Blowing It

The Pumphouse Theatre, Takapuna, Auckland

11/11/2009 - 22/11/2009

Production Details


The Indie Theatre Co of Nelson in association with The PumpHouse presents the one-man play Blowing It by Stephen Papps and Stephen Sinclair.

Starring Ants Heath, in a brilliant comic portrayal of a multitude of criminal low-lives, from both sides of the law.  

Follow an undercover cop as he goes seriously off the rails. Mike Fahey, police constable, penetrates the pub underworld of petrol-heads, perverts, pit-bulls and loses the plot at the Queens Arms, Panmure, where it’s all goin’ down: sex, drugs, violence, Mike goes under, Cheryl goes down, Anal is fingered, and Satan gets CPR!

One man’s struggle with betrayal and loss of identity that is also an hilarious, affectionate satire on the New Zealand public bar.

In 1999 Stephen Sinclair directed co-writer Stephen Papps in the debut season of Blowing It which toured nationally before going on to the Edinburgh Festival in 2001, where it received 5 star reviews. It has since toured Australia and Europe.

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the play’s debut, Grae Burton, director of Nelson‟s Independent Theatre Company has collaborated with The PumpHouse to bring his production of Blowing It to the North Shore.

Stephen Sinclair’s career as a novelist, playwright, screenwriter and poet has spanned over thirty years. He has many stage plays to his name but is probably most famous for the hit comedy play Ladies Night (co-written with Anthony McCarten), which has an on-going international life. In 2001 the French version won the prestigious Moliere Award for stage comedy of the year.

Stephen has had a long screenwriting partnership with Academy Award winners Peter Jackson and Frances Walsh, notably on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

The PumpHouse is the perfect venue for small independent plays like Blowing It and the fact that Stephen Sinclair is a long-time North Shore resident makes this production a bit special for The PumpHouse.

Stephen Papp’s breakthrough role was his award-winning turn as Firpo in Ian Mune’s 1992 feature film The End of the Golden Weather. Most recently he has once again teamed with Stephen Sinclair to shoot the feature film Russian Snark (Working title) which is still in post production. Of Blowing It Papps says: "In 1997 I was looking to research the undercover world in New Zealand – I wanted the play to be about an undercover cop. I believed the covertness and therefore loneliness of that world suited the one man show format. So I approached a friend of mine who was an ex-undercover and interviewed him extensively. Stephen (Sinclair) and I then got together and wrote it up as Blowing It. The main strength of the play is to show the actor having to engage all his skills of story-telling, mime and mimicry. Another inspiration for the play piece is the universality of its themes: Loyalty; loneliness; the paradoxes inherant in being an undercover agent and the fear that goes along with doing a life-threatening job."

Ants Heath cut his teeth in one of the most demanding of performance environments, Theatresports, perfect preparation for his multi-character performance in Blowing It.

Of Blowing It Ants says: "It has been a great experience for me as a performer. I have a bogan background so after years of playing all sorts of characters from fairies to skinheads, it’s a really nice change to see the people and culture I grew up in shown on stage with honesty and humour. I’ve found it interesting how slipping in and out of these characters is like seeing old friends after time apart. ……the old familiarity comes right back and over beers we bond again.  

I hope you enjoy getting to know them. You never know you might even recognise and old friend or two yourself."

"This wonderfully funny show… splendidly captures the energy and eloquence of Kiwi idioms. The fifteen or so characters… provide the opportunity for a series of brilliant comic turns. This is rip-roaring comedy with broad commercial appeal." (NZ Listener)

"Heath’s sense of losing it is almost frightening for the audience as he commands the space, with an intensely physical performance….it will leave you breathless – it is a high-energy, excellently executed comedy….Ants Heath is a paying audience members bliss!" (Nelson Mail)

Blowing It
The PumpHouse Theatre Killarney Park – off Manurere Ave Takapuna, North Shore
Nov 11 – 14 at 8pm
Nov 15 at 4pm
Nov 18 – 21 at 8pm
Nov 22 at 4pm

Warts-and-all insight into undercover depravity

Review by Nik Smythe 19th Nov 2009

It’s a challenging prospect for any one actor to portray thirteen characters at one sitting. Ants Heath makes a good effort in this classic gritty, funny, ultimately harrowing tale of Mike Fahey, an undercover cop infiltrating a small-town community with the objective of ‘taking down the dealers and the growers’.  

Director Grae Burton is no slouch himself, designing and operating the lights and sound as well as giving his voice to mimed dog and baby characters.  Under Burton’s direction, Heath conveys the story well, alertly holding our attention through the unfolding events in the story with the help of the tightly hewn script of Stephens Papps and Sinclair, penned some ten years ago. 

The characters themselves are less polished and distinct than they could be, and the clarity of the story relies heavily on the protagonist’s internal monologue, which develops into internal dialogue with the help of a certain psychoactive substance.

As Mike alias ‘Sam’ edges toward his objective, he feels increasing pressure from the distrust of the locals (in particular his main mark Weasel, a formidable gang leader type), the demands of his commanding officer Wilson, the addition of another worryingly obvious undercover cop and the amorous affections-come-jealous suspicion of Cheryl the solo-mum slapper from Glen Innes.  It almost seems inevitable he should end up using more than the regulation supply of the target contraband just to affect the illusion of keeping his head together.

By and large the population of the story is a self-serving, fairly detestable lot.  The only characters besides the lead who evoke any real degree of sympathy are Cheryl’s daughter Natalie and Mike’s new best mate Titch, the simple waster for whom Heath draws much characterisation from Outrageous Fortune‘s Munter, or at least from the same Northland Bro stereotype. 

An impromptu visit to Titch’s Dad’s at one stage feels like an interlude from the linear story, offering an incongruous but clever horse-race style commentary of their dysfunctional relationship.  It does affect the narrative though, strengthening the bond between Mike and Titch, his only real ally in this mess and the last one out of any of them he’d want to betray… 

The lights are effective in their simplicity; no fancy gels or gobos for this warts-and-all insight into the covert arm of the law versus the depraved arm of uneducated society.  The soundtrack provides minimal sound effects as required, and there doesn’t exist a more appropriate theme song then AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’.

Playing three more nights at the Pumphouse (until this Saturday) this production has been the unfortunate victim of limited promotion for an out-of-town show, and playing in a venue not well suited to the intimate work.  At the Basement it would be accessible to a wider audience, and the closer quarters might help Heath relax more into his variant roles, resulting in a tighter execution of this deceptively complex play which provokes thought on a number of levels about the legal and social ramifications of cannabis legislation. 
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