20/02/2013 - 24/02/2013
TACKLING THE UNSPOKEN ISSUES AROUND YOUTH SUICIDE
TAPAC joins with recent graduates of The Actors’ Program to bring to life the exciting debut of new theatre company Dark Horse Productions from the 20th to 24th February as part of the 2013 Auckland Fringe Festival.
Multi-Award winning actor Scott Wills will make his directorial debut with an ensemble play charting the lives that pass through an Auckland bus stop and the secrets which are unravelled following a young man’s death, alongside the writing team of Samuel Christopher, Jess Sayer and Anoushka Klaus; all part of the inaugural year of The Actors Program in 2012.
The writers have been personally moved by youth suicide and “BUS STOP” is being developed to potentially tour high schools to bring awareness to youth suicide and the affects it has on those left behind in the wake of death. New Zealand’s suicide statistics concerning young people in particular are alarming and frightening, and demand to be looked into deeper. Auckland Fringe 2013 is a great opportunity to test the work in front of audiences before developing it further to take to high schools.
A graduate from the New Zealand National Drama School in 1994, Scott Wills earned a double major Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature and Media Studies at Massey University. In 1997 he won the Chapman Tripp Best Male Newcomer Theatre award for his role as Baby in Jez Butterworths’, “MOJO”. Wills is excited to be on board “BUS STOP” and brings with him a wealth of experience having won multiple Best Actor awards across both stage (“MOJO”) and screen (“APRON STRINGS” and “STICKMEN”).
Sayer is making big strides early in her career; in 2011, Sayer won Playmarkets ‘Playwrights b4 25’ competition with her first play “FIX” which was work shopped by “Read Raw” with Michael Hurst, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Callum Gittens. In 2012 her play “BEAUTIFUL COINCIDENCES” was shortlisted for the Adam NZ Play Award and her play “ELEVATOR” is also to be featured in the 2013 Auckland Fringe Festival, starring Sayer, Michele Hine and Lauren Gibson. Klaus is a writer and actress whose screen work has ranged from beloved television shows “GO GIRLS” & “SHORTLAND STREET” to independent films “JAKE” AND “GHOST SHARK 2”. Klaus has also performed in numerous plays and has worked with Outfit Theatre devising several shows including the award winning “THE SEX SHOW” in 2011 & 2012. In 1998 Klaus came runner up in the Playmarket Under 25 Playwrights competition.
Christopher is a 2009 graduate of the University of Auckland with both a Fine Arts degree from Elam School of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Latin American History. He is also an award winning actor and writer with a sharp wit and wry sensibility who has performed in a wide breadth of plays. – recently writing, producing and starring in his sell out show “AN N&N PRISONTIME SPECIAL” in the 2012 New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
The Auckland Fringe Festival runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to www.aucklandfringe.co.nz .
BUS STOP plays
February 20th – 24th, 8:30pm
Duration: 60 mins
Location: TAPAC, 100 Motions Road, Western Springs
Tickets: Adults $18, Students/Equity $15
Bookings: Visit https://www.patronbase.com/_TAPAC/Productions or call 09 845 0295 for ticketing assistance.
Any minute now…
Review by Matt Baker 25th Feb 2013
Youth suicide. It’s an unquestionably prevalent and heavy-handed topic, and it’s been chosen as the theme for Dark Horse Productions’ (a group of eight of The Actors’ Program graduates) fringe show. Writers notes, and Youthline and LifeLine advertisements in the programme indicate a genuine attempt to address the issue, however, it would have been more pertinent if the theme had been more integrated into the direct subject matter instead of layered as a thin veil over the majority of the scenes. While this may have been done to avoid pressuring the audience into a particular theatrical environment, ultimately, it leaves the play unfulfilled. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Courageous look at a complex issue
Review by Lexie Matheson 21st Feb 2013
Zac has hanged himself from a tree in the garden of his home. He was young, had friends, was seemingly popular so it’s all a bit of a mystery as to why he would do such a thing.
It seems everyone has an investment in Zac’s death and so the myth-making begins.
