Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

28/06/2012 - 22/07/2012

Production Details


Auckland Theatre Company proudly presents BLACK CONFETTI, a new play from award-winning writer Eli Kent (The Intricate Art Of Actually Caring and Thinning) which opens Thursday 28 June, at 8pm, at the Herald Theatre. 

We are all standing on the fault lines… 

Siggy is a Generation Y casualty. He maxed out his student loan; uni is ejecting him; his uncle is behaving strangely; and his father, a famous seismologist, has disappeared off the face of the earth. But Siggy is clever. And is curious. Together with his best mate, Elvis, he is on a mission to get some adhesive in his life and find out the truth about his dad.

Packed full of big ideas and a squillion little surprises, poetry, mysteries and full on theatricality, BLACK CONFETTI is about the death of the party and surviving the earthquakes in our lives.

“Every so often a new playwright comes along who blows your socks off. Eli Kent has been proving his worth and winning awards with highly original, complex, funny and moving plays like THE INTRICATE ART OF ACTUALLY CARING and THINNING”, says Colin McColl, ATC’s artistic director.

Winner of the 2010 Bruce Mason Play Writing Award, Eli Kent’s first full length play RUBBER TURKEY was featured in the 2008 NZ International Comedy Festival and Eli went on to win the Peter Harcourt Award for Outstanding New Playwright of the Year at the 2008 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards as a result. 

THE INTRICATE ART OF ACTUALLY CARING, which has toured throughout New Zealand, won Best Theatre in the NZ Fringe Festival 2009, and three Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards, including Most Original Production. That year, Eli also wrote BEDLAM, a musical based on London’s infamous insane asylum, which was performed as part of the Toi Whakaari Pitched Project. 

Auckland Theatre Company premiered THINNING as part of the 2010 Young and Hungry Festival. Eli has completed an MA in Script Writing at the prestigious International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington and is a founding member of The Playground Collective, with whom he is currently writing THE TINDER BOX. 

We’re all very excited about BLACK CONFETTI, the new work we’ve commissioned from Eli. Think HAMLET mixed with ALICE IN WONDERLAND and BREAKING BAD. It’s streetwise, yet highly literate, very funny yet profoundly moving. Eli Kent is an extraordinary new voice in New Zealand playwriting.”, says Colin.

Auckland Theatre Company commissioned BLACK CONFETTI, which featured in The Next Stage 2011

28 June – 22 July 
Herald Theatre 
Tickets for BLACK CONFETTI can be purchased from 0800 BUT TICKETS (0800 289 842), or .

Siggy – Kip Chapman
Ray – Edwin Wright
The Dean/Louis/Coroner – Adam Gardiner
Elvis – Nic Sampson
Katie – Virginia Frankovich
Flo – Julia Croft
Baron Saturday – Keith Adams   

Director – Andrew Foster 
Set & Costume Designer – John Parker 
Lighting Designer – Rob Larsen  
Sound Designer Eden Mulholland  

Shivering and Shaking; The Glittery Black

Review by Rosabel Tan 07th Jul 2012

Siggy (Kip Chapman) is the quintessential drifter. He’s spent the past seven years “finding his niche” – that is, working his way through every stage one paper offered by the Faculty of Arts – and he’d happily continue this search, only The Dean (Adam Gardiner) is now threatening to kick him out: Not for his unrelenting dedication to underachievement, not even because he’s a small-time drug dealer catering to staff and students’ appetite for black (a fictional drug not unlike cocaine), but because one of those students – Billy – had a heart condition, shouldn’t have been sold the drug, was sold it anyway, and died as a result.

Siggy’s also dealing with the presumed suicide of his dad, a renowned seismologist whose boat was recently discovered offshore without him in it, but there’s more to it than this – he just doesn’t know it yet. There’s also his childhood friend Katie (Virginia Frankovich), who’s back from Berlin with big news of her own, and you might think: these are some heavy things for a person to deal with. And you might think: I know what kind of playthis is going to be, but try not to, because one of the most striking aspects of Eli Kent’s Black Confetti is the way it resists taking you where you expect it to go, both on a scene-by-scene basis and as a whole, and not in ways that feel contrived – just unpredictable, the ground beneath constantly shifting in ways that surprise. [More


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Wunderkind playwright the real deal

Review by Janet McAllister 03rd Jul 2012

By hitching rising-star playwright Eli Kent to their high-powered production wagon, Auckland Theatre Company have created an intense, atmospheric theatrical experience, absorbing for literary types and theatre newcomers alike.

The theme of death threads through naturalistic slacker comedy, supernatural whodunit and overtly clichéd family melodrama. The title refers to ash, and also to a rather artificial device: the fictional, occasionally fatal black-powder drug which young “oafish loafer” Siggie (Kip Chapman, appropriately low-key) pedals for his deadbeat uncle Ray (Edwin Wright). Other characters include a playfully predatory Haitian voodoo spirit – a wonderfully grotesque Keith Adams – who highlights the psychological link between sex and death. [More]  


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Stylistically convoluted and provocatively chilling 21st century parable

Review by Nik Smythe 01st Jul 2012

I can’t find better words to succinctly describe Black Confetti than director Andrew Foster’s in his programme notes: “…a challenging work, a complex brain teaser.”  

