everything. now

BATS Theatre, Wellington

02/05/2006 - 13/05/2006

Luxembourg Gardens, Auckland

31/05/2006 - 10/06/2006

Production Details

Written, designed and directed by Stephen Bain
original songs by Leila Adu

Nothing happens by accident. All I want is everything now

One wrong move and the waiter loses the use of his legs. Chronic OOS turns a man to violence. A woman becomes hopelessly lost in Hanoi while another convinces herself she’s dying of cancer.

Winning Productions returns to Wellington after its sell out season of Stories Told To Me By Girls in January, for two weeks only at BATS theatre. Their new play everything. now explores the way work in the 21st century is moulding our bodies into monsters.

In May Winning Productions returns to Luxembourg Gardens – its new Auckland home – after a successful season in Wellington. Opening 31 May to 10 June.

Written, designed and directed by Stephen Bain (Kelly J Loko, Under Lili’s Balcony) with original songs by Leila Adu and starring Rachel Forman, Caoimhe Macfehin, Josh Rutter and Regan Taylor its going to be hard to ignore a play that gives you everything. now

 Rachel Forman
Caoimhe Macfehin
Josh Rutter 
Regan Taylor

Theatre ,

Delivers points with a stylish eye for design and movement

Review by Denis Edwards 01st Jun 2006

Stephen Bain has points to make, and his play is as much his making them as it is about his characters. To his credit he delivers them with a stylish eye for design and movement, and a directorial touch as much choreography as traffic management.

We are given a well worn ‘Globalisation is not necessarily good’ along with a more interesting thesis: that the more events are connected, and there is a lot of connecting in this piece, the greater is the disconnect between the people caught up in those events.

This makes for edgy and relentlessly uncomfortable relationships and dialogue. It is all suitably chilling and it serves its point about connections, although at a price. It isolates the characters from the audience by making them largely unlovable.

Whether this is the director grappling with the ‘fourth wall’ or not I do not know, but the medicine can be a little easier to swallow when it comes with a little bit of sugar.

Bain’s closing image captures the problems with his script. It gives us an image, one to die for, and then overlays it with political comment that cuts hard into the magic of what is happening with that long and thick strand of muslin.

The cast, Rachel Forman, Caoimhe Macfehin, Joshua Rutter and Regan Taylor are a smoothly professional group. Energy levels are high and they easily extract everything on offer here.

Each has a moment. Taylor’s is in his silent exploration of a computer monitor’s domination of the human and the struggle to assert himself against it, with the monitor being variously, a source of music, a medical scanner and a monster.

Forman has a flirty but desperate café/bar patron, sure but unsure and ultimately tragic.

Macfehin has one of the night’s best; a woman given appalling news and contemplating a bleak present while images of her joyous past dance before her. Her attack on the past is a genuinely touching and frightening scene.

Rutter has a sinister waiter who suffers mightily and becomes truly vulnerable. He has the consistently best-written part, one providing the actor with a real voyage. His series of sharp little scenes with Macfehin almost effortlessly track and trace a relationship’s trajectory, its comfort and bleakness in less than three minutes are particularly strong.

Because the play, only 90 mins long, gives itself a lot of ground to cover, and at least two of the strands seem to be working against each other it might have prospered from another pass through an editor’s hands, giving it a sharper focus on the best material.

There is, for instance, a brief sojourn through Hanoi that feels thrown in there for little other reason than the background footage was available, with the pretext for getting it on screen the thinnest and weakest moment of the play.

Whether this is a writer not quite trusting his material is something I do not know. It is of course entirely possible this reviewer, raised on classic drama, although no stranger to episodic or time-jangled material, is missing a new direction in theatre. If it is, then so be it. However, the criticism stands.

The cast have a superb and flexible space to work in. Luxembourg Gardens is a warehouse conversion in the old Sofrana House, once used by a shipping company as offices and a woolstore.  It is a few doors down from the Mercure Hotel, backing on to the Britomart and part of the Auckland City Council effort to foster life in a part of Customs Street that for over ten years has been its shame; elegant buildings slowly rotting.

The acting and performance space could cater to almost any sized production, including having a level that will one day provide someone playing Juliet the chance to burn. There is plenty of room. It seems easy to light, and this play is imaginatively lit. The acoustics are good, with the actors able to cope well when required to work against the music; a set of compositions ranging from synthesiser to jazz to near-opera, by Leila Adu.

Currently it is home to a performance group, the one mounting this production, a dance troupe and a music ensemble. They plan to share and develop the space, and will likely be combining for future productions.

