Destination: Death

The Pumphouse Amphitheatre, Auckland

27/02/2009 - 04/03/2009

BATS Theatre, Wellington

27/01/2009 - 31/01/2009

BATS Theatre, Wellington

19/09/2008 - 20/09/2008

Centrepoint - Dark Room, Palmerston North

17/04/2008 - 19/04/2008

Production Details

Devisor/Actor Regan Taylor
Devisor/Director and Sound Designer Craig Geenty.

The show is full of physicality, humour and pathos.  Both UCol trained, this twosome have worked together on projects such as “Train Ghosts” (Best Comedy and Best Performer – Fringe 05), “Dracula” (Best New Production – Manawatu Theatre Awards ’04).  Both are also currently performing in Centrepoint’s production of “Man of La Mancha”.

Taylor plays a number of characters including a male dancer who is trapped in a small town, a wise cracking funeral director, a female priest, a stag (the animal kind) and a couple of argumentative hunters.

All stories deal with death is very different ways, but as death comes to us all this is really a story about the lives we live and the consequences of our every action.

Full of joy and grief, energy and stasis, Destination: Death presents a unique view on the lives of everyday New Zealanders. 

Destination: Death

The Dark Room (Centrepoint)
Thursday 17 – Saturday 19, April 2008
10.30pm – all tickets $12

Friday 19 – Saturday 20 September 2008

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce
27-31 January, 9.30pm
Bookings: or 04 802 4175
Cost: $16 waged or $13 unwaged/group 6+


Destination: Death descends on the PumpHouse Amphitheatre for opening night of the Fringe, Friday 27th February. The five-night season features Regan Taylor in a solo performance blending choreography and character-based comedy.

‘Destination: Death is exquisitely brought to life in a performance that is formidably physical, alive with humour (and not all of it black), sensitive, compelling, thoughtful, tragic and wise‘, said reviewer Richard Mays (Palmerston North Guardian) ‘…no one gets out of here alive, but I left Destination: Death, still in its evolving state, enriched and invigorated’.

Taylor physically tells the story of multiple characters in a rural community touched by unexpected deaths. Hamish Darion, the local check-out operator wishes to leave his small town for dance school in the city, but standing in his way is Macka, a hunter and local bully. Will Macka’s next victim be Hamish, the stag he hunts, or his hunting buddy and local rugby hero, Twinkle-toes Joe?

Meanwhile Michael is coming to terms with a situation for which he is completely unprepared: Losing his best mate in an accident. He has to deal with the funeral director who fancies himself as a comedian, the evangelical preacher of all religions and the demands of Mrs. Te Pae, his friend’s feisty mum.

The project was instigated by Taylor, who sought to directly confront a topic that is seldom talked about. He and director Craig Geenty work shopped the idea, concluding that a matter-of-fact approach to death had plenty of comic potential, and that choreography could express what is unknown or unspoken.

Destination: Death debuted at Palmerston North’s The Dark Room last April, the unlikely result of which was a request by Hospice New Zealand for the show to be part of their annual Palliative Care Conference. The performance was a great success, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of health care professionals. Since then the play has been developed further through two seasons at BATS in Wellington.

The PumpHouse Amphitheatre (Killarney Park, Takapuna)
Friday 27th February – Wednesday 4th March
No show Monday 2nd March
7:00pm – 8:00pm
(except Sunday 1st March 4:00pm – 5:00pm)
Tickets: $18/$13
Tickets available through The PumpHouse (09) 489 8360 or book online and door sales

Perfectly entertained and moved

Review by Candice Lewis 01st Mar 2009

Contemporary dance sometimes lacks emotional expression, as if it’s been executed by perfect limber automatons. As I sat in the pleasant amphitheatre at The Pumphouse, the gulls cried, and North Shore teenagers screamed in the distance.

The attractive actor walked onto the stage and proceeded to dance with energy and skill, and as the show unfolded any fears I had regarding soulless athletic showmanship were rapidly laid to rest.

Incredibly credible characters were portrayed by Regan Taylor, revealing a story of grief and friendship which is deliciously sewn together with humour and sensitivity. The dance serves as a concise mirror for the play, reflecting all aspects of the show that come to light.

