BATS Theatre, Wellington

24/11/2009 - 05/12/2009

Production Details


Join forces in this dark comic story of a petrol station, set amongst the bright lights of K’ Road. Hold on to your seats… GAS is coming to Wellington audiences!

Is this happening to you?

Fiscal demands affecting your small business?

Addiction to SquiggleTops getting out of control? 

Do you really believe the recession is over?

Pyramid selling not working out?

Are the heathens on the street begging for a baptism by fire?

Has the price of petrol come down?

Membership to the Live Action Role Playing Association expired?

Exhausted your internet search for an affordable sex change holiday?

If so, GAS is back!
After a successful premiere in Auckland 2008 with Thomas Sainsbury, GAS travels to Wellington for an even bigger 2009.  Conrad Newport (Entertaining Mr Sloane, Le Sud, Niu Sila) directs your favourite petrol station workers as they share their ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances.

Cameron, Lillith, Shantilal, Kavita and Desirae are manning the stations ready to pump you a tank full of 91 high octane fun… bring your fuel dockets for 4c discount at the door. 

"After the show I made a beeline to get myself a pie, chips and toffee pops… and found myself voyeuristically curious about the lives behind the faces behind the counter… Its high-octane humour will have you laughing and cringing magnanimously – and long after you leave the venue." Sian Robertson, Theatreview, June 2008 

It’s not everyday you see a Cambodian, Sri Lankan and 3 Pakeha on stage together.  GAS is supported by Asia New Zealand Foundation and prides itself on representing a multicultural workforce as they collide with each other in a modern day New Zealand metropolis.  Who says you can’t have fun on a minimum wage?

"I thought it was an example of rough theatre at its very best. In certain ways the play had an immediacy that is often lacking in more conventional theatre.  It was indeed a night of rollicking entertainment."
Elizabeth McRae, ONZM, August 2008

Sarita So (1st Cambodian Graduate of Toi Whakaari, The Pillowman, The Not All India Radio Show)
Rashmi Pilapitiya (1st Sri Lankan Graduate of Toi Whakaari, POSTAL, Shortland Street)
Toby Leach (Toi Whakaari Graduate, Wheelers Luck, Outrageous Fortune)
Yvette Parsons (Entertaining Mr Sloane, Silent Night – ATC Next Stage)
Kate Prior (Toi Whakaari Graduate, My Name is Rachel Corrie – Court Theatre, HEAT – STAB, Doubt – ATC) 

VENUE:  BATS Theatre
1 Kent Terrace, Wellington 

Tuesday 24 November
to Saturday 5 December
(No show Sunday 29 November or Monday 30 November).

$18 waged
$13 unwaged
$15 groups 8+

Bookings:  04 802 4175

Desirae, Kevin, Abraham, Casino punter:  Yvette Parsons
Cameron, Tony, Bartholomew, Pastor Castor, Kevin, Croupier, AndrewToby Leach
ShantilalRashmi Pilapitiya
Konita, Gangsta, Aroha and SolomanSarita So
Lillith, David, Casino punterKate Prior

Co-producers:  Rashmi Pilapitiya & Yvette Parsons
Lighting Design:  Jennifer Lal
Graphic Design:  Ed Watson & Toby Leach
Set Design:  Conrad Newport   
Builder:  Daniel Beban
Set Art Work:  Rodney Baxter & Kate Prior
Photography:  Jonathan Brugh

Too much

Review by Lynn Freeman 02nd Dec 2009

This is a case of too many characters and too many themes crammed into too short a time. The programme lists the themes: sect-based religion, immigration, solo-parenting, sexual identity crises and inflation. Phew.

And that’s a pity because Thomas Sainsbury has some truly original ideas packed into this 85 minute play, and his cast who’ve worked with it on it have added some terrific little touches of their own to their quirky characters.

Unfortunately, it loses its way about half way through, and never really recovers. It goes from charmingly silly to extremely silly to frustratingly silly.

The tale is set at a petrol station, where a gathering of misfits are facing redundancy. Several have been there for many years, lost souls with no other career choices.

