Te Whaea - SEEyD Space, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

10/06/2017 - 21/06/2017

Production Details

Toi Whakaari are proud to announce their term 2 productions, Black Confetti and The Antigone Sound, featuring graduating third year actors collaborating with staff, students and graduates of the school.

Black Confetti by Eli Kent was originally commissioned for Auckland Theatre Company and premiered at the Herald Theatre in 2012. In this version, the piece has been expanded with additional material added by Leo Gene Peters, Leon Wadham and the cast.

Black Confetti focuses on the question of youth and consequences. Situated within Wellington’s often alienating party scene, where hipsters desperately yearn for significance, trying to make meaning out of their disaffected world, the play celebrates the ridiculous lengths we go to in order to belong, to be cool, to be loved or even admired.

Eli Kent is a playwright and actor. His first full length play Rubber Turkey was written when he was just 19 and earned him the Peter Harcourt Award for Outstanding New Playwright of the year in 2008. His third play The Intricate Art of Actually Caring won Best Theatre in the NZ Fringe Festival 2009 and the Montana Award for most Original Production at the 2009 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards.

Toi Whakaari graduate, Leo Gene Peters is the award-winning director of the company A Slightly Isolated Dog. Most recently he directed Don Juan which toured extensively in New Zealand. His other works include Jekyll & Hyde (Circa 2016), Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants (Downstage 2011 & BATS 2009; Chapman Tripp Winner: Best Director), Settling (BATS 2007; Chapman Tripp Nomination: Most Promising New Director), Txt If You Get Lost (Whitireia 2016) and Perfectly Wasted (Downstage 2012) – the last two in partnership with Long Cloud Youth Theatre.

Rose Kirkup, also a graduate of Toi Whakaari, is the artistic director of Everybody Cool Lives Here, a theatre company producing work that empowers the creative voices of marginalized people in Aotearoa. She is passionate about shaping our stories into challenging yet accessible shows for all. Rose is the recipient of the 2016 NZPS Fringe Festival Award.

Rose says “It’s so nice to be around the energy of the young people, their lust for life, and putting that into a playful way of making performance. Leon, Leo, Eli and I were all students in Wellington at a similar time and while we’ve been making this show – looking through the filter of the students in the rehearsals – I’ve felt quite nostalgic for those fun student days.”

Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School – Seeyd Space
Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington
Sat 10th June – Wed 21st June
6:30pm (11th,14th, 16th, 19th, 21st)
8:30pm (10th,13th,15th,17th, 20th)
Matinee 2:30pm (Sat 17th
Tickets: $15 full, $10 concessions
(season ticket to both Antigone and Black Confetti: $25 full, $15 concession)
Toi Whakaari and NZSD can get $5 standby tickets.
Student night (any student) Tues 13th $5

Advisory: Adult themes, reference to drug use, nudity

Performed by Year 3 Acting 
Staging, production & costumes by students from Year 2 Management and Year 2 Costume.

Joe Witkowski:  Siggy/Sigmond
Jack Parker:  Elvis
Ruby Love:  Katie
Jess Quilter:  Flo
Logan Cole:  Tom, Shiny Man, Dog, Man Jarrod, Earl/Bouncer
Conor Cameron:  Phil, Debra (soccer mum)
Liv Parker:  Susie, Katie’s mum, Willow (Flo’s mum)
Tess Sullivan:  The Dean, Career Counsellor, The Doctor, Krishla, German Embassy

Director: Leo Gene Peters
Producer: Paul Tozer
Production Designer: Rose Kirkup
Sound Designer: Piers Gilbertson
Production Manager: Tommy Berridge
Stage Manager: Holly Mercer
Technical Manager: Cohen Stephens
Costume Co-ordinator: Kaarin Macaulay
Costume Supervisor: Rianne Gibson
Costume Supervisor: Alannah Martin  

Theatre ,

Wholehearted commitment brings experiential pleasures

Review by John Smythe 12th Jun 2017

To say this is staged ‘in the altogether’ is not to suggest the cast is naked, although some in the audience feel a bit exposed. We each have to choose a single chair among those randomly scattered throughout the oblong room (known as the SEEyD Space). Each is set to more-or-less face the centre of the room, the walls of which are festooned with mirrors and fairy lights. And there are balloons. Balloons feature in multiple creative ways. There is no separate acting space, as such.

Director Leo Gene Peters and production designer Rose Kirkup have ingeniously integrated us with the actors in the world of Black Confetti where, despite being part of a community, each of us is alone. The mirrors seem to expand this world, even help us see around corners; they also turn it, and us, us back in on itself/ ourselves, reflecting the nature of lives we’ll either recognise or be introduced to. As for the balloons: as often as not the festivity they promise disappears with a pop. It is inspired design.  

