Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

23/08/2017 - 02/09/2017

Production Details


In 2004, Sara Wiseman won the esteemed Metro Magazine ‘Best Actress Award’ for her portrayal of Roberta in Silo Theatre’s season of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. Over a decade later Wiseman turns her hand to directing for the first time with this same award-winning play running at the Basement Theatre from 22 August to 2 September.

Set in the Bronx NY, this iconic American play, written by Pulitzer Prize winner John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck, Doubt) collides us with two of society’s beautiful, yet dysfunctional city misfits; Danny and Roberta.  After a chance encounter in a forgotten bar, Danny and Roberta’s defences dissolve and a spontaneous night of heart thumping confession, love and chaos unfolds. With no easy way out, both are forced to dive deep to find a forgiveness that offers the rare chance of a more hopeful future. This is an explosive, deeply affecting play exploring the issues of personal alienation and the redemptive power of love.

“Although written in the 80s and set in the Bronx NY, this story is timeless and just a prevalent today with its universal themes around love, guilt, fear and forgiveness.” – Sara Wiseman

Sara Wiseman (A Place to Call Home, Mercy Peak, The Almighty Johnsons) is a key player in the New Zealand and Australian screen and theatre community. Wiseman began her career as an actor in the 1990’s with appearances on Xena Warrior Princess and Hercules, and along the way has been nominated multiple times for her roles in various film, television and theatre productions. Most notably, tv series Mercy Peak and feature film The Insatiable Moon in 2011 Wiseman won Best Supporting Actress in a Feature Film at the Aotearoa Film and Television awards for her role in Matariki, and in 2012 she also won Best Actress for playing Kate Sheppard in What Really Happened: The Women’s Vote at the NZ Television Awards. A co-founder and board member of The Actor’s Program, Sara actively invests and cultivates the future of theatre and film in New Zealand with her expertise and passion.

Most recently, Wiseman has been widely acclaimed for her role on the award-winning Australian television drama, A Place to Call Home and has just completed filming season 3 of hit webseries Auckward Love. Wiseman also stars in Kiwi feature film Human Traces which premieres at the NZIFF in August this year.

Working behind the scenes for this production, Wiseman will be directing theatre for the first time in her professional career, drawing from her own deep passion for this script. This captivating tale will be brought to life by top shelf kiwi actors Jodie Hillock (After Miss Julie, Tribes, Ash Vs Evil Dead) and Frank Borrell (Filthy Rich, The Brokenwood Mysteries).

“This provocative play is the reason I pursued my dream of becoming an actor, it affected me that much when I read it. Great theatre has the potency to do that; to shake up and change lives, in a way that no other form of entertainment can. And the Basement Theatre space offers such an up close intimate feel, perfect for this compelling two hander.” – Sara Wiseman

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea plays:
The Basement Theatre
23rd August – 2nd September (Tuesday – Saturday) at 8pm
Book at iticket.co.nz

Praise for Danny and the Deep Blue Sea:

What begins as a sparring match over a plate of pretzels leads to an intense meeting of souls…and demons.” – The Listener NZ

…a funny, frightening, hypnotically fascinating evening of theatre…” – Drama-Logue.

“…the play is the equivalent of sitting at ringside watching a prize fight that concludes in a loving embrace.” – NY Times

Theatre ,

Beauty and the Sea Monster

Review by Nathan Joe 29th Aug 2017

There’s something beautiful about an actor returning to direct a pivotal play in their career, coming full circle and all that. While I can’t speak for the quality of Sara Wiseman’s performance in Silo’s 2004 production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, she brings a deep understanding to the characters in her directorial debut that suggests she was probably brilliant.

Described as a Bronx retelling of the Beauty and the Beast, the play features the lonely souls of Roberta (Jodie Hillock) and Danny (Frank Borrell) who meet at a quiet bar. They’re not immediately likable characters, often opting for rudeness, anger and bitterness as their primary modes of communication. They’re the kind of people you wouldn’t want to bump into on the street. But they’re also startlingly real … [More


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Redemption and hope beyond bad choices

Review by Nik Smythe 24th Aug 2017

John Patrick Shanley is one of the most famous playwrights I’d not previously known of by name, despite having seen a couple of his critically acclaimed screenplays. This early two-hander from 1983 is a quintessential sample of a classic American character study à la Williams or Mamet, observing the frank, sometimes volatile conversation between two broken specimens of society’s underclass.

