Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

22/04/2012 - 24/04/2012

Production Details

A black comedy.

“I tried to purge before but I just can’t. No gag reflex.” 

Ann Van Veen is morbidly obese and living/hiding in her unit on Tainui Street.

Stacey Ruapongi is her anorexic carer with a penchant for cosmetic surgery.

Together they come up with the best/kinkiest idea to make money and make all their dreams come true.

Performed by Janelle Bish, Steven Anthony Maxwell and Roberto Nascimento.

Thomas Sainsbury is one of New Zealand’s most popular and prolific playwrights, gaining considerable attention and praise in the past few years for productions of his dark comedies in New Zealand, USA, Australia and London. His plays include Sunday Roast, LUV, The Mall, Loser, Beast, The Christmas Monologues, Joseph and Mahina, A Krazy Kristmas and Crims.

He has previously been selected three times for Playmarket’s New Zealand Young Playwrights Competition. The Mall, Loser and The Christmas Monologues have been published by The Play Press. Thomas’s debut TV show, the award-winning comedy Super City, aired on TV3 last year.

“To say Thomas Sainsbury is an exciting new talent in New Zealand theatre is an understatement. He’s the most challenging, down-to-earth, funny and refreshingly unsettling playwright/director I’ve come across in years. He’s also a powerhouse of productivity … ” Sian Robertson

“Thomas Sainsbury is a remarkable talent … clearly blessed – or cursed? – with a compulsion to make plays … his score of plays written and produced is into double figures … I can see him fast becoming a classic playwright of his generation …”Theatreview

April 22nd, 23rd & 24th at 8pm
Bookings: Door Sales Only  

Vibrant and uncompromising play about living in today’s terror-ridden world

Review by Lexie Matheson 23rd Apr 2012

This is a ‘pay what you think it’s worth after the performance’ show (door ‘sales’ only). If you decide to see Chub take money because it is worth it.

Thomas Sainsbury is prolific yada yada yada, blah blah blah. Just thought I’d get that bit out of the way. He writes a lot of plays and a lot of the plays he writes are very good. Not all, but many are and this is certainly one of the best yet.

He’s won awards, written for TV and, yes, he’s a success. He’s provocative, funny, contemporary and challenging and Chub is all of these – and more.

He’s also working in Aotearoa New Zealand which is ranked 47th out of 46 OECD countries on ‘The Biggest Philistine’ rating which suggests he also likes making life hard for himself. I made those stats up but I doubt anyone working in the performing arts in Kiwiland would challenge them.

It’s my view that if Thomas was writing in the UK his work would feature regularly upstairs at the Royal Court, at the Donmar or even at the more conservative Young Vic alongside works by Mark Ravenhill, Joe Penhall, April De Angelis, Simon Stephens and Chris Goode.

Here, at home, he trucks it out at The Basement which, while no one could question the venue’s authenticity or the values espoused, leaves a bit to be desired as a location to be visited by society folks prepared to pay what Thomas and his actors are worth; folk who, dare I say it, need to hear what they have to say. 

This is no discredit to the mainly young people (under 30’s by my estimate) who filled the house on opening night and who chittered and chatted, twittered and tweeted and clearly, by their engagement throughout, enjoyed the 50 minute journey through play.

Sainsbury informs us in his minimalist programme that he has always been fascinated by extreme obesity and themes of ‘isolation and hiding away from the world’, each of which he explores in Chub.

Ann van Veen (Janelle Bish in a fat suit) is morbidly obese and lives alone. She has her TV and the internet and a visit from a caregiver every couple of days but apart from these distractions life is totally about gorging.

Into her life comes Stacey (Steven Anthony Maxwell), her new caregiver who, just by chance, happens to be anorexic, ambitious and obsessed with cosmetic surgery, in particular rhinoplasty and apronectomy (a mini tummy tuck). Stacey coerces Ann into using her obesity via the internet to attract ‘chubby chasers’ who will pay her for a variety of pseudo-sexual, fat-related services and through this medium she meets Winston (Roberto Nascimento) who works at Mitre 10.

It’s difficult to imagine a better set up for both comedy and pathos and the three actors are quite splendid. Spindly Stacey walking a tightrope between pragmatism and caricature without once disintegrating, sweet-natured Ann balanced on the couch like Jabba the Hutt smiling and nodding, and the monosyllabic, somewhat sinister Winston interact and disconnect their way through Sainsbury’s vibrant and uncompromising text with nary a flicker of uncertainty, which is credit to the rapport that exists between all members of this excellent team.

Laughter abounds throughout as the cast wring every last ounce of hilarity from their hapless characters and their captive audience. There is laughter of recognition, situational laughter, laughter at truly funny lines, laughter anchored in smart timing, narrative laughter and that horrible laughter we hate to engage in when we guffaw at someone else’s short comings. 

Sainsbury has no fear when it comes to humiliating his characters and he allows us no opportunity to escape our own inner freak show as he thrusts each poignant point home.

Chub is very good work on everyone’s part. The direction (Sainsbury) is slick and undetectable, the acting finely tuned, the pace immaculate, the context wicked and the text honed and economic. The overall feeling is of a work-in-progress but a work that, should it reach its full potential, might well achieve commercial success. Maybe not in Aotearoa New Zealand, land of the wrong white crowd, but further afield where such things are better valued.

Chub is more than a play about a morbidly obese woman living alone. Chub is about you and me and living in today’s terror-ridden world. It’s a big play in every way with a cast and crew fully up to the task of presenting a work of this magnitude.

It’s a must see in my opinion, for very important theatre-going reasons, and deserves a full season. It’ll make you laugh, it will make you think – but then it will make you laugh again anyway.

Great stuff, all round.


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