Daughters of Heaven

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

03/02/2011 - 12/02/2011

Production Details

Be careful what you wish for…  

Long Cloud Youth Theatre returns this summer with two gothic tales of dangerous exhilaration –The Picture of Dorian Gray and Daughters of Heaven.

Directors Willem Wassenaar (Vernon God Little, Little Dog Laughed, Angels in America) and Sophie Roberts (Vernon God Little,Christ Almighty)  have put thirty Long Clouders through their paces at a Summer School boot camp, where their creative spark is ignited and challenged to shine on our professional stage.

Aged from 16 – 21 this next generation of theatre dynamos invade Downstage for 10 performances only.  At Downstage we love the sense of audacity the company embodies and we’re proud to develop these young theatre professionals by offering a hands-on experience in a working theatre.

A fragment from our nation’s dark history,Daughters of Heavenrevisits the Parker/Hulme murder of 1954. Immortalized on screen in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures,  Daughters of Heaven maps the tragedy of two Christchurch families, and the two young women whose love for each other was their ultimate destruction.

Long Cloud Youth Theatre, run by Whitireia Performing Arts Company, is a unique training and production company for young actors aged 16-21 years.  Exploring exciting classic texts, scene work, ensemble and solo performance, Long Cloud enhances their theatrical skills through practical performance experience and the opportunity to work with Wellington’s foremost directors and tutors.

Want to join Long Cloud Youth Theatre programme in 2011? Applications close 7 Feb.  More info here

If Long Cloud Youth Theatre represents the next generation of theatre practitioners, our creative industries and the community at large will be the richer for it.”John Smythe, Theatreview. 
Long Cloud Youth Theatre at Whitireia
Long Cloud Facebook  

3 Feb – 12 Feb 
Book at our box office,
04 801 6946.

Performance Times 
Thu 3 Feb: 8pm
Sat 5 Feb: 6.30pm
Tue 8 Feb:  6.30pm
Thu 10 Feb: 8pm
Sat 12 Feb:  2pm

Full price: $25
Concession/groups 6+: 
Double bill (see both Long Cloud shows):

Amanda Fearnehough: 
Bridget O'Malley
Anna Robinson: Justice Adams
Calvin Petersen : Alan Brown
Daniel Emms: Terrance Gresson/James Mason
Grace Morgan-Riddell : Police Detective
Ingrid Saker: Honora Mary Rieper
Jasmine Donald: Prison Officer
Jess Holly Bates: Hilda Hulme
Johanna Cosgrove: Prison Matron /Mario Lanza
Luke Wilson: Walter Perry
Mae Grant: Pauline Parker
Michael van Echten: Herbert Rieper
Nathan Mudge: Dr Reginald Medlicott
Patrick Carroll: Dr Henry Hulme
Vanessa Cullen: Juliet Hulme

Sophie Roberts: Tutor/Director 
Gabrielle Rhodes: Stage Manager 
Glenn Ashworth: Lighting & Design Coordinator 
Thomas Press: Sound Design 
Alex Mann: Set Design 
Annie Kinley: Costume Design 
Marc Edwards: Technical Operator/House Tech 
Lucy Stone: Production Intern 
Emma Hough: Production Intern 

1hr 20min, no interval

Reality Takes Back Seat

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 07th Feb 2011

“I love acting,” says Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray. “It is so much more real than life.” In Daughters of Heaven the two teenage girls, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, find the lush musicals of Mario Lanza and the neo-gothic melodramas of James Mason much more real than the boring lives they lead in early 50s Christchurch.

These double lives that the girls lead are, of course, similar to the double life of Dorian Gray who, blinded by narcissism and the adoration of his friends like Lord Wotton and the artist Basil Hallward, is “keenly aware of the terrible pleasure of a double life" as were Jack and Algy in The Importance of Being Earnest and Wilde himself when ‘feasting with panthers.’

With characteristic bravura Long Cloud Youth Theatre is presenting on alternate nights two plays concerned with youth and the discovery of the truth behind the  typical Wildean witticism that ‘the worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic’. Romance in both plays leads to murder.

