The Moorings, 31 Glenbervie Tce, Wellington

25/02/2014 - 01/03/2014

NZ Fringe Festival 2014

Production Details

Original Musical Explores Love, Family And Genetics 

From the team that brought you “Right Dishonourable” comes a new show about how we define and redefine family. 

Sadie’s pregnant. Sam’s the father (sort of). June’s the mother (as well). And as for the grandparents, well, who knows? As Sadie and June prepare to start their family they find themselves questioning the connections between biology and parenthood. Meanwhile, their best friend Sam is struggling with his own link to their unborn child. 

Bloodlines is a new musical with book and lyrics by Cassandra Tse and music by Bruno Shirley, produced by Red Scare Collective. With a small cast that perform their own instrumental accompaniment, it breaks the mould of the stereotypical ‘spectacle’-based musical by focusing on bringing to life complex characters in an intimate, non-traditional theatre setting. 

Director Erin Thompson says “this quirky, comical and touching musical tackles that elusive definition of family. You’ll be taken along for the intimate journey of each character finding out what this means for themselves.” 

Composer and musical director Bruno Shirley describes the show’s musical influences as “Alan Menken, with touches of Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown for flavour. It’s a rock show with a very theatre-y twist.” 

The show will be performed at New Zealand Historic Place the Moorings, which Thompson says is “absolutely perfect” for the show. “We’re really trying to strip back all the usual things that people associate with musical theatre,” says production manager and writer Cassandra Tse. “Performing in such a small, intimate venue means there’s no wings, offstage band or costume changes. Everything happens right in front of the audience.” 

The story was inspired by Tse’s own family history. “My mother was adopted, and recently decided to start tracking down her biological parents. Although the situation itself is very different, this sparked the idea for the journey that Sadie goes on through the play.” 

Bloodlines will be performed from the
25th February – 1st March
as part of the New Zealand Fringe Festival.
Shows will be at 7.30pm
at The Moorings, 31 Glenbervie Tce, Thorndon. 
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 concession, and $13 for Fringe Addict cardholders.
They are available through Eventfinda, the Fringe website or as door sales. 

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Theatre , Musical ,

Impressive ambition and talent

Review by James McKinnon 26th Feb 2014

In terms of its sheer density of talent, this is the most impressive performance I have seen at the Fringe. Each of the eight performers in Red Scare Collective’s new musical, Bloodlines, holds down an acting role and plays at least one instrument in the orchestra, and all of them, plus all of us, are somehow wedged into the faded majesty of the ballroom at the Moorings (which is itself well worth the visit if you have not seen it before).

‘Intimate’ feels clichéd and insufficient to describe the ambience. The fact that the orchestra and the cast are the same has interesting repercussions (so to speak), in that all the actors are always on stage, but are also always performing in one way or another, and giving the show their complete attention. The audience unconsciously mirrors their intensity, becoming almost an active participant, which raises the level of energy in the room. The only other time I’ve felt a similar effect lately was during Binge Culture’s Break Up

Bloodlines is a domestic drama which investigates the tension between nature and culture at the heart of human experience. To wit: are your ‘real’ parents the people who contributed your DNA, or the people who raised you?

At the centre of the story, a couple is having a baby created with the help of a third party – not an anonymous donor, but a mutual friend. The woman carrying the child, Sadie (Elllie Stewart), just happens to have been adopted, and her pregnancy instigates a long-delayed quest to contact her birth parents. Meanwhile, the biological father, Sam (William Duignan), starts feeling needy after his plans to start a family of his own are derailed, and June (Laura Gardner) worries that her lack of a genetic stake in the child will relegate her to second fiddle (ahem) as far as parenting goes.

Oh yeah – did I mention that the baby mamas presumptive are a lesbian couple? They totally are – that’s why they needed Sam’s sperm. One of the most noteworthy (hah!) things about Bloodlines is also its least notable: it focuses on a same sex couple without making their same sexiness the focal issue of the play. The same-sex nuclear family is taken for granted and treated like any other; even June’s anxiety would presumably be felt just as strongly by a male character.

In this regard, the play represents a welcome departure from the long, long tradition of plays which, even when they treat gay characters sympathetically, make their sexual orientation the central issue of the play or the defining characteristic of the characters. As is increasingly the case in reality, the characters’ sexuality is no more consequential than their hair colour. 

For all that Bloodlines impresses me with its ambition and talent, one of its central aesthetic choices confuses me. One of the reasons musical theatre is popular is that it allows us to transcend the tedious, mundane confines of realism, with its kitchen sinks and – ugh! – ‘sitting on the couch’ scenes. Characters in musicals get to sing their feelings to us instead of repressing them.

It seems to me that this is a feature one should take advantage of when one’s cast comprises several people who are less confident in their acting than their musical ability, and when one is performing so close to one’s audience that there is really no point in pretending that there is an invisible wall separating them from the actors. And yet all the dialogue and even many of the songs are presented in the form of fourth wall, psychological realism.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone in the cast does just fine, although in the intimate (sorry) confines of the Moorings, where the audience can see every facial tic very clearly, their anxiety is sometimes as clear as day. But this style of acting is the most difficult to pull off, and there is no reason to do so. Just let the characters acknowledge the audience, since they’re basically sitting on the stage with the actors anyway.

I can’t spoil the ending, because you already know how a sentimental musical centered on a pregnancy is going to turn out (if you don’t, it’s either a) everything turns out fine, or b) everyone dies in a zombie apocalypse – come on, really?!). I find the resolution a little too pat and conventional – let’s just say there are no loose strings (hey-o!) – but I also understand why the authors decide to bring all the characters back together; the play gives us a lot of good reasons to believe that we have seen the last of Sam’s girlfriend, Melissa, but her return is welcome, even if irrational, because Kristy Moir makes her one of the play’s most endearing and admirable characters.

It’s a relief for everyone, too, when the fourth wall comes down and we can all stop pretending that the characters didn’t know we were there. You’ll want to say hello and thank them for a job well done.


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