The central characters may instantly be recognisable to you, from the friendly and blokey ‘Nick’ to the charm of a young gay dancer.  Central themes of healing and acceptance emerged; looking at the rapt expression of the audience, I could see I wasn’t the only one finding Destination Death a rather good place to be.  Amongst the audience was one of New Zealand’s best actresses, the beautiful Danielle Cormack, who also enjoyed the show.

I could tire you with further descriptions of the sparse but effective use of props, or the way Craig Geenty’s soundscape complimented every move Regan made, but all you really need to know is that this is worth seeing. It wasn’t perfect, yet I was perfectly entertained and moved.

It seemed fitting that I saw such a beautiful piece of theatre where one of my best friends from high school committed suicide in the 1980’s. I think he would have appreciated the irony! Destination Death, we all get one.


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A memorable slice of rural life

Review by John Smythe 28th Jan 2009

Co-devised by Regan Taylor (performer) and Craig Geenty (director and sound designer), Destination Death returns to BATS, en-route to the Auckland Fringe, tighter, more relaxed and confident in its presentation, and either happy to be its idiosyncratic self or still in need of dramaturgical attention (click below for reviews of earlier seasons).

Its purpose is clearer: to characterise a small town by telling the stories of two premature deaths: fun- and drink-loving Nick’s fatal fall from the heights of recklessness; wanna-be dancer Hamish’s brutal beating at the hands of loser and mindless resorter to violence, Maka.

The book-end narrator is Nick’s mono-syllabic but good mate Michael, who is assigned by Nick’s kuia Mum to keep vigil at the funeral home then speak at the funeral service, at which a very strange high-voiced, happy-clappy, ‘Celtic Catholic’ minister (female according to the publicity material) officiates, referencing the Koran and Buddha and either lapsing into Gaelic or speaking in tongues at times: seriously weird but somehow compelling.

Star local rugby player and deer hunter Joe represents the ideal man, as exemplified by his behaviour on a hunting trip with Maka. This used to involve a range of characters but now it’s just the two of them (they’ve headed out solo and Joe suggests they spend the second day together for safety reasons). Maka still turns out to be a dangerously irresponsible prick in the bush with firearms. But it’s a fizzer, dramatically, to replace his ignominious banishment to the hut with Joe telling him Hamish has died and sending him back to town, meek, non-defensive and never to be seen or heard of again. (How does Joe know it was Maka who did it and why does Maka capitulate? It’s a plotline that needs more beats and a better payoff.)

The jacket on the hanger remains, to represent Nick, and a couple of times it is ingeniously used. But rather than dramatically justify the high-energy sky-diving finale – or was it Nick departing this mortal plane? – which used to bring the jacket effect to the fore, the ending is tranquil. Now we see him, now we … (blackout). There is potential here for something more poignant, surely, not so much in the final action as in the set up for it.

The movement aspect remains idiosyncratic: more physical in its abstract moves and flourishes than most actors offer but too tight round the shoulders and clunky at times to qualify as dance. Yet the manifestation of the stag in the wild is memorable, abetted by Laurie Dean’s excellent lighting design, and the aforementioned minister’s ritual moves add a bizarre touch. The use of non-verbal movement to dramatise what are effectively the prologues and epilogues is also a plus.

Personally I’d like to see more character contrast between Hamish, the minister and the funeral home guy, all of whom have a light, fey aspect with a tendency to punctuate their speech with the same winning smile.

Otherwise the uses of the performance space, six boxes to evoke different locations, and the long scarf to differentiate characters – either using it as costume or as a walking stick or rifle prop – remain ingenious. Geenty’s sound design is rich and powerful. And Taylor commands the space – and our attention and respect – with a memorable slice of rural life.


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Performance tail wags story-telling dog

Review by John Smythe 20th Sep 2008

Dealing with the death of a mate is good starting point for a solo show and Destination Death is nothing if not inventive in the way it theatricalises the experience. It is also fairly confusing.

Nick – "tall, dark, fuzzy hair and cheeky as" – is the mate who died, pissed and therefore misjudging his leap from one rooftop to another. Michael, the narrator, takes us on the journey that presumably aims to offer some insight into the whys and wherefores behind this death.