The two plays are performed by two separate large groups of student actors in their teens and early twenties. They are performed with minimum props and the costumes, though seemingly chosen at random from a contemporary raggle-taggle theatrical wardrobe, are in most cases appropriate for the characters. Glenn Ashworth’s lighting for the plays is dramatic and fluid and Thomas Press’s sound designs, particularly in Daughters of Heaven, loudly and effectively underscore the highly emotional imaginations of the two girls.

The acting of the leading roles in both plays is as impressive as it was for the last Long Cloud Youth Theatre production I saw, Vernon God Little. Ben Crawford, without overdoing the epicene toff, tosses off some of Wilde’s best aphorisms and bons mots (‘Anybody can be good in the country’.)  with considerable charm and just the right stylish hauteur. Jonathan Power brings a Labrador-like eagerness-to-be-liked to the portrait painter Hallward, while Joe Dekkers Reihana is a striking Dorian particularly in the final scenes.

Vanessa Cullen as Juliet Hulme and Mae Grant as Pauline Parker burn with a bright flame during the Mario Lanza sequences despite a Lanza in an outlandish costume. They really come into their own, however, in the final scenes in court, prison, and with the psychiatrist when they are able to convey quite brilliantly how the murder has only half sunk into the girls’ consciences, that their dreams could and by right should still come true.

In both plays in some of the scenes involving all the cast too many characters are over-caricatured (the society party in Dorian Gray) so that the plays lurch at times between a believable stage reality and a theatrical farrago, but some of the smaller roles are particularly well performed: Michael van Echten’s touching portrait of Herbert Rieper, Patrick Carroll’s Dr. Hulme, and Ingrid Saker’s Honora Rieper. Two stimulating evenings in the theatre.
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Challenging roles for talented youngsters

Review by Hannah Smith 05th Feb 2011

I went through a phase as a teenager where I watched the film Heavenly Creatures [1994] more often than was really appropriate. There was something about the story that captured my adolescent imagination: it was just so thrilling, so shocking. Lesbians! Mother killers! I couldn’t get enough. And I wasn’t alone in my macabre fascination, many of my female friends report having gone through a similar stage.

For those less familiar with the tale, Michelanne Forster’s play Daughters of Heaven [1991] centres around the case of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme: two young girls from Christchurch whose obsessive friendship leads them to beat Pauline’s mother to death with a half of a brick in a stocking. Forster uses excerpts from the girls’ diaries and from records of the trial to provide insight into the 1954 crime which has, in the words of director Sophie Roberts, “repelled and fascinated this country ever since.”

Daughters of Heaven is an excellent choice for a Long Cloud Youth Theatre production. The heady adolescent story requires an energetic and focussed cast, and offers a wide variety of roles including some really interesting and challenging parts for young women – something which is all too rare.

In just four weeks these young people have created a very strong ensemble, which rises ably to the challenges of the script. Some excellent performances stand out.

Jess Holly Bates shines as Hilda Hulme, commanding the stage and convincingly playing well above her age. Mae Grant and Vanessa Cullen as Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme respectively work together very well. Grant creates a natural and unaffected performance as Pauline, making us empathise with her awkward gaucheness, and Cullen’s Juliet is vivacious and charming, even as she attempts to manipulate the world with her naïve sexual energy. 

The whole is fast-paced and clear under the astute direction of Sophie Roberts. The conceit of the piece is that the cast play at putting on a play, beginning with an energetic scramble around the stage ‘playacting’ with a large piece of white fabric. While this idea is not a new one it manages to involve the whole ensemble and acts as a segue into the story proper, reflecting the blurred lines between fantasy and reality which complicate Juliet and Pauline’s world. 

The muted design palette of greys and sepias has a pleasant subtly historical feel. Alex Mann’s set makes a statement of Downstage’s wooden floorboards and exposed concrete cladding, with piles of dead leaves adding a picturesque touch and steamer trunks and suitcases being used to denote different spaces. Both Glenn Ashworth’s lighting design and Thomas Press’s sound design do much to support the mood and action.

Annie Kinley’s costume design is simple and charming, using focal items such as school-girl tunics and appropriate hats to indicate period and character. Some characters dressed in leggings strike me as jarringly modern touch, but I presume this is speaking to the ‘we play at putting on a play’ concept.

Long Cloud summer camp is a fantastic opportunity for young actors whose talent is obvious. I hope we continue to see them on the stage. Recommended.
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