Fat Pig

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

09/06/2007 - 14/07/2007

Production Details

By Neil LaBute
Directed by ROSS JOLLY

A sharp, funny, modern love story.

What do you do when you meet the love of your life and she’s more than you ever imagined?

A funny, intelligent comedy about life and love in the 21st century, the New Zealand premiere of  Fat Pig opens in CIRCA One on Saturday 9th June, and runs until 14 July.

From the razor-sharp pen of Neil LaBute  (The Shape of Things, Bash, The Mercy Seat) Fat Pig is another beautifully observed, and acutely funny example of LaBute’s fascination with contemporary themes of love, friendship and our obsession with image.

Tom is smart, witty and successful – and he is falling in love … with Helen, a bright, sexy librarian who happens to be “generously proportioned.” Tom seems to be just hat Helen wants. Helen seems to be just what Tom needs – she challenges his mind and makes him laugh.  

The trouble is, his friends are laughing too.

Can Tom put aside the cruel jibes and follow his heart, or in this age of no carbs, nip tucks and extreme makeovers, will Tom destroy his chance for true happiness?

For director Ross Jolly, Fat Pig marks a return to one of his favourite playwrights. “I am passionate about the writing of Neil LaBute,” he says, “having directed The Shape of Things (twice) and The Mercy Seat. His ability to create exhilarating, funny, relevant dramas has earned him international acclaim. He is likened to Mamet (to whom the play Fat Pig is dedicated), Albee and Tennessee Williams – a modern moralist who probes, provokes and confronts.

“As Neil LaBute says ‘people are pretty damn fascinating anyway, but put them together in couples and they are outright startling to behold’.”

While Fat Pig was in part inspired by LaBute’s own experiment with dieting (he lost 60 pounds – and then gained most of it back), the play is not really about that. “That element is just the surface,” he says.  “The story really deals with human weakness and the difficulty many people face when trying to stand up for, live up to, or come out for something they believe in – well-meaning as can be, but surprisingly lame when push really comes to shove. It is also an examination of what it means to love.”

“As for the characters who populate Fat Pig, I love them all because they are so desperately human – they want to have convictions but, in the end, they’d rather be liked or get their needs met. All I care about is creating individuals who are as interesting and complex as people are in life.”

Lighting  by LISA MAULE


Stage Manager:  Eric Gardiner
Technical Operator:  Marcus McShane
Sound:  Jeremy Cullen, Ross Jolly
Video:  Andrew Brettell
Set Construction:  Iain Cooper, John Hodgkins
Publicity:  Claire Treloar
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller, Parlour
Photography:  Stephen A'Court
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn
Front of House:  Linda Wilson

Theatre ,

1 hr 30 mins, no interval

A prompt for some questioning of our values

Review by Melody Nixon 21st Jun 2007

Fat Pig, by enduring funny man Neil LaBute, is a deeply satirical look at the possibly human and definitely Western drive to categorise, define and dismiss other people. This Circa production of LaBute’s script is a New Zealand premiere which successfully and clearly conveys the play’s essence. An essence that, most likely, will not incite viewers to outrage, or provoke major introspection. However, Fat Pig may help to chip away at the block of image obsession and body pressure that holds mantle over our media-shaped lives, and provide a prompt for some questioning of our values in relationships.

The play’s anti-PC stance will come as a welcome respite for those who lament that some freedom has been lost along with terms like ‘fat pig’ or ‘sheila’. “I can’t even call them girls without them filing a law suit” laments Tom (Jason Whyte) with the teasing satire typical of LaBute. The use of projected war film ties in with this theme, and the images are reasonably shocking to eyes used to sanitised views of war and violence. Video by Andrew Brettell introduces a successful dimension of colour and visual stimulation between scenes, verging on the abstract at times while staying accessible for most of the audience. The sound design by Jeremy Cullen and Ross Jolly overcomes the risk of overindulging in theme to successfully include songs like ‘Big Love’ in the soundtrack.

The play’s exploration of the negative criticism of others is embodied best in the two supporting roles of Carter (Toby Leach) and Jeannie (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford).
“We’re all just one step away from what we despise,” says career woman Jeannie, and in this case what ‘we’ despise most is our potential to be unattractive and unwanted. When her ex-partner Tom (Jason Whyte) dates an overweight woman Helen (Emma Kinane), Jeannie manages to take it as a reflection of her own perceived inadequacies. “Does that mean Tom digs fat chics? Does that mean I’m fat?” Thus LaBute shows us that the image-obsession endemic to the corporate world is harmful not just to those who are judged to fall outside of the attractive norm.

Toby Leach fits tightly into character as cynical, confrontational Carter; his guile in convincing workmate Tom that he can ‘do better’ is believable and subtle. While Tom replies, “I’m not obsessed with bodies the way you are”, it is ultimately Carter who triumphs in the relationship stakes, or so it seems. Likewise, Lyndee-Jane Rutherford adopts an appropriately downtrodden stance as Jeannie, her posture and demeanour reflecting the character’s unhappiness. Jeannie’s desperation to be perceived as beautiful and successful is rivalled only by her belief that anyone who does not conform to her standards is not.

