Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

26/10/2013 - 23/11/2013

Production Details

If you could get away with it, how far would you go? 


Vibrant, young playwright Gavin McGibbon makes his Circa debut with his most accomplished and daring piece of work yet. 

In a world of pyramid schemes, dodgy builders and Nigerian internet scams, the con artist is the fastest growing career path of the 21st century.

Stevie and Earl are conmen, they’re good at it too, they get people to do what they shouldn’t. And now here’s their chance to make money like never before. They have been waiting for it for years, all the tricks and their schemes have built to it. A con so wicked it’s totally irresistible.

Will they pull it off and what will be the consequences when love walks in the door?


“(Gavin McGibbon )…could be our answer to Neil LaBute” – Theatreview


Following his graduation from the New Zealand Film School in 2003 Gavin was accepted into Ken Duncum’s creative scriptwriting course at the IIML.  One of his first assignments required him to attend The Batch (Directed byDanny Mulheron) at Circa Theatre which was the first play Gavin had ever seen. He knew from that moment on what he wanted to do was to write scripts for the theatre.  This led him to write his first play and 1 year later it was produced at BATS.  After Service (2006) was called “a striking first play” (Capital Times) and “a must-see” (Dominion Post). His second Stand Up Love (2007) was called a play “that good actors will aspire to” (Theatreview)

Following this Gavin has had staged Shipwrecked Beneath the Stars (2008) Handy Man (2008), Hamlet Dies at the End (2011) and Holding On (2012) – all receiving enthusiastic reviews.

Gavin won the Playmarket Write Out Loud award in 2008 and 2009 with his plays Under the Hood and Holding On.

He has also worked with Radio New Zealand on three occasions and in the two years he has been involved in the 48 Hour Film as a scriptwriter, his films have made the Wellington City Finals (2011 and 2012) and made the National Grand Final (2012). In 2011 he was also nominated for best script at the Wellington City Finals.

Gavin was inspired to write CON when he was in New York buying theatre tickets from a scalper who was grabbed by 2 men and roughed up. It prompted an interest in that kind of world.

SEASON: 26 October – 23 November 
Circa Two, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Performance Times: Tues to Sat 7.30pm Sunday 4.30pm 

Adults $46, Concessions $38 Friends of Circa (to 10th Nov)  $33
Groups (6+) $39 (20+) $36 Under 25’s $25 
$25 Specials: Friday 25th October & Sunday 27th October 
Bookings: Circa 801 7992or 

Pre-show dinner available at Encore – phone 801 7992 

Theatre ,

Thrill of the game key trick to Con

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 29th Oct 2013

The competitive deviousness of the con artists in Gavin McGibbon’s first major play makes it clear that it is not the money that inspires them to do what they do so effortlessly. 

It’s the thrill of the game of being someone else, of manipulating the gullible and the greedy, of seeing how far the deceits and lies can be stretched.

Con artists are in fact actors, as the American actor John Lithgow has pointed out. “I make people believe something is real when they know perfectly well it isn’t.” And actors everywhere know only too well that money isn’t the purpose of their game either.

The play starts with Stevie (Mike Minogue) on the phone wheedling from a little old lady her pass word for her bank account. But his bossy, cynical, unscrupulous mate Earl (Paul McLaughlin) has bigger schemes afoot which involve a wealthy business man (Jason Whyte).

To mention anything more of the plot, except to say the relationship between the two men becomes more complicated when Holly (Acushla-Tara Sutton) arrives on the scene, would be to keep writing spoiler alerts.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot which provide the roller-coaster ride that the advertising for the play promises. But the ride is not as fast as most roller-coaster rides because there is an excess of talk, some of which is amusing, about past events, happiness, and relationships, so much so that in the first act, except for one powerful theatrical surprise, it felt as though Con would be just as effective as a radio play.

In the second act there are two or three moments that wouldn’t be effective on radio when, for example, we actually see two comparatively simple con tricks being carried out, one near Wellington railway station. Part of the enjoyment of watching a fictional con trick is to see it being constructed and carried out (e.g. the movie The Sting) but in Con for the major cons we are denied this.

Danny Mulheron and his cast and crew have delivered a smoothly efficient production for this world premiere.


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Comical CONtemplation of the CONcept of absolution

Review by Charlotte Simmonds 27th Oct 2013

Although most opening nights I go to in Wellington do tend, technically, to be world premieres, it is nice to be considering the possibility of a life outside of Wellington for the play, particularly since this is Gavin McGibbon’s first script performed at Circa. I feel like Circa has been a bit slow there to pick McGibbon up, and that this has been a long time coming, but then McGibbon doesn’t exactly churn out shows at the rate of some of his more prolific colleagues. He takes his time.

And he has a much better sense of plot to show for it and a script that demonstrates the merits of spending hours editing and fine-honing the details. I sincerely hope this script does go on to have a life elsewhere.

Not the Russian Business Network, not advertising spam (I would love to see a play about Vardan Kushnir but maybe that’s for someone else to write), not a Nigerian shut up in an internet café after hours pretending to be a blonde Slav, no one using an onion router to avoid detection, the con artists in this play are old school, traditional, trustworthy confidence-winners. They do not deal with massive disembodied, dehumanised data blocks of stolen credit card details sold through the internet’s black market for a few dollars, but they meet their victims face to face and play psychology for all its worth, which inevitably turns on itself.

Without wanting to divulge too much of the story, I will simply say again that McGibbon has a wonderful sense for plot as an art and a craft. (One would hope so, since he has just submitted his PhD thesis in scriptwriting.) 

Sharply directed by Danny Mulheron with excellent pace, Con is comedic and a little brutal. And how do they do that thing with the briefcase? “Every play should have a magic trick,” comments an audience member. 

Paul McLaughlin, Mike Minogue and Acushla-Tara Sutton make up the three principal characters while Jason Whyte fills in the various other partners with his usual talent for appearing surprisingly different from character to character. 

Essentially the play revolves around the concept of absolution: whether or not we need it, how we might get it, and whether our anger and bitterness can be released, our guilty consciences assuaged in a post-religious society. Although we no longer believe in God and acknowledge the arbitrariness of justice (conman Earl bewails the justice system as “a joke”) and the relativity of morality, what do we do with our persistent sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? Is there any purpose for sympathy and empathy, and is there any such thing as a selfless act? Do we need a Higher Power to be free of alcoholism or are humans enough on their own? Can people actually change? 

The story grew from a personal experience with a scammer, with the playwright asking the question of, “What would it take for a con artist to reconsider?” I’m not sure if the question is answered here or not, and without actually finding a con artist and asking him (getting him to tell the truth) it might be hard to come to an answer. The play certainly concludes, but it is inconclusive, and this feels very deliberate.

My sympathies switch from character to character throughout the play and by the end I feel conned so many times that I’m angry at being unable to cheer anyone on, so in a way, even the play itself, for the audience, is a con. Which is probably the point. Surely art is to ask us questions, not to provide the answers.


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