The space is itself still being developed. With fundraising going on apace for the building’s elevator to be re-instated the punters face three and a half floors of huffing up the stairs.

Still, once in the heights the pre-theatre drinks are given a little extra spice. To stand at the windows and look back to the city is to have a fine vantage point over some of Auckland’s red light district, its own theatrical performance as the police and patrons eye each other in the demi-monde.

There is a distinctly Lower East Side feel to Luxembourg Gardens, right down to the chairs and the sense of good art on a shoestring. One heartening thought is the now-sleek Auckland Theatre Company grew out of a similar space and in more or less the same part of town.


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Maybe later

Review by Matthew Wagner 14th May 2006

The defining characteristic of this production lies in the irony of its title: as a production, it was very much not everything now, but many things to perhaps come.  In other words, Bain’s production (which he also wrote and designed) seems very unfinished; there’s noticeable potential in both theme and form, but on nearly every score I felt that that potential had not been realized by opening night.

Thematically, the play treats the fallout from our cultural acceleration towards an impossible state of simultaneous having: we want more and more, faster and faster, and all at once.  Four characters – a fitness instructor and a violinist (who are sisters), a workaholic waiter, and an over-worked designer – form the case studies for this theme. 

Their interactions bring us through from NZ to Hanoi, finally commenting on both the individual implosions that inevitably result from wanting everything now, as well as the ramifications that such wanting has on other cultures (especially, in this case, sweat shop workers in Asian sectors who must supply such overwhelming demand). 

Yet this is all discernible from the title; it is not the clarity of the theme but its development and theatrical realization that needs considerably more refinement.  As a script, it was uncertain and unwieldy – structurally unbalanced and without any particular rhythm.  The dialogue often felt very stilted and in some places clichéd; witness the argument between sisters Yvonne and Melissa, which might speak of the way in which parents can instil a relentless drive for success, but more immediately degenerates into a Mum-always-liked-you-best scenario.

The performers as well as the script also appeared as if they would have benefited from a little more time, especially where segments of highly physicalised and stylized movement were concerned.  Again, one can see in these segments the potential for effective moments of theatricality, but with one or two small exceptions, they weren’t quite pulled off.

Bain’s visual aesthetic is itself captivating; the set is designed with an artist’s eye.  But its theatrical use was less captivating.  A large staircase and platform against the upstage wall, a precise use of colour – these are engaging exercises in form and visual appeal.  But the platform and staircase were hardly ever used, and when they were, they were used naturalistically, as if suddenly that which does capture our aesthetic sensibility is no longer present, and the set is reduced to representing a real apartment.

This production is moving from Wellington to Auckland, and because I like what might be in the show, I sincerely hope it realizes its potential in the move.  It was not ‘everything now’ at BATS, but perhaps it will be when it hits the Luxembourg Gardens. 


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Not enough

Review by Lynn Freeman 12th May 2006

Stephen Bain’s new play, everything.now, is the story of potential unrealised and opportunities lost. Unfortunately, the same can be said for this production.

It has great moments and as you expect with Bain’s work, searing images and a cast that’s made to work hard. But the story is unconvincingly woven together from ideas the cast and director brought to the improvisation process. It’s a pity, because this is a strong quartet of actors and Bain is a courageous and experienced theatre practitioner.

There are two sisters – Yvonne (Rachel Forman), a musician spoilt from childhood but forced to face the cruel world, and her younger, bitter sister Melissa (Caoimhe Macfehin) a gym bunny who receives a death sentence which derails her life.

Ricky (Josh Rutter) is prepared to work to fulfil his dream of owning his own bar but an accident robs him of his dream and his mobility. David (Regan Taylor) meanwhile, well, we learn so pitifully little about his character that it’s hard to say who he is, why he’s there and what the future holds for him.

The lives of Yvonne, Melissa and Ricky crash together in a disturbing way while David skitters along the periphery, where issues like slave labour in Asia and obsession with the perfect body are touched on here and there.

The night I attended, a dramatic part of the big finale failed to fire, so I can’t say if that would have helped lift the sense of frustration and disappointment. Maybe.

While the production is disappointing that’s no reflection on the cast, who put their heart, soul and bodies into their performances. Some of the audiovisual work is gorgeous, especially the opening scene. There are some genuinely stunning moments too, just not enough.