In her programme statement, Sara Wiseman declares a long-held affection for this particular work, even simply as it reads off the page it would seem. She and the cast’s handling of the material is appropriately acquiescent to the raw, fly-on-the-wall realism necessary for the characters to resonate, as indeed they do.

Jodie Hillock enters first as Roberta, in a fetching orange short sleeved mini dress, ordering a red wine and choosing one of the establishment’s many vacant seats. Frank Borrell appears immediately afterwards as Danny, clad in typical blue collar clobber with slicked back greaser-style hair. He gets his jug of beer and sits at the table next to Roberta’s, whereupon they each spend a few moments furtively regarding one another before he breaks the ice to ask for a pretzel.

The ensuing conversation is alternately defensive, inquisitive and downright vitriolic as the pair navigate the minefields of each other’s damaged minds and souls. He’s violent, she’s bitterly cynical; they both hate people, themselves in particular, yet are contrarily drawn to one another through their shared misanthropy.

Bearing out Wiseman’s endorsement of Shanley’s script, details of the narrative are more effectively revealed in the course of the play than any written summary would accomplish. Over three consecutive scenes Roberta and Danny allow themselves to soften just enough to get closer than either has ever let themselves be with another person. The abrupt conclusion is hardly one of fairy-tale transformation, but we’re left with a distinct glimmer of hope and sense of relief in knowing that two narrow, claustrophobic lives have been broadened, however slightly or briefly.

At times I’ve been somewhat bemused by various companies’ choices to produce overseas works over arguably ‘more relevant’ local stories. That said, with such pointed explorations of the human condition as this, the issue is rendered moot; what Danny and Roberta are dealing with are universal dilemmas, their definitive upper-New York surroundings conversely providing us a window into our own points of pride and frailty in that magical way precisely placed stories are wont to do. Indeed, the specific idiom of their insular world is likely to be far more relatable than any attempt at transposition could achieve.

It also seems appropriate to briefly address the related discourse around accent pronunciation in local productions of foreign works. Borrell and Hillock are pretty bang-on with the broad Bronx NY Italian vernacular, about 90-95% accurate to my ear. Some people are quite fussy about authenticity, complaining that a less than perfect accent pulls them out of the play’s world. Again, I’m personally more attached to characters’ inner truths; as long as this is believably expressed the precision of their exterior affectations are secondary. 

Also in my experience, peoples’ accents frequently vary even within the same locale, often even among siblings, so a stereotypically ‘perfect’ one can seem less genuine than one with supposedly unusual components, particularly when it’s at the expense of the aforementioned emotional integrity. By this metric the duo fairly excel in their mission to draw us into their dark, all-but hopeless lives of bad choices made under mentally unstable conditions, ultimately acknowledging that redemption and hope can be possible, however improbable it may be statistically or otherwise. 


nik smythe August 24th, 2017

Thanks Damian, I value your edification.

I cannot make any claim to having anything like an expert ear for these things. I thought they both had Italian-American accents but may well stand to be corrected... Not having actually been to NY, I admit to my experience being mostly limited to the screen, such as the masterpiece that was Hill Street Blues among countless other NY based film and tv. I did think, but am now unsure, that Danny said he's at least part Italian, but it may have just been Roberta. Does the fact he's protestant make him more likely to be Irish? Or the fact that the playwright is of Irish descent for that matter?

You're right of course that I meant upper Manhattan, i.e. New York City not New York State. So yes, it would have probably been simpler and clearer just to say The Bronx. I thank you for the clarification. Regarding the name Daniel being Irish, the one (fictional) example of an Italian(-American) Danny I can think of is Danny LaRusso a.k.a. the Karate Kid. The name is originally Old Testament as far as I'm aware, although again I'm a bit out of my depth with all that.

Damian D'Enfer August 24th, 2017

I'm dying to find out where Upper New York is. Do you mean Plattsburg up by the Canadian border? Maybe you mean upper Manhattan. We would just call that the Bronx. As far who lives in the Bronx, it's over 45% Latino, about 40% African American and the there's some white people, mainly Irish and Italian. Then you got your Carribbean folk, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and so on and so on. So, not quite sure what you mean by a 'Bronx accent'. Anyway, Danny is an Irish name so I'm guessing the character would be a Irish. I have never in my life met an Italian named Danny. But you never know! Signed, an American.

nik smythe August 24th, 2017

*feeling steepish*

Editor August 24th, 2017

Yes - of course it is! How embarrassing. Fixed now and thank you, Jess. 

Jess Sayer August 24th, 2017

Just a wee note to point out the playwrights name is John Patrick Shanley. 

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