Maidment Theatre, Auckland

30/05/2015 - 20/06/2015

Production Details

Stephen Lovatt and Rachel Nash TO star in mesmeric thriller by Downton Abbey writer 

Enlightenment opens 28 May at Maidment Theatre 

A spine-tingling thriller written by Olivier Award-winning playwright and Downton Abbey writer Shelagh Stephenson will open at Maidment Theatre on 28 May.

Enlightenment, directed by Andrew Foster (Apocalypse Z, Black Confetti) and starring Stephen Lovatt, Rachel Nash and Anna Jullienne, is the third play in Auckland Theatre Company’s 2015 ‘Reinvention’ season.

It’s five months since the disappearance of Adam, Lia and Nick’s backpacker son. Desperate, all they can cling to is a vague email mentioning Jakarta and the possibility that somewhere he may be alive. Unsure who to turn to, or even whether he’s alive or dead, they frantically seek clues, comfort and strength.

Then, out of the blue, the lost young man, seemingly, materialises. But is he the real thing? As the couple seek enlightenment, a dark truth emerges which challenges their world view and plays on every parent’s deepest fear.

In a time where natural disaster, terrorism and strange circumstances continue to leave us – and particulaly those affected by loss – with more questions than answers, Enlightenment contemplates the idea of hope amid fear, and investigates the deep impacts and outcomes of parental grief.

Playwright Shelagh Stephenson is probably known best as one of the writers for Downton Abbey. Her works are intense, intelligent, yet shot through with humour. Previous plays include the Olivier-winning comedy The Memory of Water, An Experiment with an Air Pump, Ancient Lights, Five Kinds of Silence, Mappa Mundi and The Long Road.

Acclaimed actors Stephen Lovatt (Top of the Lake, Once on Chunuk Bair, Speaking in Tongues) and Rachel Nash (The Almighty Johnsons, Outrageous Fortune) will lead the cast. The two are no strangers to the intangible – Lovatt recently played officer Pete in Jane Campion’s acclaimed television series Top of the Lake, centering around a 12-year-old girl who has gone missing, while Nash had a lead role in the series The Cult, in which a group of people try to rescue their loved ones from a mysterious cult. Additionally, the two will star in an upcoming TV bio, Hillary, based on the life of the late Sir Edmund Hillary.

In 2014, Lovatt proved himself to be something of a stage-chameleon. His lauded performances saw him in roles that ranged from an upper class British fop in Fallen Angels, to a fire-brand New York lawyer in Angels in America and a reckless WWI officer in Once On Chunuk Bair.

The stellar supporting cast comprises Catherine Wilkin (Girl in Tan Boots, Mcleod’s Daughters), David Aston (The Matrix, Lord of The Rings, The Crucible), Anna Jullienne (Anne Boleyn, Shortland Street) and Jordan Mooney (Once on Chunuk Bair, The Heretic, Lord of the Flies).

Auckland Theatre Company audiences who enjoyed Other Desert Cities, The Heretic, God Of Carnage, Blackbird or The Gift, or fans of Broadchurch, Top of The Lake or Twin Peaks, will find Enlightenment a satifsyingly intelligent and thrilling night at the theatre.

For more information or to order a copy of Auckland Theatre Company’s 2015 season brochure, please visit www.atc.co.nz.

Maidment Theatre
28 & 29 May (previews)
30 May (opening night) – 20 June 
Tickets: www.atc.co.nz or (09) 309 0390 

Lia: Rachel Nash 
Nick: Stephen Lovatt 
Adam: Jordan Mooney 
Mrs Tindle: Catherine Wilkin 
Gordon: David Aston 
Joanna: Anna Jullienne 

Director: Andrew Foster 
Sound Design: Paul McLaney 
Set Design: Dan Williams 
Costume Design: Lisa Holmes 
Lighting Design: Brendan Albrey 

