14/02/2017 - 17/02/2017
16/07/2019 - 20/07/2019
Bleeding Black jumps between the past, present and future – Sam has grown up in a culture dominated by Rugby, but has been forced to leave it behind as he grew up too quickly. He rediscovers his passion for the sport, and also the addiction of adrenaline that comes with being a rugby fan.
The piece explores what it means to be a young Kiwi bloke living in a rugby-mad world, under the roof of a rugby-mad father. Following the thematic footsteps of Foreskin’s Lament (1980) and Balls (2016), this solo tackles the shortcomings of rugby fan culture by combining an exploration of the past with the perspective and knowledge of the current day.
This is the first production by The CoLab, bringing together graduates from Whitireia, Victoria University, and Toi Whakaari. Our vision is to continue bringing people into our community from different performance backgrounds and to share our skills and talents to create new work showcasing a wide variety of performance styles.
BATS, The Studio – 1 Kent Terrace, Mount Victoria, Wellington 6011
BLEEDING BLACK IS BACK.
CHRISTOPHER WATTS RETURNS HOME WITH INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED SHOW.
After premiering the show in The Studio at BATS in the 2017 Wellington Fringe, he took it to the pinnacle of black box theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it was described as “A must see kiwi show.” Now, he brings a revitalised performance back to where it all began.
Wellington locals will have the chance to see a homegrown story presented by homegrown talent, as a lead-in to a return season at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“Highly physical”, “incredibly funny”, and “hitting shockingly close to home,” audiences have loved this show that questions how our relationship with rugby affects our relationship with society.
Critics have also loved this show, which saw it earn a nomination for Most Promising Emerging Artist at the Wellington Fringe 2017 and sellout crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018.
Bleeding Black has had several seasons in NZ and Scotland since it premiered at the Wellington Fringe. Watts wrote it after asking himself “What is New Zealand’s national addiction?” in an assignment for his theatre honours degree at Victoria University of Wellington.
He has worked across NZ, Fiji, and the UK as a performing artist since beginning his degree in 2013. Fellow VUW alumnus and Edinburgh Fringe veteran, Ella McLeod, makes her return to Wellington as the lighting technician for the show. Since leaving Wellington, she has worked in theatre in Bristol, Edinburgh, Whangarei, and Auckland.
As a former VUW student and a Wellingtonian at heart, Christopher is excited to be back in Wellington for 5 nights at
BATS Theatre in The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Terrace
Tuesday 16 July – Saturday 20 July 2019
$20 full and $15 concession.
Bookings: www.bats.co.nz or call the BATS box office on (04) 802 4175.
Theatre , Solo , Physical ,
Rugby as child abuse
Review by Dave Smith 17th Jul 2019
This finely judged one-man show had its genesis at BATS over two years ago. It went to Edinburgh to great acclaim and is going back there now. This short season is in essence a last minute fundraiser.
Bleeding Black has therefore already established its creds on both sides of the world. It tackles that sad irony of that which raises us up being also, too often, the source of our greatest societal humiliations (think Keith Murdoch).
In a week where World Cup cricket has cast the Black Caps in the role of standard bearers in a chivalrous sport, this little play presents the ugly flipside of our other sporting traditions. And yet there it is, a word shared by the two codes: black.
Our about-to-be fallen hero is raised in Palmerston North. At an early age he enters into one-sided compact with his Dad. The ‘deal’ is that they will love and support each other as long as he stays away from soccer (sic) and becomes Daddy’s little hard man on the rugby pitch. It’s another version of the overly robust “my way or the highway”. Today’s take-it-or-leave mantra for young kids is “give up or harden up”.
When Dad gets ostracized for taking this too far at an eight-year-olds’ rugby game the torch of instilling manliness in our little fellow is passed to a schoolteacher. May some academic light and Corinthian spark ensue? Er, no. The regime at school is the same one as Dad’s, using more carefully chosen ugly words. We might wonder if the tiny lad is living in Palmy or Sparta.
He sloughs off the mantle of the Manawatu and comes down to Wellington, presumably to raise his sights. But there we see him trading a place with small stadiums for one with a comparatively bigger one. Only the brand of the half-time beer and the names of the players have changed. There are, of course, some new uncouth barbarities to flaunt and fresh otherwise lifelong relationships to shatter. If Palmy was Gaul then Wellington is Rome. The gladiator-like crash tackles spread shock waves into the bleachers energizing the lads in yellow and black. This is real living! This is what it’s all about.
Watts relives the rugby experience onstage in many visual and kinetic ways, all of which work well enough. The Dome stage has generous length so bursts of speed in Manawatu Turbos green is a natural side-to-side field of vision. You have to be super fit to do all this and Watts most certainly is. He can combine punishing dabs and burpies in simulated training with hectoring adult generation speech coming at him from his sporting tormentors. The lighting is intelligently sited so that jerky optical effects are achieved.
After sitting in the reverse chair ‘I am God’ position beloved of coaches worldwide he rattles off the (good and bad) recent history of our overexposed national sport. This this reinforced by his, literally, peeling off layers of relevant national and local footy jerseys. The Canes, the Boks, the Frogs, the Irish. Each comes with its own familiar recitation of how the AB’s got done in the eye by inferior nations. The performance is Watts’ but the tedious recounting belongs to his Dad.