But the outstanding performance of the show is undoubtedly that of Emma Kinane as Helen. Kinane works with LaBute’s sympathetic and uncompromising portrayal of a woman who is, yes, overweight, but also comfortable with her size and has come to terms with who she is. This casts Helen as a sort of heroine and LaBute’s creation of such an accessible and ‘simpatica’ character is pivotal to gaining our attention throughout the play; in Helen he has succeeded in his goal of “creating individuals as interesting and complex as people are in life.” This is also true of Tom, in whom Jason Whyte manages to capture the earnestness and genuine searching necessary for us to believe in Tom’s love for Helen.

In the beach scene, the tension and disconnect that has developed between the two lovers is flawlessly conveyed. Emma Kinane maintains the quiet strength and openness that has warmed us to her Helen throughout the course of the play, and Jason Whyte presents Tom’s inner conflict as his own in what is the lead up to an honest and refreshingly critical ending.

Though not as provocative, searching or confrontational as theatre could ultimately be, Fat Pig is nonetheless is a welcome move by Circa into more testing and more controversial theatre territory.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


MaryanneC July 9th, 2007

Saw it on Saturday, and while the themes may be universal, nowhere else in the world would it be credible for people to talk about themselves so incessantly as in the US.

Moya Bannerman June 29th, 2007

"My motto: Constructive comments or shut up." What can we add, Elizabeth Anne, but: listen to yourself. Please.

Marc June 29th, 2007

Elizabeth, you really need to get your prescription refilled.

Elizabeth Anne June 29th, 2007

Hey Thomas. Good to see you again. “Proud to be a clown.” Hmmmmmmmmmmm . . . well, you said it, babe, not me. I might warn, though, that unwittingly confusing clowning and the theatre criticism is inadvisable, even dangerous. Perhaps theatre analysis is best left to the big professionals with the background and tools for the job. Now, don’t misread me, Tom, I love malls (not quite so hot on the clowning)! But if caught your act and found it not to my taste, I wouldn’t try and discourage other punters who might actually enjoy it. My motto: Constructive comments or shut up. Now that’s “noble”. Our criticism often says as much about us as the things we criticise, eh? Oh Tom, lighten up, love, you’re not being “personally attacked”, just teased a little. But here’s a thought: If you employed less emotive zingers like “pathetic”, “boring”, “cringe-inducing” and “drek”, you might inspire a less “pot-shotty” response. I’ll be “above board” if you’ll be “above bored” too. But hey, that might not be quite so much fun, eh Tom? Heavens, is that the time? Must dash. Good luck with the clowning. Truly! Noses on. Your friend Elizabeth Anne

Elizabeth Anne June 29th, 2007

Whoa Tugol. Say what? “Truth”! “Integrity”!! “Moral fibre”!!? Reads like the credo for Destiny Church, Hitler Youth or some such. Get real, Pilgrim. We’re just musing on the efficacy of foisting our ego-centric notions, value judgements and subjective impressions on to others. They’re just our personal opinions, for crissake, not universal truths, the word of God, or whatever. The fanatic compulsion to “say what you really think whatever the circumstances” isn’t “moral fibre”, just arrogance and rudeness, deviously masquerading as honesty. “Moral fibre” isn’t irritating but pseudo-moralists like you certainly are. Your espousal of a boorish tactlessness would by now have cost you friends, if you had any, I guess. I mean, hell, it must get pretty lonely sometimes up on the moral high ground.

Elizabeth Anne June 29th, 2007

E.A. Wow! Thomas LaHood has “friends” in the cast of FAT PIG. Really? Are you sure? For how much longer, one wonders. Choose your friends carefully, perhaps.

Marc June 28th, 2007

So he's not allowed an opinion because he saw it for free? Don't forget you not paying a cent for this web site and yet..oh..that's right, you get to have an opinion!!!! You seem to be taking things a bit seriously, I suggest avoiding the six o'clock news.

Thomas LaHood June 27th, 2007

Well, actually the comp was a promotional one offered through Wellington City Libraries - for whom I work in another capacity. But thanks for your support.

John Smythe June 27th, 2007

Just to be clear (and to correct my mistake - see comment stream under my review), the comp was via an actor friend in the cast.

Thomas LaHood June 27th, 2007

Elizabeth Anne. To know that I had a complimentary ticket to Fat Pig, you must either be working for Circa or at least closely affiliated. If you have an axe to grind, why not be above board about it instead of taking potshots from the sidelines. I think it's pathetic that you would stoop to attacking me personally simply because you disagree with my criticisms of the show. I'm proud to be a clown, amateur or otherwise, and if you did see my work in a shopping mall I hope you would be noble enough to judge it upon its own integrity rather than the venue that contained it.

John Smythe June 27th, 2007

Please email venue, production company, contact person to john@theatreview.org.nz

Anon June 27th, 2007

Just heard about a great SI production - is anyone going to review it? "Jackie and Jesse had a Girl Called June". I hear the envelope was pushed and the community thrown into some upheavel. Any witnesses?