Theatre ,

Too light

Review by Matt Baker 02nd Jun 2015

It is the most difficult process any parent could endure, not the loss, but the unknown fate of a child. The stakes are high in Shelagh Stephenson’s script, and while Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Enlightenment has an intellectual grasp on the chaos of the play, it remains less resonant than the text allows it to be. If a scene isn’t working, it’s usually because the entrance was wrong. In this instance, director Andrew Foster and his design team offer us a definite answer to the play’s riddle in the opening, providing a false start to and an inability to connect with the circumstances of the drama. [More]


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Polished professionals make light work of twisting plots, heady concepts

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 01st Jun 2015

There are many different forms of Enlightenment and in the hands of award-winning British playwright Shelagh Stephenson it becomes a cool, sophisticated piece of theatre that manages to be several different things at once. 

On one level the show is an entertaining missing-person drama that keeps the audience guessing with audaciously plotted twists stretching the boundaries of the genre …

Overlaying all of this is some heady conceptualism that draws connections between the indeterminacy of quantum physics and the loss of certainty in the free-wheeling world of post-modernist relativism. [More]


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Thought-provoking story leaves questions to be answered

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 31st May 2015

At first, Shelagh Stephenson’s Enlightenment is an insightful look at the trauma experienced by a couple trying to come to terms with the fact that their much loved 20 year old son, Adam, has been missing abroad for many months.

Though slightly verbose at times, Stephenson skillfully articulates, through her diverse characters, the full gamut of reactions and emotional fallout from the lack of closure.

Much of the first half centers on Adam’s mother, Lia, played by Rachel Nash, who clearly shows a woman freefalling between raw grief, guilt and inertia. She needs a way forward and clutches at straws, by seeking solace and hope through ‘psychic’ Mrs Tindle (a perfectly-pitched reserved performance from Catherine Wilkin).

As Adam’s stepfather, Stephen Lovatt skillfully shifts between stoicism, skepticism, realism and repressed inner turmoil. While Nick and Lia deal with loss in completely different ways, Lovatt and Nash show the disconnect and emptiness that has engulfed their relationship since Adam disappeared, very well.

Next, David Aston, as Lia’s father, tries hard to be a concerned parent, as he attempts to manage the situation, reacting like the politician he is, by turning to the media for help and spin.

Finally, Anna Jullienne relishes the role of ambitious television producer, Joanna. Dressed to maximize her viewing audience (ideal touch by costume designer Lisa Holmes), she captures the essence of the manipulative tactless character perfectly, as she ‘opens her mouth to change feet’.

After painting a layered and intriguing first half, the second is a very different picture – one resembling a psycho-thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith with a touch of Robert Ludlum. Rather than developing act one or heading to a resolve, Stephenson thrusts us into a dark, deceptive cul-de-sac, as the characters deal with the arrival of a young man claiming to be Adam.

The gear change is such that the empathy I am beginning to feel for both parents, stalls. Perhaps it is because I am so gripped by Jordan Mooney’s performance as the disturbed young man in Adam’s shoes, that it’s his story, and evolution, that I want to know more about. Stephenson reveals his personality as the antithesis of Lia’s, and Mooney embodies the traits and complexities of a man with his condition, brilliantly.

By the end of the night, I feel like I’ve seen two one-act plays rather than one cohesive story. Perhaps because of that, despite all the angst, I’m one step removed from feeling true empathy for any of the characters.

Director Andrew Foster’s creative team is brave and confronting in their interpretation of Stevenson’s dark work.

Audiovisual designer Tom Bogdanowicz opens the night with a bang plus a touch of big brother, which is perhaps his way of saying that even though technology is increasingly invading our privacy, people still easily disappear without a trace. Sound design by Paul McLaney is pensive and unsettling; and the cold shafts of light by designer Brendan Albrey are equally disconcerting.

In a way I find the play a bit like Dan Williams’ illuminating set design: strong frameworks but we are left to fill in much the details ourselves. By the end, the near empty space offers not so much comfort or insight, but a series of questions still to be answered.

If you like a thought-provoking story that allows you to draw your own conclusions from murky depths, Enlightenment will be your ideal night out.


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