Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

23/02/2012 - 29/02/2012

NZ Fringe Festival 2012

Production Details


A young collective of Auckland-based theatre professionals have come together to form Fractious Tash, presenting their debut production Confessions at the Wellington Fringe Festival 2012.

This gruesome verbatim piece unfolds with a series of lost souls recounting their greatest, and often fatal, mistakes.Magdalenapractices kissing on the corpse of her best friend, Victor becomes the unlikely parent of an unwanted newborn, Thursday kidnaps and tortures a young boy.

These are unforgiving and acutely crafted stories to make you squirm: Each tale is confessed in haunting detail as the characters search within their dark minds to battle with what they’ve done, with what’s right and what’s wrong. 

Written and directed by British theatre director, Benjamin Henson, who has presented shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for 9 years (since he was 16) before relocating toAucklandlast year, this is the first production under the company title of Fractious Tash.

Benjamin adapted the classic ghost story The Turn of the Screw at the Auckland Fringe last March to sell-out audiences and rave reviews. In the past 12 months Benjamin has also assisted for the Auckland Theatre Company and teaches for the Performing Arts School of New Zealand. 

This young collective is a unique collaboration between the best new acting talentAucklandhas to offer, with costume designs by stylist Jess Murphy, lighting design by Toi Whakaari student Joe Newman and an original choreographed dance sequence byNew Zealandballet teacher and former New York City Ballet soloist, Kerry Stimpson.

Actor Phoebe Mason say “This is a dark and disturbing piece, but still manages to find some laughs. It’s a daring and brave show – it will definitely cause waves in the festival.”

Macabre yet touching, sick yet hilarious, Confessions proves you really can do anything… As long as you get away with it. 

Dates: 23rd – 25th; 27th – 29th Feb
Time: 9.30pm
Venue: The Gryphon Theatre, Ghuznee Street, Te Aro Wellington

Tragic tales of credible horror

Review by John Smythe 24th Feb 2012

I’ll hazard a guess that British writer / director Benjamin Henson, now resident in NZ, was raised on a diet of the Brothers Grimm and Roald Dahl. Or maybe he was deprived of them and is compensating for that now. Perhaps more recent exposure to some of Neil LaBute’s dark and disturbing monologues (e.g. Bash: latter day plays) rekindled his taste for the horrific and macabre, but explored in all-too credible contexts that all of us could relate to.

This is not to make assumptions about what drives Henson’s creativity but more to indicate the nature of this work.

The five unnamed characters he has created are – or were – on the cusp of childhood and adolescence, or adolescence and adulthood, at the time the ‘incident’ that haunts them occurred. They cannot, therefore, be written off as psychopaths or sociopaths.

The atrocities they perpetrate (each event is recalled in the present tense) are not born of malicious intent; the characters simply lack the maturity to handle the situations a different way. And there but for the grace of a higher power or a better upbringing go we?

Each story can be seen as a cautionary tale, asking us to identify the tipping points; the moments when a different choice could produce a happier outcome. As such, accepting the assumption the audience has its acts together better than the characters do, they are well grounded in moral terms.

All five inhabit the stage all the time, adding ‘voices off’ and a human context for each tale. One may feel inclined to see them as inmates of the same asylum. Henson’s staging combined with Joe Newman’s dynamic lighting and sound design add theatrical impact to the presentation.

Having her mouth taped over, and her tongue in a tin, means the story told by Virginia Frankovich comes from a tape-recorder while she behaves as if telling it live. As her reasons for not loving Bertie Lomax any more, and for losing her tongue, become apparent we are compelled to consider our own first kiss inquisitiveness and accompanying experiences of vulnerability. Frankovich meets the challenge with a compelling performance.

Daryl Wrightson tells his story to Sebastian, the fur-clad doll stuck to his chest, As a young man minding hiding out in a block of flats and watching DVDs he was/is not ready to take responsibility for a kitten let alone a baby … What else could he have done to stop his bad situation getting worse? Wrightson delivers his words in a strident and somewhat monotonous tone that objectifies his actions and has initial comic value but becomes tedious after a while.

An excited and excitable Jordan Blaikie strips off his blonde wig to reveal how his adolescent stalker persona becomes enmeshed in a living nightmare that he does try to wake himself from but … The twist in the tale of this story is a cogent comment on how Puritanism can lurk on the flipside of fascism.  

As a red-nosed clown whose face-paint is fading, Phoebe Mason slowly exposes the child beneath who never had a chance given the example set by her mother. Her attempt to get her innocent victim to hurt her does suggest she has some concept of right, wrong and guilt, but it’s too little too late.  

Helen Sheehan is full-on with her breathless accounts of “bizarre accidents that happen all the time”; the stuff of which urban myths are made … She is trapped in the emotional state of an eight year-old, whose desperation to be the number one sidekick of Hannah May, and retain her status, is the critical factor in the series of events that leads to Samantha Bogey’s gruesome fate. And this story shows how, when left unresolved, such traumatic incidents can lead to further atrocities being committed 20 years later.

I don’t think it’s Fringe Fatigue speaking when I suggest each monologue was longer than necessary, given the commitment and clarity each actor brought to their role. In editing them it would be worth looking for non-verbal moments where the audience ‘get it’ … Less may well prove more.

On the plus side, the present-tense telling and showing give a visceral immediacy to the re-lived experiences. It is tempting to call them horror stories with heart but none of the characters is a helpless victim; each flawed individual could have made a different choice that would have avoided the ghastly outcome. Given this, even though the protagonists remain alive, the stories qualify as tragedies.  


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