Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

16/11/2013 - 14/12/2013

Production Details


This award-winning riotous 1960’s farce comes in for a Christmas landing with political incorrectness and slamming doors intact.

Phil Vaughan (the recognisable Dad of the Countdown family) plays swinging bachelor Bernard, a successful architect living in Paris, who has deftly been juggling three fiancées – one French, one American and one German – who are all flight attendants. His long-suffering housekeeper, Bertha, played by Yvette Parsons (The Jono Project, Shortland Street), is reluctant romantic air traffic controller. Bernard’s supersonic lifestyle hits turbulence when old college friend Robert (Tom Trevella) visits, a new Boeing jet is introduced, and each of his three fiancées change their flight schedules. 

Says director Lara Macgregor: “No one ever tires of the 60’s. You just have to look at the recent successes of Catch Me if You Can, and the Pan Am and Mad Men series. We’ve had such fun designing the look of this production, right down to the hotpants and go-go boots.” 

This thoroughly unnecessary and totally groovy farce recently enjoyed hit revivals in London and New York, Boeing Boeing is now set to arrive at Fortune Theatre. Dunedin —fasten your seat belts! 

Production Dates
:  16 November – 14 December, 2013 
Running Time:  Approx. 2 hours 15 minutes (including interval) 
Venue:  Fortune Theatre Mainstage, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin
Performances:  Tuesday, 6.00pm, Wednesday – Saturday, 7.30pm, Sunday, 4.00pm (no show Monday)
Tickets:  Gala (first 5 shows) $32, Adults $40, Senior Citizens $32, Members $30, Tertiary Students $20, High School Students $15, Group discount (10 +) $32
Bookings:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin 
Box Office 03 477 8323 or visit   


Lunchtime Bites / Thursday, 7 November 2013 – meet at 12.15pm in the Dunedin Public Library, ground floor. The cast will perform an excerpt from Boeing Boeing with an opportunity to win tickets. Reading will commence at 12.30pm followed by afternoon tea. This is a FREE event.

Opening Night / Saturday, 16 November 2013 7.30pm, Fortune Theatre.

Members’ Briefing / Sunday, 17 November 2013 – meet at the Fortune bar at 3.00pm and join Fortune Theatre Artistic Director Lara Macgregor for a lively informal chat about Boeing Boeing. 

Forum / Tuesday, 19 November 2013 join the cast and crew for an open question and answer session following the 6.00pm show.

Fortune Sociable Club / Wednesday, 20 November 2013 meet in the bar at 6.30pm, with like-minded individuals and get connected. 


Boeing Boeing was first staged in London at the Apollo Theatre in 1962 and transferred to the Duchess Theatre in 1965, running for a total of seven years. In 1991, the play was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most performed French play throughout the world.

The 2008 Broadway revival garnered rave reviews with the production collecting two Tony Awards for the Best Revival of a Play and Best Leading Actor. The production was nominated for several other Tony Awards including: Best Featured Actress, Best Director, Best Costume Design and Best Sound Design. The production also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play.

Kelly Hocking
Yvette Parsons
Elena Stejko
Amy Straker
Tom Trevella
Phil Vaughan 

Set Designer:  Peter King 
Set Build:  Peter King and Jonny Gilks 
Lighting Designer:  Martyn Roberts 
Sound Designer:  Lindsay Gordon 
Costume Designer:  Maryanne Wright-Smyth 
Stage Manager:  Helen Beswick 
Stage Manager Intern:  Catherine Hart 
Properties Master:  Helen Beswick 
Technical Co-ordinator:  Lindsay Gordon 
Operator:  Arran Ely 

Theatre , Comedy ,

Pushing physical boundaries

Review by Terry MacTavish 18th Nov 2013

The Fortune’s impeccable production of this classic 1960s French farce has been rapturously pounced on by the pre-Xmas crowd. Bookings are skyrocketing and the opening night audience pulsates with cheerful bonhomie.  Boeing Boeing is set for a smooth flight. 

The set and costumes are delicious, the direction slickly competent, the acting fast and furious, and the story of Bernard and his three ‘fiancées’ surely too whimsically and humorously told to cause offence.  After all, we are looking back to a time when cabin crew were called air hostesses, and regularly weighed to make sure they didn’t get fat and unattractive to the male customers who considered their occupation implied consent. 

Bernard, with a flat in Paris and co-operative housekeeper, has hit on an ingenious way to provide for variety in his sex life.  He simply chooses flight attendants, already selected for their physical perfection, who work for different airlines, and then gains their sexual favours by promising marriage to each.  Complications arise when an old friend visits, and the new Super-Boeing planes mess up his neat schedule. 