The first disarmingly impressive thing to behold on being seated is the complex, dark, Kafka-esque set by John Parker – shortly proven to more than aptly reflect the complex, dark Kafka-esque content of this convoluted fable.  The central asymmetrical pipe tree craftily represents aspects of various settings throughout the play, as well as the cause-and-effect nature of human interaction, plus a sculptural depiction of a sort of arterial network or of a human nervous system, also central to the narrative. 

Besides a handful of different sized stereo speakers scattered about, that’s really all there is to the set beside various decorous lighting effects and graphics projected upon it, and its two unconventional entrance/exits.  One’s literally a hole in the ground; the other a more conventionally positioned rear wall aperture which takes the striking form of a giant fissure, or cartoon lightning bolt. 

Both Eden Mulholland’s vivid soundtrack and Robert Larsen’s grimly vibrant lights match the gothic intensity of Parker’s set and matching, virtually monochromatic costume design. 

Golden boy of the moment (whom many predict is in for the long haul), young playwright Eli Kent’s adventurous composition has been rigorously workshopped over an 18 month process, by ATC’s The Next Stage development programme.  The result, under Foster’s adroit direction, is a tangled though remarkably cohesive mash-up of story and style, from melodrama to naturalism to dark comedy and supernatural suspense. 

Kip Chapman plays Sigmund Burroughs, known to friends and family as Siggy, and to the wider community as ‘That Guy’; the screw-up who damages or destroys anything and everyone he touches.  We first meet him being chucked out of university after seven years of starting but never completing pretty much every course offered by the school, following the tragedy of Billy, a young student with a heart condition who took a fatal dose of psychoactive narcotic ‘Black’, which Siggy knowingly sold him. 

This all occurs in the wake of his estranged father, noted seismologist Alan Burroughs’ recent disappearance, presumed dead. Considering their ostensible gravitas, he appears to be taking these momentous issues in his relative stride.  Oh, he also never knew his mother and is epileptic. 

All the relationships in the story appear to share an element of brutal candour; there are no ‘nice’ characters.  Edwin Wright is rodentious bogan family friend Ray, for whom both Siggy and his best friend, Ray’s funloving but highly-strung son Elvis (Nic Sampson), deal the notorious drug among their circles of young acquaintances. 

The twisted course of Siggy’s hapless life receives another perverse kink when he meets Flo (Julia Croft), candidly capricious twin sister of the late Billy.  That encounter in turn leads to the seizure-induced vision of netherworld Voodoo-style medicine man Baron Saturday (Keith Adams), some of whose antics are among the most original I’ve seen in theatre.  He wants Siggy to locate his father’s corpse, as his spirit cannot be escorted to the ‘dark party’ on the other side without corporeal proof of his demise. 

Virginia Frankovich’s Kate, partner-in-crime and Elvis’ childhood sweetheart, is another stroppy, trouble-seeking lass just returned from Berlin with unsolicited troubles of her own.  Adam Gardner fills all the remaining roles with admirable utility: stressed out varsity dean; flippant doctor; jaded coroner. 

Witty, occasionally overstated dialogue drives the intricate threads of plot, peppered with analogous references to renowned works of popular culture both classical (Kipling, Shakespeare) and modern (Back to the Future, The Wire, etc).  This device can have the advantage of offering the contemporary audience a more personal connection to the work, while potentially risking alienation in the event we don’t recognise the references. In this case, however, such samples are used sparingly enough to not confuse or untowardly interfere with the action. 

A couple of issues that do distract me are difficult to explain without risking spoilage: when we witness it in a particularly climactic scene, the titular ‘black confetti’ in fact resembles a kind of slimy tinsel, or seaweed.  And when Mr. Burroughs’ cellphone is discovered many days, perhaps weeks after his disappearance, it’s hard to believe it still has battery power. 

Meanwhile, numerous other strands of subplot woven in sometimes serve to address questions raised in the narrative, while others seem to do little more than add to the toxic compound that defines Siggy’s existence.

All in all, Black Confetti more or less succeeds as a provocatively chilling 21st century parable.  The intended message of said parable is now open to discussion.


John Smythe July 21st, 2012

Eli Kent’s Black Confetti is an astonishing piece of work; extremely rich in its insights, wit and wisdom.  A colleague said after, “There seem to be several ‘old souls’ inhabiting Eli. I can’t believe he’s so young.”  I found myself thinking, if Joe Orton, Tom Stoppard and Sarah Kane had had a love child …

It is especially exciting to see such original characters, so truthfully inhabited by the excellent cast. Even though it is not a play about my life I recognise its people and interactions from the real world. The design elements, too, are superb, allowing for a fluid flow without casting doubt on where a new scene has moved to. 

So there we were in the Herald foyer, talking animatedly about the play to others we knew when – less than 10 minutes after the play had ended – a front-of-house staff person asked us to leave because they were closing the theatre. Is that conducive to a rewarding theatre-going experience? 

Anyway, it’s on for another week and not to be missed. (And will it be done in Wellington?  If so, by whom? If not, why not?) 

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Hedonistic benders

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 01st Jul 2012

Kate Ward Smythe reviews Black Confetti on Arts On Sunday.  


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