The central grind being that if we lost, some foreign c*** did it to us. It is not the well-trodden tale that matters as much as its bitterly vindictive and triumphalist tone. It harks back to the old style Northern Irishman telling his apprentice boy about the Battle of the Boyne. Ignorance becomes hereditary. Violence is but the next logical step.
Our man had ostensibly come to the Capital to read Arts and Law at VUW. However, too many expensive visits to Westpac Stadium are to promptly rot his rural brain. The cycle of one-eyed thuggery catches up with him, bringing awful, if soberly told, consequences. (I recall that the late-lamented John Clarke followed exactly the same road to a wholly different destination. Then again he had different parents. He rode a bike and wittily engaged with strangers rather than sledged and kicked his way through.)
Here in Godzone we are depressingly familiar with world record levels of youth suicide, witless boozed car chases, societal isolation hanging off gross parental neglect. We know that a sport that has rightly claimed high levels of social inclusion carries with it a black underside that promotes social nightmares for those who embrace crude conditioning in their vulnerable early years.
Ironically, the “play soccer and you’re out” mantra is a Kiwi inversion of the Northern Hemisphere take on sport. Up there a lower order fellow wanting to play Union might well be asked, in some quarters, if he’s “a man or a girl”. The codes may be different though the obsessiveness and skewed vision are identical. Performed in Edinburgh, this thoughtful theatrical piece may well take on other resonances for its audiences. Over there it’s the round ball kicker who’s in trouble.
As a second cousin to Bleeding Black this little Scottish football ditty (extract) shows that while we have anguished moments with our so-called sportsmen they have sports-related agonies with theirs.
Cause he’s fitba’ crazy,
He’s fitba’ mad.
The fitba it has ta’en away
The wee bit sense he had.
And it wid take a dozen skivvies
His clothes tae wash and scrub,
Since Jock became a member o’
That terrible fitba’ club
His wife she says she’ll leave him,
If he disnae keep
Away free playin’ fitba’.
At night time in his sleep,
He calls her Pat McGinty,
An’ ither names sae droll.
Last night he kicked her oot the bed –
An’ swore it wis a goal!
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Review by Ewen Coleman 16th Feb 2017
In the Bats Studio this week is another very Kiwi solo performance by Christopher Watts, with his ode to our obsession with rugby – Bleeding Black.
The initial part of Watts’ story is that shared be countless Kiwi boys, playing endless games of school rugby, often with Dad as coach, sometimes loving, but other times hating it. Then for whatever reason, they drop out, often to pursue other activities like going to University, which was the case with Watts. Yet that tingling feeling, excitement and drama of the game never goes away … [More]
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Recommended for Rugby fans and those seeking insight
Review by Zoe Joblin 15th Feb 2017
Though I suppose I should have intuited from the title, I don’t realise Bleeding Black is about Rugby until I am sitting in BATS theatre watching a sweaty, breathless Christopher Watts doing shuttle runs across the small stage. Despite the surprise, I find myself engaged and intrigued by his exploration of the sport through the eyes of a passionate and naive young fan.
Produced by fresh company The Co-Lab, Bleeding Black is a new play also written by Watts, and directed by Vanessa Immink. Although the content is not new to us in New Zealand or even in New Zealand theatre (think Foreskin’s Lament), it is nonetheless an eye opening experience for me to understand the fervour with which someone can love the sport. As a mild Rugby supporter in my teen years I have some idea of the excitement of a live sports game, or even a televised one, though Watts’ character takes this excitement to the next level. He plays story-teller, talking us through his early life, family, school, friendships and romantic relationships; through all of which, Rugby is inter-twined.
Watts is an engaging performer and the audience remains still and quiet throughout the performance, apart from moments of deserved laughter. While the script and narrative are interesting enough, I would encourage any further iterations of the show to create a stronger voice for Watts’ character. There is a mismatch between his emotional commitment to the story and the words feeling like they belong to somebody else.
My companion feels uncomfortable with the way in which domestic violence is mentioned but not explored in the play. I would caution those who are affected by this kind of content that you will not find a sense of resolve or impact for the survivor here.
There are offers of theatrical metaphor throughout the production, which could be further explored. One strong offer is the signage indicating that Watts is currently sitting an NCEA examination on being a Kiwi bloke, and we are the examiners. This premise would satisfyingly heighten the stakes if developed further.
The small stage is broken up by a chair and a table supporting a water jug and paper cups; a naturalism which suits the examination concept. The chair is used to indicate different environments and the use of monochromatic lighting in the small space gives a sense of physical and mental pressure. Watts uses mime and character voices to build environment and costume layering punctuates his journey. In addition to minimal soundscape, the overall design is cohesive but adds very little; an unnecessary forfeit of potential.
As I leave Bleeding Black, I cannot help wishing for more: from the cliché of the Kiwi male; from the storytelling techniques; from the design; from the exploration of social issues. This show is a solid first season and the themes are obviously still relevant to many people in 2017.
This show asks questions and I am left with more of my own: What’s new since Foreskin’s Lament changed people’s thinking 30 years ago? Who are we now as a Nation? How has rugby culture changed; is it better or worse? I challenge this show to keep asking these questions of us, to go further, get raw-er and use its metaphors more powerfully; we want and need to feel something more than sympathy for the violent, passionate, misguided Kiwi male.
I would recommend this show to Rugby fans as well as the ignorant for a bit of insight either way.
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