom's plays? She is obviously very enamoured by him- and why not, he's a great playwrite. But that review for Beast is just a very long page of compliments and positive surperlatives which I just don't think it deserves. And judging from talk on the way out after the show I am not the only one who feels this way. I would just like an honest review- one that gives the good with the bad. There was so much good- it was a really fun show but there was also a lot of not so good in many departments- ie writing, acting, story, content, ending etc which I think deserved to be mentioned and weren't. From the review I'd expected a fantastic near perfect show, and this just didn't deliver. Yes Tom is a great playwrite, no one is denying that- but that doesn't mean each of his shows is. I would like to have more objective reviews please.

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council