The charmingly simple Desirae (Yvette Parsons) searches for love in all the wrong places, notably with the conflicted Shantilal (Rashmi Pilapitiya). Station manager Cameron (Toby Leach in his element with this and all his caricatures in the show) is desperate to keep the station going,

Sarita So has excellent presence as solo mum Konita, trying to feed her three sons and get out of the poverty trap. The fifth and new member of the team is the damaged mad religious zealot Lilith and Kate Prior is a delight in the role.

Really the best thing that could happen to these characters is for the place to shut down and for them to make new lives for themselves. But that depends how you see the station – a haven for lost souls or a black hole.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.   


Editor December 6th, 2009

This is Lynn Freeman's full review of GAS, replacing the severly truncated version that appeared in last Wednesday's Capital Times. It is published here with CT's agreement.

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A joyous, energetic experiment

Review by Uther Dean 01st Dec 2009

Trouble is brewing at a certain Fletcher Challenge (they still exist?!) petrol station in Auckand. The company is in financial strife and one of the stations is going to have to close, but manager Cameron (Toby Leach) has a plan or two.

New employee Lilith (Kate Prior) is dealing with her conflicted and somewhat impure feelings toward her faith, her father (Leach again), her brother (Also Leach) and most especially Shantilal (Rashmi Pilapitiya) a transgendered Sikh saving towards a sex change. Shantilal has issues of his own which are only going to be made worse by Konita (Sarita So) a scheming gambling addict solo mother from Cambodia.

Hyperactively jigging through all of this is Duty Manager Desirae (Yvette Parsons) who if not actually mentally handicapped in some way has definitely had a bit too much Ribena.

Gas‘s plot twists, flicks and judders along at an uneven pace, seemingly unsure for a lot of the time whether it wants to be happening or not. It does not help that the play feels rather bloated at 90 minutes and needs a real bit of a trim.

Apart from this desperately needed tighten, Conrad Newport’s direction is assured and even handed. Newport’s set of abstracted lines on the floor and flat pack cartoon signs creates a deliciously changeable space that Newport and the cast fill with vigour and skill. Jennifer Lal’s lights, as always, are a perfect compliment to the work.

Gas sits in an odd land tonally. It flicks between pantomimesque bawdy comedy to eye-scrapingly dark comedy to dull stretches which seems either to be far too portentous for their own good or they have simply forgotten to add jokes. Shantilal is the only character who you feel any kind of connection with, the rest being such deliberate and grotesque caricatures that they very quickly stop amusing and start to grate. Which is odd.

These are all very clearly talented performers, they commit to their performances and are gracious in allowing each other to take turns chewing the scenery. They all demonstrate incredible and impressive range when portraying the sizable supporting cast. I can’t really put my finger on it but it just seems to generally fall flat. What should be hilarious comic set pieces clot slightly and just don’t ring funny.

The best metaphor for the play sits in the character of Desirae, she hyperactively flings herself at everyone around her, desperate to impress with her knowledge and humour and heart, but her sheer unremitted commitment to somewhat lacking material makes her more of an irritant than a pleasure.

There is a liveness, an edge to Gas that you don’t really see in the theatre these days. It has no pretensions towards polish or completeness. It tries so valiantly, so violently to get by on pure grit and charm and it’s almost a pity that it just doesn’t. Gas is simply too rushed, too mishy-mash, too frayed carpet to be good.

Don’t get me wrong, when it hits it hits. When it is funny it is hilarious. It just doesn’t hit that mark, that level nearly enough. This is Gas‘ second incarnation and one can only assume that it is an improvement over the first time round, but there are still many areas to be improved and mediated and moderated. Gas is an experiment, a joyous, energetic experiment but still a failed experiment.
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Gas fails to ignite

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 26th Nov 2009

Gas is a contemporary pantomime for adults set in a gas station on Auckland’s K Road, and it is performed as if it were a cartoon for children by a multi-cultural cast consisting of a Cambodian, a Sri Lankan and three Pakeha.

The gas station is under threat of closure and its manager, Cameron (Toby Leach), rallies his workers to do their all to keep it afloat, including taking on an extra worker, Lilith (Kate Prior), who is prepared to accept no pay because she can then spread the Word on the Devil’s playground, K Road. Lilith is having problems with her fundamentalist upbringing, her weird brother and her bible-thumping father.

Four of the actors play a number of parts each but Rashmi Pilapitiya plays only one character, the most interesting and sympathetic of the lot, Shantilal, a trans-gender Sikh, whose sexuality is a problem for Lilith, but then all sex is a problem for her.