Well, it’s holiday fare, no point in being a prude over such light-hearted nonsense, and indeed I’ve already been over this ground in 2010, reviewing Camoletti’s Ding Dong.  But the day it opens, Saturday 16th November, is the National Day of Action: Bust Rape Culture Now.  What Bernard does – lying, bribing his employee into helping cover, obtaining sex through false pretences, then boasting to his friend about it, even corrupting that friend who is tempted to emulate him – is uncomfortably close to the actions of the infamous ‘Roastbusters’ that have outraged New Zealand. 

The timing is hard on the theatre, and hardly its fault.  Many of the plays in its programme, even this season, have taken a woman’s viewpoint, explored the problems of minorities, or examined New Zealand’s own culture.  This is the play, though, that will fill the coffers and ensure the less popular works will continue to get professional production.  So with a slight suggestion of gritted teeth, the committed and efficient team that is the Fortune has made the best of what it disarmingly describes as “a thoroughly unnecessary and totally groovy farce”. 

Lara Macgregor has established herself as a first-rate director of profound and thought-provoking plays.  Previous splendid productions like Tribes and In the Next Room still resonate, and last year Macgregor scooped the Awards pool with Beckett’s Play.  Camoletti’s frothy farce does not at first seem likely to extend her. But Macgregor seizes on the absurdities of the genre, building them to the point where we abandon any attempt to take it all seriously, and then expands the comedy by pushing physical boundaries.

Every emotion is given ludicrously extreme expression. The girls are like baby giraffes, long legs splaying incredibly in all directions, while the chaps tumble about like bear cubs.  Even the curtain call is charmingly choreographed. 

Likewise the bright but bland lighting required hardly challenges the brilliant Martyn Roberts.  Set and costume design, however, have a field day.  Peter King has created a spacious apartment that satisfies the eye with its beautiful proportions, gleaming black and white tiled floor and lovely round floating ceiling. And of course, rendered in pale gold and cream, the requisite seven doors of classic farce (though is it just me, or is one never used?)!

Maryanne Wright-Smyth has very successfully channeled Jackie Kennedy for the fashions. There are audible gasps on the entry of each hostess in her fabulous sixties uniform topped with pillbox hat: American Janet in orange/pink hotpants and shiny boots, French Jacqueline in demure aqua suit with white gloves and micro skirt, and finally German Judith in a lemon yellow mini with matching boxy jacket. I’ll leave you to imagine (or remember) the mouth-watering nylon negligees… 

Phil Vaughan is a shrewd choice for Bernard, endowing this sleazy character with cuddly charm enough to make him almost loveable, and tirelessly exhibiting the vigour that Bernard’s exhausting lifestyle demands.  Vaughan leads the cast in a virtuoso display of comic timing, riding out the turbulence with ease. 

As his naive friend, Robert, the role that was such a success for fabulous Mark Rylance in the Broadway revival, Tom Trevella is similarly endearing. His clumsy attempts to emulate his suave friend’s way with the ladies, especially when he falls for no-nonsense Judith, have the audience roaring with laughter.

Yvette Parsons is very funny as Bertha, the long-suffering housekeeper with a magnificent head of hair, who grounds the play, so to speak.  Boeing Boeing is situation comedy, so the humour is in plot rather than witty dialogue, but Parsons makes the most of some biting one-liners, as well as getting in some impressive high kicks.

The gorgeous but foolishly trusting air hostesses are also played with admirable energy and aplomb, and charming accents.  Thankfully each beauty is given a little more than the script provides by the three clever actors: witness the steely determination of Amy Straker as French Jacqueline, the exuberant passion of Elena Stejko as German Judith, and finally the cute craftiness of Kelly Hocking as American Janet, who is not nearly as gullible as she seems. 

With the mayor of Auckland’s fall from grace over sexual misconduct fresh in the public mind, our twittering generation, more than any other, knows liars will eventually get caught. Spotting Dunedin’s best canteen manager in the interval, I ask if Bernard’s shenanigans are offensive to her. “Not at all,” she replies, “You can tell he is not going to get away with it.  He’ll get his comeuppance, all right!” That is certainly a redeeming aspect, and indeed in Act 2 we are able to relish the schadenfreude that comes from watching the guilty teetering on the brink of disaster.

So I listen to the delighted laughter at Bernard’s antics, admire the polished skill of the Fortune team, and dream of the day when the crowds will be as big and as enthusiastic for a play of our own that tackles rape-culture.  After all, as 10 year old Katie, at the Auckland protest told Radio NZ last night, “You shouldn’t lock up your daughters, you should educate your sons.”  Then I go home to double my donation to “Justice for Survivors” in the hope that modern Bernards are opposed and exposed as they should be.  


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