Doing It Yourself

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

10/04/2007 - 14/04/2007

Production Details

UP THE DUFF - by Ingrid Berry and Sally Richards
Directed by David Austin

Directed by Ingrid Sage, assisted by Matthew Hodgman

Backyard Theatre

two original plays

UP THE DUFF – by Ingrid Berry and Sally Richards
Directed by David Austin

A collection of true stories from the 50s to now. A girl finds herself ‘in trouble’, ‘up the duff’, ‘a bun in the oven’, ‘fallen’. What would you do if the stick stripe turned blue and you became ‘one of the statistics’? Today we have WINZ Waiting Womb, but in the 50s there was just one option – Adoption. And if certain people had their way it might be the same again today.

Up the duff is a solo show that takes a satirical look at the stigmas attached to teenage pregnancy and adoption, and the ‘moral danger’ of both fertility and infertility in the 1950s and today. Actor Ingrid Berry juggles 12 roles that document the lives of solo mothers – past and present.

The play was first staged during the Fringe 2007 and this return season, as part of a double bill, will showcase Ingrid Berry’s versatility to a wider audience in a more “theatrical” venue.

Berry has appeared in “52 Flavours”. “The Corset Stays”, “The Comedy of Errors” and most recently “Puss in Boots”.

Directed by Ingrid Sage, assisted by Matthew Hodgman

Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat
But what the hell’s this scruffy geek doing in his shabby flat?
And how come his lady-friend doesn’t seem to mind.
Isn’t the dress he wears when not at work is just as good as hers?
You may well ask!
But then that’s playwright Sam Fisher for you. Fisher is known for original and off-the-wall scripts and this one is no exception!

There are lots of laughs and just a touch of …hmmmm!?!  Two talented actors reveal the twists of the very clever plot. Elizabeth Marshall (Charlotte) was last seen in the Fringe offering “Lovers of Central Park” and Alex Ness who plays Gibson was last seen in Backyard’s “Monkey’s Uncle”.

At The Gryphon On Ghuznee (22 Ghuznee St)
10 – 14 April 2007
Tuesday and Wednesday at 6.30pm and Thursday to Saturday at 8pm.
Bookings phone (04) 934 4068.
Tickets are $20 concessions are available.
Bar opens 30 minutes prior.

Ingrid Berry as Maureen

Alex Ness as Gibson
Charlotte as Elizabeth Marshall

Theatre ,

1 hr 30 mins, incl. interval

Misconceptions and resolutions

Review by John Smythe 11th Apr 2007

Two very different plays in very different styles share a Backyard Theatre double bill at Gryphon.

When Up The Duff by Ingrid Berry, solo performer, and Sally Richards, director, premiered in Fringe 07, I pronounced it a premature birth. It’s toddling now in this new production directed by David Austin but it’s not exactly dancing.

With less fuss around changing characters, and more fluidity in the overall production, the compared-and-contrasted tales of two generations of young women finding themselves "up the duff" unfolds with a reasonable degree of clarity. Even so, had I not had the programme to tell me which characters belonged to the late 1950s and which to 2007, plus the clue as to which side of the stage carried what era, I’m sure I’d have wondered why the rather school-marmy ‘Old Maureen’ was referring to WINZ and VCRs in the ante-natal classes she was leading.

As for realising she was the same Maureen who, in her youth, was obliged to give up her "illegitimate" baby for adoption, only the programme and the use of a pair of spectacle offer that clue. It’s a very performance-oriented script, demonstrating its story with broad caricatures and theatrical devices aplenty but lacking in the crucial humanising moments …

Or perhaps the potential is there but the business of getting through it all with just one performer playing a dozen characters in two time-frames gets in the way of our being able to share the empathetic moments. A small ensemble may well bring greater depth and a richer humanity to what so far remains (apart from the sadly underdone songs tentatively sung to appalling pre-recorded music) a proficiently performed piece of well researched social documentary theatre.

Far less important in its content yet providing a more engaging 35 minutes of theatre is Sam Fisher’s Geeks Bearing Gifts, directed by Ingrid Sage.

Gibson (Alex Ness) is a hopeless geek who has commitment problems about his job – as the guy who names paint colours – and is still suffering from a broken engagement three years ago. His new flatmate Charlotte (Elizabeth Marshall) works for his brother and has issues with her parents who are either dead or living in Tauranga or it’s the same difference.

Setting it over the days running up to Christmas intensifies questions of family and loneliness. "Single and not looking" (yeah right), Charlotte is drawn to people who are broken while Gibson clearly wants to move on into a new relationship. What makes this simple little story work is the way Fisher buries their real concerns in subtext and the way Sage ensures her actors focus on it, revealing much through body language, silences and misconceptions.

Some aspects of exactly how ‘the big misunderstanding’ (which I won’t give away) occurs could be made clearer but the resolution, involving accepting people as they are, is suitably heart-warming.

The more subtle and sensitive human dimensions revealed in Geeks Bearing Gifts epitomise what’s missing in Up The Duff, which nevertheless does teach us that while social attitudes are not what they used to be, in come respects the more things change the more they stay the same.  


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