Eli Kent, Leon Wadham, Leo Gene Peters and the cast have thoroughly revised the 2012 original (developed and premiered by the Auckland Theatre Company), dropping some characters, adding new ones and significantly changing key plot elements. For example Billy, who was sold the titular drug despite his heart condition and so died before the play began, is replaced by Tom (Logan Cole) whose warm greeting to us all gets increasingly weird and ill-expressed.

He too has taken the black powder and his resulting condition is a somewhat peripheral concern to his supposed friends, preoccupied as they are with their own pressing issues, until they get focused and come together as best they can to “stage an intervention”. (As I recall it, the Tom question replaces Siggy’s search for this father as the play’s narrative spine.)  

Siggy (Joe Witkowski) has spent seven years failing to pass 100-level papers at university – much to the despair of the Dean and his Career Counsellor (Tess Sullivan plays both). This suggests Siggy and his peers are just past their mid-20s; an age when most of their parents were already parents, but no-one in this Millennials group (seen as Gen-Y in the original) is anywhere near committing to that sort of future. Indeed the ‘intervention’ scene sparks a major squabble about commitment.

Katie (Ruby Love), just back from Berlin and conflicted as to whether she should stay or return, is instantly recognisable. Her ‘first love’ boyfriend, now just good friend, Elvis (Jack Parker), seems to be the most involved in the drug scene, as an intermediary dealer – the king-pin dealer being depicted as a luminescent balloon-head (in the original it was Elvis’s Uncle Ray; now dropped as a named character).

There’s a scene towards the end where Elvis prevails on his schoolgirl sister (Liv Parker) to bring him drugs. Apart from the fascinating status dynamics, her asking her brother to pass on prosaic messages to their Mum and Nan adds an unsettling resonance to the scene.

Phil (Conor Cameron) is a high-achieving counterpoint to Siggy, yet The System seems equally incapable of accommodating him. While Katie regards Siggy as a “lovable douche”, Phil has no compunction in delivering home-truths to him. That we feel such empathy and compassion for Siggy points to the quality of the writing and performance. Given a red nose he could become a tragic clown figure. 

His ability, at one of the many parties, to attract Flo (Jess Quilter), despite her already having a boyfriend, may be due to his innate sex-appeal or her unerring capacity to fall for losers, or both.  But the the course of their relationship is one of the many plot threads that enliven this loosely-woven portrait of a generation beset with loose ends that have yet to find a meaningful place in the proverbial tapestry of contemporary life. 

Manic Suzie (Liv Parker) is another new character, who is relegated to the status of ‘joke’ although there is doubtless a story behind her way of being that could engender more compassion. Parker also plays the Mums of Katie and Flo, one of whom (Katie’s, I think) is into New Age rituals, one of which is employed in the aforementioned ‘intervention’. That it seems to work is a ‘bum note’, for me, in a play that’s otherwise full of insights into how life can be for this age group these days.

I also can’t help feeling that the one-dimensional ‘send up’ nature of the Mum characters, and the Dean and Career Counsellor, reduces their potential to engage us in the spaces between their points of view and those of the younger generation. On the other hand a highly effective device is employed with Siggy’s over-prescribing Doctor (Tess Sullivan again), whereby her professional manner is contrasted with an impassioned outburst of what she’s really thinking. This compels us to grapple with our own judgements, which is always a good thing in theatre.

Tom’s voice gets an eerie amplification while he’s tripping. There’s a cameo scene that speaks volumes about the sexual ethics of Siggy’s dad and his mother’s response, which deepens our understanding of Siggy’s dysfunction. Elvis comes into his own when he sets out to discover who sold Tom the ‘black confetti’ – and here an audience-participation device is used that worked very well in the Leo Gene Peters-directed Don Juan (or was it Jekyll & Hyde, or both?). Many more surprising devices enliven the production.  

That said, while the ‘in the altogether’ non-staging effectively includes us in their world, it does limit our ability to tune into subtext; into the unspoken thoughts and feelings of characters, where the ‘get it’ factor so often lurks ready to spring. My guess is we could gain more insight into all of them, Elvis and Susie especially, in a more focused setting.

It’s a trade-off, I suppose, with the experiential pleasures offered by ‘immersive theatre’ conventions. Plus the ‘poor theatre’ creativity inherent in this production equips the soon-to-graduate students well for some of the ‘no budget’ work some will go on to make.

Each actor commits wholeheartedly to their character(s) and/or caricatures and as an ensemble they work superbly together. Black Confetti alternates with The Antigone Sound as Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School’s major Third Year (Acting) productions (click on the link for details and bookings). As always this is your chance to see some talents emerging who will doubtless become well known in the years to come. 


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