Thus we are treated to an entertaining evocation of the community that spat out Nick’s random accident – or was it a (not) pretty inevitable outcome of alcohol-induced invincibility syndrome?

Solo performer – and co-devisor with director Craig Geenty – Regan Taylor cleverly manipulates a long home-knit scarf to signify different characters as the action moves forward to the funeral and back to recollections of what led up to it.

At one extreme there is Caesarean (if I have the name right), a hyper fey checkout boy and wannabe dancer who auditions for – and gets into – the School of Dance, despite his less-than-excellent interpretative dancing (stunning us with something truly powerful would be much more dramatic). At the other extreme is Maka, the tough-guy bully who is a menace on a hunting trip and eventually beats Caesarean up, badly, possibly fatally.

Then there is the aging parent who insists Michel must visit the body of Nick in the funeral home; the funeral parlour guy who shows him his embalming room; the minister who officiates at the funeral, the leader guy on the hunting trip who knows what’s what and has the sense to send Maka back to the hut for being a dangerous prick … And from the start and throughout, a well executed stag in the wild, destined to be shot, skinned and gutted.

The range of male characters, their closeness to death and the way they relate to Michael gives some degree of cohesion. But as I understand it Nick only appears in the pub scene, knocking back Tequila slammers with Michael before they stagger into the night and up to Nick’s losing fight with gravity. (If Nick was part of the supermarket or hunting scenes – and he should have been – I missed it.)

A sudden tag-on at the end evokes a skydiving trip – something spontaneous Nick conned Michael into, I think – and a superb bit of staging utilising a jacket on a hanger abetted by powerful sound fx (Craig Geenty) and lighting (Laurie Dean) produces a climactic moment of sheer terror and excitement.

So I think there is something there about safe ways to be a man (hunting, dancing, skydiving) and ways that don’t work (fooling with firearms, resorting to violence, mixing alcohol with risk-taking) … But it does need dramaturgical intervention to meet its potential.

While the performance tail is wagging the story-telling dog, it’s well worth persisting with. Regan Taylor is a physically adept, versatile actor who clearly relishes stepping beyond the constraints of more standard scripted roles.


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Enriching, invigorating premiere

Review by Richard Mays 14th Sep 2008

[Note: This review of the premiere production at The Dark Room in April only arrived recently and is run here in anticipation of the brief BATS season, 19-20 September, 10pm – ED]  

Outstanding! Gobsmacking! Fantastic!

As unpromising as something called Destination: Death sounds, this is a rare piece of theatre that hooks right from the dynamics of the opening scene, and refuses to let go – even after the performance ends.

Even more remarkable, is that actor and writer Regan Taylor comes to this late-night piece hard on the heels of giving a distinguished performance as Sancho Panza in Centrepoint’s main-bill show, Man of La Mancha.

Destination: Death is exquisitely brought to life in a performance that is formidably physical, alive with humour (and not all of it black), sensitive, compelling, thoughtful, tragic and wise. "The more we put the dead behind doors, the less we value our own lives," is a challenge from one of its characters, a feisty kuia.

Destination: Death engages on so many levels, as Taylor portrays people ushered unwittingly, and more or less unwillingly, into the presence of the "Big D". The set is a jacket suspended on a coat hanger, doubling as a door and eventually as a cleverly articulated puppet, while the actor arranges and rearranges four blocks to serve as hearse, mortician’s slab, bunk, or shop counter.

Following the inspired opening interpretive dance sequence, which has the actor literally bouncing off the walls, the core narrative focuses on Michael who has just lost his best mate Nick, to what turns out to be a piece of drunken stupidity.

Interwoven is the story of Hamish Darien, a small town boy whose grandfather has just died, with a dream of being accepted for a national dance school. In a loving study of mannerisms, the local undertaker supplies fascinating insights into his art, and morbid humour: "The death rate around here is the same for any other place – one per person."

Then there are two deerstalkers, whose surface mateship is tinged with an underlying foreboding.

As well as realising these stories, Taylor creates characters we can care about, identify and empathise with.

No one gets out of here alive, but I left Destination: Death, still in its evolving state, enriched and invigorated.


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