Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

25/03/2014 - 29/03/2014

Production Details

There’s something wrong with Astrid. 

At least, that’s what Olivia says. But Marlo says Astrid is fine, Olivia’s the one who’s batshit. Round and round and round it goes and when it stops, someone dies. 

A new play by Jess Sayer (Wings, Elevator)
With: Holly Shervey, Samuel Christopher, Claire Dougan  

25 – 29 March 2014
Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD
Prices:  $15 – $20

Theatre ,

Less silk, more crunch

Review by Matt Baker 27th Mar 2014

Jess Sayer has inarguably established a firm and justified reputation for herself as one of the leading New Zealand playwrights of her generation, so, when a play like Crunchy Silk comes along, I am torn between what is ultimately a good play with potential, and the feeling that Sayer has not packed her usual punch. That is not to say that her usual twists and turns, and symbolism and imagery are not skilfully peppered throughout the script, simply that they don’t seem to equal more than the sum of their parts when taken into account as a whole. 

The themes, however, are not without their impact. As the play progresses and the world begins to unfold, Holly Shervey finds a nice variety of pitch and play in her performance, her constant wonderment never coming across as one-noted or irksome. Samuel Christopher finds some nice moments of emotionality, in what is possibly the most difficult role in the play, but lacks a constant internal struggle bubbling under the surface. Claire Dougan’s relentless internal process makes her incredibly easy to watch, and her avoidance of over-illustrating the more poignant beats of the play results in an appreciatively natural consistency in performance. [More]


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Chilled and thrilled

Review by Candice Lewis 26th Mar 2014

Jess Sayer’s Crunchy Silk is intriguing from the start; a curious name and eerie set have got me primed.  The stage (Ben Anderson) is sparsely and effectively dressed with a mattress on the floor, a white crate containing crude homemade dolls, and walls draped in curtains or sheets of slashed fabric through which other swatches of coloured fabric are visible. Chopsticks and twigs hang from the ceiling, portents of something sinister, the shapes hinting at bones.

Marlo (Samuel Christopher) arrives and is playful towards his chopstick-obsessed sister Astrid (Holly Shervey). He draws her out and offers support, a warm and loving older brother. Astrid appears to be rather unwell you see, a woman-child caught in a make believe world, confusing fact with fiction and losing count of the days. It’s hard to know what her age is supposed to be; she behaves like a toddler in some instances and a spoilt and narcissistic seven year old at others. Or is she a grown woman? She insists on speaking with an English accent and is delighted with Marlo’s gift of more chopsticks, the taste of which are like “crunchy silk”. 

Marlo reveals, or at least hints, that she’s in a mental health care facility. There are things she doesn’t want to remember about a certain night, but Marlo doesn’t think she needs to remember at all.  I think the ‘beautiful nutty girl’ act may be overwrought and predictable, yet as the play creeps towards to a shattering conclusion, it might be considered the right amount of nuts for this job. There is an act within the act, for Astrid is playing to keep her sanity.

The woman visiting with her clipboard is determined to help. Tightly coiffed and polished, Olivia (Claire Dougan) is coiled to breaking point. Olivia may be the very image of a middle to upper class professional, but it’s soon apparent that she’s emotionally entangled with Astrid and finds it hard to keep her composure. She allows herself to be easily manipulated and baited, exasperated that Astrid has ‘regressed’ and even seems to threaten her: “Do you know what they do with girls like you?”

I notice splashes of red paint or blood on the white crate. Is this a way of foreshadowing what happened on “that night”?  Claire Dougan’s portrayal of Olivia gathers momentum beautifully; she runs from warm to extremes of cold and cruelty that finally push Astrid too far. Has Olivia put her own life in danger? 

Marlo and Astrid undergo their own changes, Marlo becoming more demanding and controlling, Astrid losing her child-like confidence as she struggles to remember what she did. I notice the lack of slashes in the fabric representing the side of the room most occupied by Olivia, but many of the smaller details in the script, set, and the way the actors have portrayed their characters don’t mean anything significant until the final five to ten seconds.  

In that final five seconds, I experience a chill of goosebumps over my whole body, a shock in my spine. I am cold and thrilled.  Just when you thought a story line couldn’t surprise you anymore, something like this comes along.


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