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Intriguing take on modern living

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 10th May 2006

The opening scene of Everything. Now, is an idyllic one of two children climbing a tree.  The tranquillity of this is soon shattered, however, when the older child bashes a young bird to death, indicating that Stephen Bain’s new play is not going to be one for the faint hearted. And as it transpires this is the case, Everything. Now being an intriguing and challenging commentary on modern living. 

The opening section of the play is a series of quick fire scenes where four young individuals intersect their working lives with lots of physical activity and talking.  They never connect but we do learn that Yvonne (Rachel Forman) is a violinist, Melissa (Caoimhe Macfehin) is her older sister and a fitness instructor, Ricky (Josh Rutter) is a barman and David (Regan Taylor) is a sales rep.

The structure and playing of these scenes wonderfully portrays the way life has turned out for most people, succumbing to the pressures of the immediacy of the here and now, the demands of everyone wanting everything now.  This, of course, takes it’s toll on both body and mind and slowly the pace and structure of Bain’s play changes and the four characters start to develop as individuals as they try and cope with life in the 21st century.

Melissa, a spoilt brat on tour in Asia with an orchestra, does a runner back to big sister, who subsequently rejects her, when things turns horribly wrong for her.  Melissa herself gives up work thinking she has cancer only to find it’s a minor cyst.  She has moved in with Ricky, who has become a paraplegic through a work place accident while David, having suffered OOS, becomes a fitness fanatic.

There are many subplots and underlying themes running through this complex play, all centred around how work has become such a force in shaping our lives.  Bain, as director as well as writer, has schooled his actors well in coming to terms with the various layers of his play with all four giving strong, confident and committed performances to make this production a fascinating take on how we live in today’s society.


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More to come?

Review by John Smythe 03rd May 2006

In everything.now writer-director-designer Stephen Bain uses four readily recognised Kiwi characters and armies of third-world production workers to comment on contemporary life. His log line (as the screen industry calls it) is, "Nothing happens by accident. All I want is everything. Now."

On a high ledge, amid the projection of a tree, two girls set out on a fearful adventure. The older one, Yvonne (Rachel Forman) is the more timid. When they encounter a wounded bird, it is the younger, Melissa (Caoimhe Macfehin), who takes decisive and lethal action.

Later, when her "if you can focus your body you can focus your mind" certainties are challenged by her own mortality, Mel is spared the same treatment. She gets to let go, be stroppy and turn her attention away from herself. When death is certain, certain liberties may be taken. But what if that certainty, too, is then withdrawn?

Meanwhile CAD-man David (Regan Taylor), out to replicate his Michelangelo-sculpted namesake in a million-odd polygons, responds to twinges of OOS by transforming himself from nerd to gym-jock. But not before his one angry swipe at the world has knocked ambitious young restaurateur-in-waiting Ricky (Josh Rutter) off his five-year-plan and into a wheelchair.

Mel and Ricky become natural partners in their decommissioned states. With the neat efficiency they’ve left behind, the play encapsulates their interdependent relationship’s progression in a telling – no, showing – montage of brief scenes.

But nothing cuts so deep as family. From an early age the musically talented Yvonne had to sideline childhood to meet her mother’s expectations. But from Mel’s point of view it was special treatment she was getting. The inevitable flare-up happens when Yvonne returns from a concert tour to Hanoi, freaked out and unable to cope.

Somehow all this pulls a series of causal chains to flush out the most spectacular scene, involving a sexual encounter between Ricky and Yvonne that spins out of control, leaving her choked and him literally wound up and hung up in a conveniently dropped length of aerialist fabric.

This climaxes the series of physicalised movement sequences that have punctuated proceedings, interleaved in turn with realistic video footage of Hanoi back streets and factory workers. (Have you never wondered where the circuit boards come from that permeate every facet of our lives these days?)

Bain’s white wall set with hooked up chairs and narrow stairs to the upper level, and his selective lighting – making much, at times, of limbs – create an excellent context for four splendidly committed performances that compel our interest and empathy. The original music, by Quasi, Josh Rutter and Leila Adu, is not exactly subtle at times but mostly it enhances the drama.

Being the premiere of a new work, everything.now is not all it could be yet. As with much of Stephen Bain’s work, I get the feeling the how of it has taken precedence too early, before the what and why of it all has allowed the active neutrons, as it were, to find their true orbits around a fully compressed thematic nucleus.

Doubtless Bain sees it as a work in progress too, and all sorts of things may consolidate and grow from the Bats season. There is every chance it will have found its centre by the time it opens in Auckland, at Luxembourg Gardens on May 31st.


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