Tugol June 26th, 2007

Tut tut Elizabeth Anne. You abandon the truth for the price of a ticket!? A little low on integrity, aren't we?? Some people are not so easily bought; and others cannot be bought at all, but always say what they really think whatever the circumstances. The Elizabeth Annes of this world quite often find moral fibre irritating.

Elizabeth Anne June 26th, 2007

Correction. Sorry John, Thomas LaHood paid not a penny piece for his complimentary ticket to Fat Pig, which slightly undermines the pose of indignant, peeved punter. Personally, when I've managed to scrounge a freebie, I feel less inclined to bag and slag, lest I be thought a whinging free-loader, compromising the livelihoods of others. But that's just me, I guess. Cheers.

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A sharp, classy production of a smart, bittersweet play

Review by Lynn Freeman 15th Jun 2007

The Obesity Epidemic: De-pie school cafeterias, and take fast food ads off TV when kids are watching shows like The Biggest Loser and Downsize Me, debate over super skinny models and actresses – we are pre-occupied with size.

Neil Labute’s Fat Pig brings the Rubenseque Helen together with slim Tom, who eats what he should rather than taking pleasure in food, or even life as he ambles through it. This unlikely couple actually have everything going for them – except the powerful court of public opinion, in the form of Tom’s office workers who’re so ghastly they could be straight out of an episode of Seinfeld.

He admires Helen for not being obsessed by looks and clothing, for being "real", kind and loving. But can Tom hold out against the constant belittling of Helen’s size? She, meanwhile, is refreshingly comfortable "in her skin" but is aware of Tom’s anxieties. How far will she go to hold onto him?

These are questions at the heart of this play. It’s characteristically topical and snappy, as we expect from LaBute. But everything hinges on the actors playing Helen and Tom; and director Ross Jolly’s instinct for casting, and for LaBute’s scripts, has again come up trumps.

Emma Kinane is so natural and genuine – and funny – as Helen, that you can sense the audience is with her right from the start.  In a year that has already yielded several award-standard performances, this is another example of quality acting. She’s delicious.

Jason Whyte has just about cornered the market in roles like Tom, an everyman who never is able to reach full potential. Whyte is in top form as Tom, who you know, as he does, that he really does becomes a better man in Helen’s company. But he also knows himself to be, at heart, weak.

In the supporting roles as the horrible, scatty and shallow Jeannie is a beach-blonde Lyndee-Jane Rutherford who revels in playing such a vixen.

As the even more horrible, nasty and spiteful Carter is Toby Leach, who totally nails the guy we all "love to hate" – even if we do get to know his reasons for being so obnoxiously vile about people who don’t fit the norm.

Adding a whole new layer to the work are the audiovisuals of Andrew Brettell, who realises perfectly Jolly’s inspired idea of using images from war movies (a shared love of the lovers).

This is a sharp, classy production of a smart bittersweet American play and it comes highly recommended.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Confidence and style meet vile and vindictive

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 11th Jun 2007

Society’s long fixation with the body beautiful and the endless adverts in the media for weight lose must create tremendous pressure on those who are generously proportioned and although many over weight women do find happiness in a relationship there’s no denying that many males still put appearances far ahead of all else when looking for a partner. 

That any male could fall in love with a large lady is an anathema to most men which is the premise on which Neil LaBute has based his funny but poignant play Fat Pig – the title is in cruel reference to the central character.

After a chance encounter over lunch young up and coming executive Tom (Jason Whyte) and the bouncy, bubbly Helen, a highly intelligent and witty librarian who likes watching war movies at home during the weekend, decide to go on a date.  There’s only one problem though – Helen is somewhat over weight – not that she is worried about this – she eats because she is hungry, is totally sure of herself, and full of the joys of life. 

Tom on the other hand is not so sure.  He’s struck by her vibrancy and vitality and inwardly feels genuine emotion for her – but her size does cause him concern, big time, especially when his work mates, the despicably arrogant Carter (Toby Leach) and venomously bitchy Jeannie (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford) – who is also his ex-girlfriend – find out that he is going out with a "fatty".  

And so begins Tom’s turmoil, to follow his heart and continue dating Helen or bow to peer-pressure and dump her.  The result may be inevitable but it’s the getting there that LaBute is concerned with, continually throwing up arguments about feelings versus appearance. 

The writing, which LaBute has become famous for, is both caustic and funny as well as being tight, economical and sparse, almost too much so as there appears little motivation behind Tom suddenly becoming enamoured of Helen, their relationship moving forward so quickly that we never get to see the chemistry developing between the two. 

But in Ross Jolly’s clean and precise production, that is totally in tune with the writing, his actors go far beyond the lines to bring out all the subtles and nuances that makes the play work.  This is particularly so in Emma Kinane’s portrayal of Helen, so convincing is she that Helen is totally at ease and comfortable with her size that she has both Tom and the audience under her spell. 

It is no mean feat for an actor of ample portions, which Kinane is, to appear on stage in a play like this but Kinane does it with confidence, style and heaps of energy.   Tom’s vacillation between wanting to stick with Helen but to also conform to Carters expectations is wonderfully enacted by Whyte, a tightly coiled spring of emotion, his dropped shoulders and hang dog look conveying as much as what he says. 