Other characters include Konita (Sarita So), a gambling Cambodian solo mum with three kids, Desirae (Yvette Parsons), a simpleton fool with a heart of gold, Tony, a camp male prostitute, and Cameron who dreams up outlandish criminal schemes to keep the station supplied with petrol.

Underneath all the rough, noisy comedy and its well-plotted adventures about a night raid on another gas station, a visit to Pastor Castor’s church, and to a casino there are some serious points hinted at such as "sect-based religion, immigration, solo-parenting, sexual identity and inflation."

However, for all its topical references, its atypical characters, its sympathy for the underdogs of the economic crisis, and the odd moments when we are meant to be affected emotionally, Gas, in the end trivializes and undermines its good intentions. 
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A comic gem

Review by John Smythe 25th Nov 2009

Deceptively light in its broad multicultural Kiwi commedia style, Gas is a pumping comedy that taps a rich vein of minimum wage-earners’ lifestyles to produce a volatile blend of stories that swirl – quite dangerously, at its climax – about a fiscally-challenged service station.

Since it was devised last year for its Auckland debut by its cast of five with writer/director Thomas Sainsbury, Toby Leach and Yvette Parsons have revised the text, and Parsons and Rashmi Pilapitiya have formed Shamon Productions to produce it. Now Leach, Parsons and Pilapitiya (who were all in the original cast) have brought Gas south to be joined by director Conrad Newport, two new actors (Sarita So and Kate Prior) and lighting designer Jennifer Lal.

Book-ended by a motivational team-building song, the play milks the underbelly of urban society to curdle the lives of the variously conflicted characters who work at a K Road Challenge service station with a shaky bottom line. And true to the classic conventions of comedy, conflicts are confronted, obstacles are overcome and all is happily resolved in the end.  

Shift manager Cameron and his longest-serving staff member Desirae connive and contrive to save their service station from going under. Meanwhile Sikh Sri Lankan Shanital, Cambodian Konita (originated as Indian Kavita by Rina Patel) and Christian Lilith (first created by Tahi-Mapp Borren) wrestle with their various demons …

In a simple set featuring the service counter and a taped-out floor-plan, designer/director Conrad Newport ensures the underlying humanity remains rooted in truth as the broadly-drawn characters crack the pace along.  

It is his admirable loyalty to his staff of misfits that drives Toby Leach’s staunch, blokey Cameron – the most grounded character – to bend the law to secure their survival.

Yvette Parson’s Desirae is an inspired clown character, desperate to please yet chronically incapable of making friends. While her otherwise humorous vocal characteristics do make some lines hard to fathom, her passion for re-enacting the classic conflicts of epic films does have an excellent pay-off in making her an unwitting hero, despite her scary inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

As the trans-gender Sikh, saving for the operation, Shanital, Rashmi Pilapitiya distils a deep-felt identity crisis that commands our empathy while delivering much fish-out-of-water comedy. The universal desire for love and understanding is well pitted against the questions of ethnicity, faith and actual gender.

The need to supplement her minimum wage preoccupies Sarita So’s Konita, a solo mother of three small boys. As she wrestles with the high-0ctane commitment versus low return paradox of pyramid-selling ‘FastLoss’ to the gullible, her formidable manipulation of people’s emotions is almost excusable.

Given Auckland’s K Road is a notorious ‘Devil’s playground’, it is a surprise when devout fundamentalist Lillith turns up looking for a job. But her mission is to save the damned, not to mention getting some respite from her repressive father Pastor Castor and her creepy brother Bartholomew (both memorably portrayed by Leach). Kate Prior’s Lillith is a veritable symphony of inner conflicts, conveying the dangers of oppression and repression with great eloquence.

As an ensemble they also sketch in bit-parts and cameos, and voice their own sound-effects for sliding door, phones, sirens – and, in a superbly rendered casino scene, poker machines and a roulette wheel.

Fear-based religious intolerance generates the dramatic climax and the day is saved by chaotically comical intervention. The prevailing theme of our needing to accept difference and diversity if we wish to survive as a species is there in the underlying moral without being over-stated.

Don’t let the pressures of the silly season stop you seeing this comic gem.
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