Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

01/12/2017 - 09/12/2017

HEART AND MUSIC Festival 2017

Production Details

The premiere of an original musical written by Wellington Footlights members Laura Gardner (book and lyrics) and Katie Morton (music): Flatline with Two Sugars.  

Lucie has an unnatural gift – she learns a person’s cause and time of death whenever she touches them. Her life has left her isolated, but the bright show lets us into a learning curve that is part paranormal, part romance, and all heart.

She works in a cafe for Jake and does her best to keep people at a distance, and avoids personal relationships at all costs. But when she meets the charismatic Ana, she gives into temptation and sets off a chain of events that leaves her scrambling to live with the consequences of interfering with fate.

Footlights is very excited to present this original work in its first ever production. In this magical world, which could be that cafe down the road, you will find yourself asking do you really want to know? And what would you do if you knew?

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street 
December 1, 5, 7, 9

Part of the HEART AND MUSIC Festival, November 30 – December 9, 2017
Tickets are available through https://events.ticketbooth.co.nz/events/26180  
Come for one, come for all! There’s an option for everyone.
Only $25 for one show ($20 concession tickets available), or
$35 for both shows on the same night.
For true value, audience members can see all four shows across two nights for just $60.

Lucie: Ellie Stewart
Ana: Cassandra Tse
Cara: India Loveday
Jake: Kevin Orlando
Markus/Ensemble: Darryn Woods
Douchebag/Ensemble: Vishan Appanna
Auntie Charlie/Ensemble: Renee Iosefa Neil
Busker/Policeman/Ensemble: Alex Rabina
Mugger/Morgan/Ensemble: Ruby Kemp
Parent/Max/Ensemble: Preya Gothanayagi

Stage Manager: Samantha Burnard
Sound Designer: Madison Reid LeClerc
Lighting Designer: Darryn Woods 

Theatre , Musical ,

Strong premise and singing

Review by Tim Stevenson 02nd Dec 2017

Flatline With Two Sugars, now on at the Gryphon Theatre, takes a strong idea and does a commendable job of making musical theatre out of it. There’s lots of good things in this production, most of which involve the music and singing. The performance I saw last night had other aspects, mostly connected with the book, the acting and the ensemble work, that didn’t quite come off. It’s a piece that’s always interesting, often enjoyable to watch but also sometimes frustrating when it doesn’t quite make it.

The seed idea is: a young woman is burdened with the gift of knowing when and how someone is going to die if she touches them. Lucie, the woman in question, finds this knowledge so unpleasant and off-putting that she has chosen, up until now, to avoid personal relationships. Then Ana turns up in the cafe where Lucie works as a barista and asks her out. Lucie is interested but has qualms about breaking her own rule; but then she does – and this, according to the rules of supernatural prevision (apparently), has all sorts of consequences, mostly bad, which give us the material for the plot.  

How Lucie deals with her superpower is a nice, workable metaphor for dealing with/avoiding the risks of personal relationship, or maybe any emotion involving other people. It also makes a pleasantly spooky story in its own right.

What lifts the story idea up several notches is that it’s located squarely in a contemporary urban hipster-ish Kiwi setting, which gives it an added dimension as a commentary on how we do relationships today. This dimension is interesting in itself: it makes watching the play a bit like looking in a mirror, checking how we look, then wondering if that’s how we want to look. It also gives a local audience the pleasure of recognising the familiar bits: I go to a cafe like that, I know a barista like that, I know someone who talks exactly like that. There’s even a quick ‘breastfeeding in cafes’ gag, straight out of yesterday’s Stuff.

While Lucie’s doubtful gift makes a great starting point, the play struggles somewhat with the challenge of working out a satisfying resolution. By the end of the play [spoiler alert coming], Lucie has made progress in the sense that she has actively used her powers of perception for good and helped two other people. Now, she is retiring to the country to consider her next steps, taking her still unresolved predicament with her.[ends] It’s okay as an ending, but bigger questions raised by the play, about how we deal with the knowledge that everyone dies, are left hanging.

This point about the play’s search for a resolution involves more than just Lucie, and more than just the final scene. There’s a motif at work all the way through, of people trying and failing to connect with each other – and maybe, in the end, that’s the observation about human life we’re being invited to take away with us.

In terms of format, Flatline With Two Sugars has lots of straight dialogue interspersed with songs. The songs were the best part of last night’s performance. The melodies are nicely crafted to fit the action and mood of the moment, and are admirably performed by a capable band.

Ellie Stewart as Lucie puts in a strong, sensitive performance and deserves credit for her hard work and versatility. India Loveday as Cara is in glorious voice and always a pleasure to listen to. Cassandra Tse gives a charismatic and convincing performance in the role of the alluring Ana. Some of the ensemble singing is lovely. 

The production isn’t as strong when it comes to the sequences of straight dialogue. Particularly at the beginning, people talk too fast and not loud enough, which means that too many lines die before they reach the audience (or some of the audience, anyway; the layout of the seating doesn’t help). The group scenes could use more energy, conviction and polish.

The dialogue itself has a tendency to be jerky, clipped and prosaic, although this may have been deliberate. Is the play making the point that we Kiwis not only swallow our vowels, we tend to swallow our emotions as well – unless, of course, there’s a sports game or a cycleway involved. If that is the case, the writer, director and cast are all too successful in getting the point across.

A special mention to Aaron Blackledge and Darryn Woods (Lighting Design) for getting the lighting signal to show that Lucie has just had another psychic revelation just right.  

(For further information about Flatline With Two Sugars and the Wellington Footlight Theatre’s current four-show production, of which this show is a part, go to: https://sites.google.com/view/heart-and-music/ )


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