Carter and Jeannie are typical LaBute characters, vile and vicious who are never backward in coning forward with their vindictiveness towards Tom, Leach and Rutherford each relishing their roles and making Tom’s anguish genuinely heartfelt. 

On a modern, clean lined and very functional set that cleverly has excerpts of war moves playing over it between scenes, each segment subtly suggestive of Tom and Helen’s growing relationship, the production plays out with pace, energy and confidence.

The ending one of the most poignantly and beautifully stage moments seen on stage in a long while. 


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A delicious ninety minutes of very relevant theatre

Review by John Smythe 10th Jun 2007

Claims that Circa doesn’t cater for Generations X and Y are roundly disproved by this visceral production of Fat Pig, another pungent comedy from Neil LaBute. Coupled with David Harrower’s Blackbird in Circa Two, the house is now full of their world and their concerns.

Which of course makes the fare entirely relevant to the Baby Boomers too, and the (relatively) Silent Generation that begat them. Any grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, colleague, employer or senior employee of the four characters in search of acceptance who populate Fat Pig will also find this curly tale, that hangs off the rump of contemporary society, compelling.

In essence, Fat Pig plumbs the depths of superficiality in a world where looking good is the key indicator of social achievement. The edgy comedy has the feel of a classic Seinfeld episode while its setting and value systems are redolent of The Office. Following The Shape of Things and The Mercy Seat, LaBute continues his exploration of weak male with strong female relationships intertwined with issues of truth and delusion in very contemporary circumstances.

Tom (Jason Whyte) has never had much trouble attracting women but he’s weak-willed when it comes to extricating himself. He works in some amorphous corporation with compulsory buddy Carter (Toby Leach) – the kinda guy it’s just easier to side with, in order to avoid his fascistic (as in treating people as objects) venom – and Jeannie (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford) from Accounts, who still thinks they have a relationship.

But we first meet Tom with no foreknowledge on his lunch break, in a crowded food hall, ingeniously evoked through a sound-scape by Jeremy Cullen and Ross Jolly, and video images by Andrew Brettell projected over a splendidly versatile panel and translucent Perspex set by John Hodgkins, lit perfectly by Lisa Maule. These video, sound and light components go on to serve the transitions from scene to scene brilliantly, maintaining energy and interest where it could easily lapse.

The only seat Tom can find happens to be next to a generously proportioned and happily noshing librarian called Helen (Emma Kinane). There is chemistry at first encounter … and they date. And Tom goes to work . And Carter and Jeannie probe, cajole and manipulate. The peer group applies pressure.

Helen has grown to accept herself the way she is, including her idiosyncratic love of old and often obscure war movies, inherited from father and brothers. Tom discovers he has never felt freer to be himself than in her great company: "I like who I am when I am with her." Yet when it comes to actually introducing her to his colleagues, and including her in his ‘real’ life … This is the true test of his manhood.

The comedy is insightful, painful and harshly reflective. The laughs come rich and hearty until the final scene, set on an ingeniously manifested beach … and I must forbear to describe the events that unfold. Suffice to say when characters sit with their backs to us and we know exactly what they are thinking and how they are feeling, we know we are in the presence of excellence.

Like the design elements (including Gillie Coxill’s costumes), the acting is indivisibly outstanding. Emma Kinane’s ebullient Helen is all she needs to be and more: impossible not to love. Jason Whyte’s Tom commands empathy with every twist and turn, constantly asking us to examine ourselves before we judge. As Carter and Jeannie, Toby Leach and Lyndee-Jane Rutherford nail their flagrant flaws with such truth, they too earn a form of respect.

Together all four interact with a sparking immediacy that is exciting to witness, even as they expose our own worst traits. The devil and moments to treasure are in their non-verbal detail. Lines that could sound prosaic uttered by lesser talents, and which are often unnecessary given their skills in communicating the subtext, are used to take us to the heart of what matters.

Director Ross Jolly must be commended for bringing together a creative team who, with the solid support of the production team, deliver a delicious ninety minutes of very relevant theatre.


Circa July 19th, 2007

The Circa production of Fat Pig used the latest, revised script. Since the original publication La Bute has made substantial rewrites and revisions. In the up-dated version, the end sequence has been significantly restructured and reduced. Hope this is helpful.

Helen Sims July 17th, 2007

Maybe not the entire final 2 pages but the ending was substantially cut ... and it is a bit of a different play as a result. Read the script if you really want to find out! But that is the Director's prerogative (provided of course she/he has permission from the writer or his/her agent!) I thought it served the overall purpose of the play that Ross was putting forward.

John Smythe July 16th, 2007

This from Circa: "No – the rumour is untrue. Ross did not cut the last two pages off La Bute’s script for this production."

DeepHeat July 15th, 2007

Can anyone verify a rumour I heard that Jolly cut the last two pages off LaBute's script for this production?

not me June 25th, 2007

unbelievable, boring, and old

John Smythe June 23rd, 2007

Thanks, Harry. Anyone who posts to this site can expect to be challenged – myself included. No problem there. All I’m suggesting is that if you are bored, for example, at a show, you ask yourself why. Is it because you’d rather be somewhere else, you’re dying for a drink, you’re in love and have a poem rattling round in your head that you want to write down … Or is it actually something to do with the play and/or production. If so, what? Any good professional loves to get constructive feedback. And given this is “a court of public opinion” I agree it is perfectly legitimate to suggest some ‘rules of evidence’ that elevate debate above something akin to playground text bullying. But given it’s not a moderated site, I can't 'legislate' for that. However if anyone, be they “young and passionate” or "old and crusty" is also “incoherent” or unwilling to justify their opinions, they must expect to be challenged. Fair enough?

Harry June 22nd, 2007

" ... coherent and credible debate that interrogates the substantive questions, issues and concerns with rigour, integrity and some semblance of justice. That is exactly my vision for this site ..." Oh John, give it a bone! Do you REALLY only want boring old farts on your site? For gods sake encourage the young and passionate and incoherent! If you demand 'evidence' of every honest response and refuse to take any notice of reactions to plays that aren't backed up by justifications that neet your approval (and 'Polly''s of course) you are condemning this site to ridicule yourself! Many theatre practitioners don't work this way! You'll end up with a dry little stable of crusty old penpushers and pseudo academics and completely lose touch with what's really going on and being argued about out there!

John Smythe June 22nd, 2007

Correction. Thomas bought his own ticket then posted a comment to my review. And personally, karmic inevitabilities notwithstanding, I'd rather we played the 'ball' not the person from this point on.

Elizabeth Anne June 22nd, 2007

Thomas La Hood, self-proclaimed accent expert and trainee clown, should be commended for introducing to the lexicon the new verb: “LaHood”. LaHood: v. To attend a gathering or function on a free ticket, bag it, and completely miss the point. As Tom threatens, we can expect further anonymous “LaHooding” here on his Uncle John’s website and I for one can hardly wait. Seriously, Thomas, why not stick to being a clown? You do seem to demonstrate a particular talent for it. Hope to catch your act on Red Nose Day in a handy mall some time soon. Just kidding. Neil La Boot.

Kate June 22nd, 2007

'Old' and 'Boring'? Methinks not. Neil LaBute writes about the human condition... and he takes no prisoners in his plays. In an interview for Salt Lake City Weekly (an Ameican paper!) LaBute says "We humans are a fairly barbarous bunch... We abuse people through words. We shred each other with what we say." "If you look at the way the characters interact with each other," he said, "they're likely to take the easy path. We live in a disposable society. It's easier to throw things out than to fix them. We even give it a name — we call it recycling. Especially as relationships go, we're too quick to say the easiest way is to end it because we don't want to do the work." This guy is interesting! This playwright is not boring! And if you have a problem with the production, back it up! Though I feel through now seeing many productions of LaBute's work, that Circa's "FatPig" is A-class stuff. Great actors, great set, hilarious yet perfect 90s music. An overall cleverly designed production. If you disagree, please deign to give intelligent answers.

Not that young, not very hungry. June 22nd, 2007

"In a hard-fought contest, the “sound and fury signifying nothing” prize goes to ‘nty, nvh’." Neat. I'm a winner. Although in the "broad reply with no specifics" contest, you get the gold. Polly might be a great flagship for the site, but her 'reasons' for dismissing other opinions were too flawed for me to take seriously.

John Smythe June 22nd, 2007

In a hard-fought contest, the “sound and fury signifying nothing” prize goes to ‘nty, nvh’. I want to thank Polly A for attempting to elevate the discussion above petty insults and ridicule a “coherent and credible” debate that interrogates the substantive questions, issues and concerns with rigour, integrity and some semblance of justice. That is exactly my vision for this site. And yes, I know that statement, too, will be ridiculed. Ah well …

Not that young, not very hungry. June 22nd, 2007

This site rulz. Only on this site could I come home and find such pointless argument coming from someone who – because their ego got a little whipped – spent half the night defending themself until they unravelled whatever it was they were talking about. I don’t usually comment on the weird arguments happening here, and I haven’t seen this play, but holy shit – Polly! “To describe a play as 'boring' and 'old' is perfectly valid”...'Sigh. The difference between ‘a play’ and ‘the play’ – are you wilfully misreading the argument in order to score a point, ‘Tugol’?' – Dumb point. Petty. The difference is negligible. Let it go. "Once more: applying ‘boring and old’ to this particular play and production is what I’ve described as ‘invective’ because those words make no sense in this particular case, and bear no relation to the criticisms Thomas had previously posted." – If someone finds it boring and old because those words make sense to them whilst they’re describing the play, who cares if Thomas said it or not – and who are you to say if that makes sense or not?!?…. How does that make it less valid? No, don’t answer, I don’t wanna hear. Again – petty. Let it go. "And for you, ‘Jenny McK’, Fat Pig is proven to be ‘boring and old’ because you saw it. Gosh. This display of evidence is underwhelming." – No, that’s not what Jenny said. She said the words ‘boring’ and ‘old’ made sense to her because she saw it (and found it to be boring and old), not that it was proven to be boring and old because she saw it. Now you’re embarrassing yourself. Petty. Let it go. "I am pointing out that you have failed to present a coherent or credible case." - Oh. Law is your game. Wow. You’re AWESOME at it. Will you be on Boston Legal soon? Post your cell number so we can hire you when we need to be bummed out in front of a judge.

Polly A June 22nd, 2007

I am pointing out that you have failed to present a coherent or credible case. If you are unable to interrogate yourself as to why you were bored then share your response with us, why bother to put yourself on the witness stand at all? The jury has no option but to disregard your comments.

Jenny McK June 21st, 2007

Hey I don' t need to provide evidence to prove how I feel about something! That's how I feel, and that's that, I tht the play was bloody boring. If you didn't Polly that's OK, live and let live but I object to you telling me or anyone else that our responses 'don't make sense', apparently just because you felt differently.

Polly A June 21st, 2007

I see. So all romantic comedies are ‘banal’ for you, ‘not me’. Thank you for clearing that up. And for you, ‘Jenny McK’, Fat Pig is proven to be ‘boring and old’ because you saw it. Gosh. This display of evidence is underwhelming. You’ve sprung me, Anonny. Law is my game. But I’m looking for basic justice here, not ‘dense’. Do we have a case here that’s worthy of prosecution? I don’t think so. We are wasting the time of the court of public opinion. Time to move on?

Anonny June 21st, 2007

It 'makes no sense', it seems to me Whenever grumpy Polly doesn't agree I'm afraid only dense legalese will do to make boring old Polly agree with you

Jenny McK June 21st, 2007

well Boring and Old "in this particular case" make a whole lot sense to ME, I saw it

not me June 21st, 2007

what's banal about it is it's basically a rom-com until the last five minutes

Polly A June 21st, 2007

Sigh. The difference between ‘a play’ and ‘the play’ – are you wilfully misreading the argument in order to score a point, ‘Tugol’? Once more: applying ‘boring and old’ to this particular play and production is what I’ve described as ‘invective’ because those words make no sense in this particular case, and bear no relation to the criticisms Thomas had previously posted. To ‘Not me’ I concede ‘fear of difference’ was a poor choice of phrase (although it’s exactly right for Jeanie and Carter) – and suggest ‘fear of banality’ is equally inappropriate. Or perhaps you can explain exactly what is ‘banal’ about LaBute’s play and/or this Circa production. Or am I misreading you now?

Tugol June 21st, 2007

I completely disagree Polly. To describe a play as 'boring' and 'old' is perfectly valid, and can't be dismissed as 'invective'. You're digging a bit of a hole for yourself, girl. Just because someone may not indulge in screeds of tightly argued criticism doesn't mean their opinions are any less respectable than anyone else's. (In fact, frequently the terse honest comment in words of one syllable is much closer to the mark!)

not me June 21st, 2007

'Fear of difference'? Please. Try 'fear of banality'.

Polly A June 21st, 2007

Now I must explain myself more clearly. “Small-minded people who lead very small lives, using mindlessly insensitive invective to disparage those who are different, in order to boost their fragile egos” is a specific reference to the characters Carter and Jeannie in the play – characters who challenge the desire on Tom to follow his heart and his higher brain, if you like, in his attraction to Helen. I noted that “Fat Pig looks, in part” at such people. To challenge this by asking “What kind of people are attracted to plays about ‘small-minded people …’ etc” suggests a rather strange view of theatre’s function in the world. Theatre is full of flawed people – thank God. What’s the alternative – propaganda? The live theatre version of training videos promoting good human behaviour? Of course I respect “genuine criticism” and “those who put time and thought into brave imaginative responses to plays, whether we agree with them or not, and then work at developing a culture of positive dialog from our differences”. But writing Fat Pig off as “BORING and OLD” does not fit any such categories, and that is what provoked my noting the parallel with those who use “mindlessly insensitive invective …” to justify their rejection (their fear?) of difference. That said, if this thread contributes to lifting the standard of well argued, rigorous, challenging, constructive criticism, then every bit of it has value.

Anonny June 21st, 2007

Go Thomas. We should put our energy into supporting those who put time and thought into brave imaginative responses to plays, whether we agree with them or not, and then work at developing a culture of positive dialog from our differences. Otherwise nothing will improve. I think that with the culture we currently have, with too many people clearly far more interested in attacking individuals than addressing the argument, pseudonyms are essential.

Thomas LaHood June 21st, 2007

Here are my final words on this: The reason I suggested taking the option of re-setting this play in NZ was that, on the night I saw the show, the cast collectively lapsed out of their accents, which was extremely distracting. Eric Gardiner, please note that this was far from the only criticism I posted about this show. Outside of this comment stream I have been accused of attacking Circa for personal motive, which is pathetic, but as such any further invective I vent on this site will be pseudonymous. Finally I have to concur with Jamie, above. People who reject negative commentary outright are as narrow-minded as those they rail at, if not more so. Never forget, that not everybody has to, or will, love the same theatre; Nor is there ever such a thing as a 'perfect review'.

Eric Gardiner June 21st, 2007

If all people have to complain about is the accents in Fat Pig, which, incidently, having an American partner, I thought were solid and consistant as did she, then to condem a play because of this seems extremely childish. As for the notion about setting the play in N.Z -- well -- It's an American play, set in America, written by an American about the American way of life. Why is it that some supposed informed, psudo -intellectuals think that every play performed should be transformed to a New Zealand setting. I think we are intelligent enough to accept there is actually a world out there for goodness sake!

jamie June 20th, 2007

Whew, Polly! What kind of people are attracted to plays about "small-minded people who lead very small lives, using mindlessly insensitive invective to disparage those who are different, in order to boost their fragile egos ..." ? The kind of people who dismiss genuine criticism as small minded, perhaps?

Zia June 20th, 2007

Hmmm. Don't be quite so sure that "Joe Public" can't tell a shocking accent when they hear it! The arrogance!

Heather OCarroll June 20th, 2007

I think suspension of disbelief is a toug call for those of us embedded in this industry. I envy Joe Public who can go along to see theatre without noticing those dropped lines, missed cues and dodgy accents. So it was so exciting for me to go along to see Fat Pig on its opening night and be able to turn off my critical and analyitcal faculties and just be thoroughly entertained by the thouroughly committed efforts of this amazing cast and crew! I came out of Circa that night buzzing and that hasn't happened to me with a theatre show in Wellington for a long time. So go team go! Also just quietly I think Toby Leach may just be a comic genius.

Polly A June 20th, 2007

Fat Pig looks, in part, at small-minded people who lead very small lives, using mindlessly insensitive invective to disparage those who are different, in order to boost their fragile egos. It strikes me that some of these comments have descended to the same level. Perhaps the play is just too close to home for those who don’t like it.

Eric Gardiner June 19th, 2007

Sorry to disagree Mr. LaHood and Anon#2 but all the feedback I have heard from a great number of people rates Fat Pig an extremely well performed, well directed play

Thomas LaHood June 19th, 2007

Yeah, I detect a note of self-congratulation here, John. I went to Fat Pig because I heard so many great reviews about it; I feel gratified that Ms.Booth and anonymous others recognise it as BORING and OLD.

Anon#2 June 18th, 2007

Hmmm. Word of mouth I've been hearing puts the last 3 (?) in a distinct minority.

John Smythe June 18th, 2007

Thank you Moya - I couldn't have put it better myself.

Moya Bannerman June 17th, 2007

I concur - the accents are not an issue at all, the acting is detailed and delicious, the play is beautifully structured and the production is impeccable. Any play that refuses to allow you to be a passive observer - demands empathetic involvement and recognition of unpalatable truths - has got to be good.

anon June 17th, 2007

On the night I attended Fat Pig I did not notice any inconsistency in the accents, so I am lost as to why such a big deal is being made about this. Perhaps the actors faltered in another performance? I cannot be sure, but I find it hard to believe that they would do so as much as to justify this argument. And I cannot for the life of me understand why the first 80 minutes has been described on this forum as ‘drek’ and ‘tedious’. I personally left the play feeling that I’d just watched a darn good piece of theatre. In my eyes, and in many others’ with whom I have spoken/debated about the play, it is a sassy, absorbing and truthful production with fantastic acting and slick direction. As for the music and film clips, I interpreted the film clips as both an externalisation of Tom and Helen’s relationship and an emphasis that life isn’t like it is in the movies. Which leads us to question why? These transitions, along with the music, (which I felt enhanced and maintained the energy of the piece), are far more refreshing and effective as opposed to the usual blackouts, and they are very well suited to this play. As a generation Y, I would most definitely not prefer to take home a La Bute DVD. It is one of the best plays I have seen all year, and from what I hear it’s doing very well. I encourage everyone to go and see it if they haven’t already.

Tugol June 17th, 2007

Thomas - if the point of the play is lost if the play's location is abandoned, then no. Find actors who can do the accent or don't do the play. Most old classics can be re-set in NZ (or neutral-land) with little problem, and often are - but new plays nearly always need to be set where written. In these cases an actor's accent skill should be an essential part of their audition - in the professional theatre at least.

Thomas LaHood June 17th, 2007

There surely must be a point at which you must be prepared to drop the accents, if the suspension of disbelief is threatened?

Marc June 17th, 2007

Martyn - I don't get your point?

Heather OCarroll June 16th, 2007

I find the whole debate over the use of accents tiresome. When I performed in 'The Shape of Things' by Mr LaBute both in Wellington and more recently in Christchurch the question was raised by both critics and audience alike. My answer was that we were playing American charcters in an American setting in an American play written by an American with American rhythms and vernacular. Basically the question of relocating it to a New Zealand setting didn't come up and I believe wasn't necessary. As an actor I relish the opportunity t o play characters as far away from myself as possible, emotionally, physicallly and geographically. Surely we don't expect actors to limit themselves to performing only with Kiwi accents, an accent is another challenge of the craft to be embraced! Personally one of the greatest compliments we received while doing 'The Shape of Things' was the assumption by many audience members (genuine Americans included!)that we were actually American. Don't get me wrong an inconsisitent accent annoys me as much as the next person but I don't think it's a good enough reason to forfeit the original intention of the playwright.

John Smythe June 15th, 2007

Last night I saw a Toi Whakaari 2nd year cast do Betty's Summer Vacation (on till 22 June). For a while I thought sure, this could be in a Kiwi setting with people totally conditioned by American TV ... But the whole point turns out to be to satirise what American media audiences demand and lust after. It has to be American. And they do it brilliantly, by the way.

martyn roberts June 15th, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean - At Worlds End is the most boring drek I've seen all year. Johnny Depp phones the performance in and as for Orlando - HELLO! Did anyone see you? Keira's accent was grating and as for comprehension - forget about a plot line cause there wasn't one.

Tugol June 14th, 2007

We can forgive a shaky accent in an amateur production. But there is no excuse for a professional actor cast in a professional production that requires an accent not carrying it off convincingly. This is what they are paid for, and what we the audience pay for. If they are not good at it, they should do their homework until they are, or deserve and accept all the criticism they get; it's simply not acceptable.

Elizabeth Booth June 14th, 2007

I agree in some ways with Thomas - the first 80 minutes were indeed 'drek', the accents weren't consistent enough. The segues were tediously long, with the video clips chosen only tenuously related to the production, the music overly loud, and the fact that these had almost certainly been included as a device to cover lengthy set and costume changes irking. These interludes also destroyed the momentum and mood of the script, such as it was. I, unfortunately, found the last ten minutes as dull and as predictable as anything before it. This scene only served to emphasis how little I knew or cared about the characters, and how little the script really had to say about the issues it supposedly dealt with. This was then followed by a bizarre video finale that bore little or no discernible relation to the script or the rest of the production. Also, as a member of the much vaunted 'generation X and Y' demographic, I must say that I personally did not feel ‘catered to’. I felt condescended to.

Thomas LaHood June 14th, 2007

I follow your reasoning John but I maintain that in this production the accents hampered the performances. The urban commercial setting may be American in origin but is as much a part of New Zealand's reality as, say, Washington's. These characters are quite at home in Auckland or Wellington and could be directly transplanted without any problems. That's part of LaBute's point, these people are more informed by TV than by their community, and as both you and Lynn Freeman namecheck Seinfeld in your reviews of this show I have to say the same issue holds for us down here in the Antipodes.

John Smythe June 13th, 2007

Well Thomas, you clearly did not see the same performance I did. You are of course entirely welcome to your opinions, observations and value judgements. I will, however, argue about the accent issue. I’d agree if the performances were more about doing the accents than being the characters – but they’re not (not the way I saw it). I used to feel relocating imported works was a good idea and generally think it’s the way to go with translated plays (Ibsen, Chekhov, Brecht …) and most of Shakespeare, especially those not set in England. But when it comes to contemporary plays from Britain or America, the danger with bringing our ‘own voices’ to them is that they begin to masquerade as our plays; our stories. It’s a practice that arguably may contribute more to the cultural cringe than reduce it. Such works, thoroughly refined before they reach our shores, come from sensibilities that are not ours at the core. By comparison new New Zealand works, delivered in the same voices, could suffer by odious comparison, especially in their early stages of life. While Kiwi actors doing accents may not be entirely authentic, it may be more honest when it comes to representing the voices of the writers and cultures in question.

Thomas LaHood June 13th, 2007

One from the ‘was this the same play I saw?’ file… Fat Pig is definitely written for first-world consumer societies like ours. LaBute’s script is relevant for its counterpoint to the falsehoods of ‘Shallow Hal’ style comedies about acceptance. It boasts a refreshing finale that is far more truthful than the turgid third acts of such Hollywood rom-coms. Compelling, however, it is not, at least not in this production where the last, beautiful ten minutes cannot hope to redeem the 80 minutes of drek that precede them. I particularly want to ask Jolly why his cast have to labour under American accents? These are all talented performers, but all four of them lapse constantly into Kiwi, especially at key emotional moments. To my mind there is no reason for this imposition, as the story could easily be located in New Zealand. Jolly references Mamet and Tennessee Williams in the liner notes, a further implication that he has made little effort to connect this play with a New Zealand audience. It’s unfair on the cast, who are clearly great, but end up looking forced. As for the “video, sound and light components” that “serve the transitions from scene to scene brilliantly”, to my thinking they do the complete opposite. Each scene ends abruptly with a blast of loud music and a tenuously related video clip that do more to distract from the dramatic flow than service it. These ‘segues’ are cringe-inducing and redundant. Far from “maintaining energy and interest”, they are an instant turn-off. On the night I attended they were not interesting enough to stop the audience from fidgeting and yawning through the scenes they punctuated. By contrast, the costumes, set and lighting design are slick and functional, and as mentioned before, the talented cast kept me (just) interested enough to stay for the admittedly moving finale. However, from my perspective, punters from Generation X and Y might prefer to take home one of LaBute’s movies on DVD – at least the Americans will sound right. Rather than commend Ross Jolly, I would like to express my disappointment at his taking a great team and an interesting script, and bringing forth from them such disingenuous results.

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