GLADYS AND ALFIE an Invercargill love story

Lyttelton Arts Factory, Lyttelton

17/01/2020 - 25/01/2020

Production Details

Written by Jane McLauchlan

Welcome to the World Premiere of Gladys and Alfie – an Invercargill love story by Jane McLauchlan.

South Invercargill. Gladys and Alfie have been married for forty years. Their nest is empty. Their go-getter son has heard the siren call of the big time and a career in Dunedin real estate. What is there left in life now for Gladys and Alfie, other than the cheese rolls at the Dainty Inn and their discreet worship of Joan and Paul, Invercargill’s power couple?

Funny, true to life and touching, Gladys and Alfie is the debut play of local writer Jane McLauchlan and performed at LAF by two of the nation’s best-loved actors, Yvonne Martin and Geoffrey Heath.

Lyttelton Arts Factory
15 – 25 January 2020

A Word from the Playwright

My grandmothers were both hardworking Southland women. Greta was working class and down to earth, bringing up four children on her own after she was widowed in her 30s – a sensible shoes kind of person. My other grandmother Joan was more middle class. Unusually for 1950s New Zealand she ran her own florist shop. Joan was all about glamour – a high heels kind of woman. I wrote a monologue about Greta and Joan and had enormous fun doing it. So I kept going. Greta became Gladys, and Gladys became her own person, and the monologue became a two hander.

It wasn’t until after I’d written it that I realised that Gladys & Alfie is what might have been if Greta and my grandad had grown old together. Gladys & Alfie isn’t any kind of documentary, but the essence of my gene pool is very much there.

The exciting thing about writing a play is that a whole team comes together to bring it to life. Director Mike Friend has been creating original, exuberant theatre in Lyttelton for years, and with co-director Hester Ullyart, made the amazing Our Town in 2019. Joining Mike and Hester are Yvonne and Geoffrey, two of the very best actors in the business, personifying the quick-wittedness of Gladys and the gentle steadfastness of Alfie. It is a thrill and an honour to have these incredible people work their magic on my script.

Writing Gladys & Alfie has been one of the highlights of my life, a wonderful and sometimes bittersweet experience.

Thank you to everyone at LAF for your amazing hard work and expertise. And a huge thank you to you, for coming along tonight to see it.

Gladys:  Yvonne Martin
Alfie:  Geoffrey Heath

Director:  Mike Friend
Assistant Director:  Hester Ullyart
Set & Lighting Design:  Michael Carlton
Script Editor:  Peter Llewellyn
Production Manager:  Darryl Cribb
Marketing & Promotion:  Kate Anastasiou
Sound & Lighting:  Bonnie Judkins  

Theatre ,

Thoroughly well-crafted performances

Review by Lindsay Clark 18th Jan 2020

In its premiere production, this love story from Invercargill by Jane McLauchlan deals with the last chapter in a forty five year old marriage. Undoubtedly sentimental, it is also sharply observant. Overflowing with gently nostalgic reminiscences, each lovingly presented and polished, the play deals cheerfully with both the daily minutiae of ageing Gladys (a cleaner) and Alfie (retired), their family and the social fabric of their town.

It is a small world, but with room for the poignancy of disappointment that their real estate agent son is ‘too busy’ for the contact they hope for, and room too for sketching the life style of well-to-do Joan and ‘flash Harry’ Paul McKenzie, neatly twisted into the final reality awaiting Gladys.

Like the crossword puzzle the couple is working at in the opening scene, bits of real life and snatches of remembered times are hooked together with considerable dexterity although the pattern of memory-nudging and subsequent extrapolation does make for a wordy journey. 

The wide composite set (Michael Carlton) and transitions, cued by photographic images and popular songs of the times, help structure the play as we track the devoted couple from their living room to a wedding service, a cafe, a supermarket aisle at Christmas, ‘afters’ at a funeral, a waiting room and back to the original living room. Mike Friend’s direction has all under control.

It is warmly received by an appreciative audience, who recognise incidents and attitudes at every moment. For all its lack of direct action and the understated physicality of the elderly couple, dramatic interest is solidly maintained, thanks to thoroughly well-crafted performances from the two much applauded actors.

The carefully tuned role of Gladys is brought to vigorous life by Yvonne Martin. Gladys is of the ‘make do’ old school, with its values rigorously in place, but supplemented by dreams and happy memories, which ensure that the humour she brings to the play is always gentle and affectionate.

Geoffrey Heath’s Alfie is at once a perfect foil for her ramblings and a stalwart character in his own right. As his reassurances to Gladys turn to worries of his own, the play is given depth and significance. We are watching believable life.

Nostalgia and sentimentality, enjoyable though they may be, can take us only so far in a theatre experience. The real deal comes when actors of the calibre of these two take us beyond the words. 


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