Carol & Nev

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

15/06/2009 - 20/06/2009

Production Details

Road trip of a lifetime begins at the Basement

‘Come back from the dead to haunt the Campermatic. This is typical of you!’

New Zealand’s Flaxworks theatre company bring the world premiere of their new comedy Carol & Nev to The Basement theatre in Auckland from Monday June 15 – 20, 2009.

Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis founders of Flaxworks and acclaimed New Zealand director Anna Marbrook are working together for the first time to bring Carol & Nev to the stage.

‘Carol & Nev is our third original show and we are very excited to work with someone as experienced as Anna who has been part of so many successful New Zealand theatre, film and television productions’ says Phil ‘Having Anna help develop Carol & Nev and now direct has been the icing on the cake.’

Flaxworks, who have spent much of 2007 and 2008 performing sell out shows of Murder by Chocolate around New Zealand and more recently garnering excellent reviews and delighting audiences at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2009, say they are looking forward to getting Carol & Nev up and running.

‘It is an amazing opportunity for us to perform our third show as part of the STAMP programme at THE EDGE after Biscuit & Coffee and Murder by Chocolate but also to give Auckland the first peek at Carol & Nev,’ says Alex. ‘We have never performed at The Basement before and are very excited about it’.

It’s the great kiwi road trip. Straight down the Island, cross Cook Strait and on to the Bach. Five toilet stops, lunch on the road, sleep on the Ferry and straight on till morning.

Carol & Nev are on the road, taking the family campervan to their daughters wedding at the bay. Only catch is Carol died in 1984.

Nev is comfortable, middle aged and has been resigned to ‘getting on with the business of life’ alone – until now. Has Carol returned from beyond the grave to haunt him for the journey? Or could Nev just be having a nervous breakdown on the eve of the wedding? Is this the beginning or the end? Whatever it is, he has 24 hours to get to his daughters wedding in the family campervan with the ghost of his dead wife trapped inside.

From the creators of Biscuit & Coffee and Murder by Chocolate comes the hilarious road trip of a life time.  Set in a van it’s a unique perspective of recent New Zealand history, a tale about the damage time wreaks on youthful ideals and the difference between growing up and giving up.

‘It has been a challenge to create a play set in such close quarters’ says Alex, ‘but from our own experience touring and spending so much time driving, that is often the time when the most enlightening, scary and hilarious conversations take place, when there’s nowhere to hide and no escape!’

‘Nev! It doesn’t matter! My dream, your nervous breakdown, it’s all the same. Wherever you’re going, I’ll be going with you.’

‘This show is about life’ says Phil ‘so many of us are concerned with ‘the business of life’ we forget to live. This play is about remembering to enjoy it’.

Carol & Nev is the journey of a life time. He must convince her she’s dead, she must convince him he’s alive!

Carol & Nev plays at The Basement, Lower Grey’s Ave, Auckland CBD
from Monday 15 – Saturday 20 June at 8pm.
Tickets available through THE EDGE Ticketing Service (09)3573355 or

For more information visit  

Performed by Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis
Designed by Kasia Pol
Lighting Design by Nik Janiurek
Production Assistant and Stage Manager Helen Cheng
Dramaturgy by Anna Marbrook
Sound Design by Sam Hamilton
AV footage by Greg Wood
AV assembly and slide photography by Jonathan Brough
TV footage by Helen Cheng
Operated by Michael Craven

Deadly life meets living death

Review by Sian Robertson 16th Jun 2009

Nev (Phil Ormsby) is on his way to his daughter’s wedding when the ghost of his dead wife Carol (Alex Ellis) shows up. Carol’s been dead for 20 years and, judging by his reaction, it’s not an everyday occurrence for her to materialise before him.

Carol and Nev have had a more interesting history than many couples, and a lot to remember fondly, but for Nev, there have been twenty hard years in between, in which he’s kept himself too busy to stop and smell the roses. However, driving down the length of the country alone in the clapped out old van he’s had since they were together, he can’t block her out.

Though the entire play takes place in the van, the actors do not restrict themselves to sitting side by side in driving pose whole time, instead allowing the characters’ travelling conversation, with its imaginative musings, reminiscences and conflicts, to be enacted out with broad strokes and brought to life for the audience.

We are occasionally reminded of a sense of being on the road by the clever use of soundtrack and projected images. The story is visually stylised, in a way that I think works very well. There are some stormy arguments, with engaging choreography incorporating a disposable set. The scene in which Carol remembers her death is also done to great effect.

Some parts of the dialogue seem unnatural and the acting comes across as caricature as a result (or perhaps it’s the other way around). Something about Carol’s naivety is a little bit annoying. Nev is likewise a bit gormless at times – Ormsby overplays his character’s sullenness.

At any rate, these anomalies are few and far between, and are outnumbered by raw moments of conflict, tenderness and a down-to-earth humour that breaks the sometimes surreal ice.

Carol makes fun of the aged Nev. She gets to ask about her now grown daughter (this is one of the times when Carol’s childlike exuberance doesn’t ring true). She’s curious about how the politics have changed, and half-expects to see flying cars. It’s a refreshing idea, seeing it all through the eyes of a young woman straight out of the early 80s who doesn’t know she’s dead.

Carol has to absorb a lot of information about ‘the future’, some of which she finds hard to swallow. The impassioned scene where they relive the old days, when they used to go on protest marches and fight for a better world, gives a vivid snapshot of New Zealand in the 1980s and Ellis’ portrayal of a passionate young 80s activist makes it feel like it was only yesterday (which to Carol it was).

It’s a timely reminder of how much things have changed politically (not all for the better), at the same time holding a mirror up for Nev to see what a shell of himself he’s turned into. But Carol and Nev’s memories of how things used to be, and especially their expectations of how they should have turned out, don’t always mesh.

Nev tries to convince Carol she’s dead – she’s sure that she’s just having a dream about the future – and she has to convince him to start ‘living’ again.  
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