Bus Stop, sub titled Where Strangers Have the Best Secrets, is a new work by a new company. Dark Horse Productions describes itself as ‘a new theatre company established by The Actors’ Program Graduates to create moving, heartfelt, witty, original New Zealand work’ and with Bus Stop it has certainly leapt its first hurdle.
The script is a collaboration of the work of three writers – Samuel Christopher, Anoushka Klaus and Jess Sayer – with Klaus and Christopher also appearing in the work. It’s zippy, fun, witty and character-driven but with smidgeons of moving and heartfelt as well.
That’s not to suggest that the work lacks commitment – it has that in spades – but simply to observe that the subject matter is, from time to time, buried by some fine performances and the simple love of performing.
So, is that a bad thing?
Not at all – especially when the subject matter is the suicide of a young person or, as director Scott Wills observes in his programme notes, “on a more macro level, youth suicide.” He goes on to suggest that youth suicide statistics in Aotearoa New Zealand mean that this is a pretty valid discussion. He’s certainly right about that but whether the rarefied world of the theatre is an effective means of addressing the issue is somewhat debatable. One thing is sure, for people who seriously want to make a difference: using whatever is at hand with integrity is invariably better than doing nothing at all, and Dark Horse Productions personnel certainly fall into that category.
Zac’s narrative unfolds at a bus stop colonized by those who seemingly have had a role in his short life: his mother, sisters, friends, two hookers named Margaret, his estranged father and others. Each has a unique perspective on the deceased and, as Wills observes in his programme notes, some perceptions are funny, some dramatic, some insightful and all are entertaining which is no bad thing when the subject matter has such maudlin potential. Wills also says that the actors have been able to ‘flex their muscles’ and fine young theatrical muscles they certainly are.
We learn a lot about Zac and his suicide but we learn even more about the quirky characters who populated his universe prior to his untimely demise, through the clearly stated attitudes and opinions of his peers and family members. But we’re ultimately left to make up our own minds about what might have motivated such an extreme act because suicide is, if nothing else, imponderable.
The script is excellent, the performances of an equally high standard and the direction crisp and economical but the overall effect of the production is somewhat one of emotional disengagement with the content. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and there is no doubting the appreciative response from the almost full house on opening night, but I remained surprisingly detached from the world of Zac and his unsophisticated bus stop buddies. This may be a conscious attempt on the part of the writers to avoid ‘triggering’, in which case it is an important decision and no doubt one supported by Lifeline and Youthline personnel who were happily in evidence on opening night (thanks for the chocolate fish!).
On the other hand it may simply have been emotional overload on the part of the reviewer who had, only the night before, lived every moment of the Multinesia Productions staging of the new Victor Rodger play Black Faggot, an incredibly brave, ‘in your face’ pastiche of what it’s like to be queer in Polynesian New Zealand and which also alludes to the suicide of our young people.
Both productions have an important role to play in facing up to an issue that should disturb us all and each in its own way presents a valid take on the issue. Both use humour extensively and while only Bus Stop focuses centrally on suicide, each has vulnerable young people at risk lurking in frightening numbers in the shadows.
Each of the young actors in Bus Stop exhibits real theatrical potential but the stand outs for me are Holly Shervey as the enigmatic and sensuous Lilly, Anoushka Klaus as the straight up and down Sylvia, Simea Holland as the emotionally susceptible Maddie, and Mikassa Cornwall’s worldly wise, and very funny, Lisa.
For a first effort, Dark Horse Productions can be well pleased with Bus Stop. It’s a courageous look at a complex issue, is successful on many levels and well worth both its place on the Auckland Fringe Festival programme and your support. You’ll certainly enjoy the performances and I look forward to Dark Horse Productions’next presentation along with the individual performances of each of these fine young actors.
A personal postscript:
Statistically, one of the most vulnerable collective demographics when it comes to suicide, attempted suicide and suicidal ideation is the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. While I accept that accusing someone of being gay and even using even the term ‘gay’ as a derogatory expression is common among the demographic presented in Bus Stop, I was concerned at the use of these terms and of the negative use of ‘tranny’ and its accompanying text without some acknowledgement of the powerlessness and vulnerability of this group of youngsters. Adding Outline to the list of suicide support groups and possibly even Rainbow Youth would eliminate this concern to some small degree.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer