GLITTER AND SPIT and BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
06/08/2015 - 15/08/2015
The late Robert Lord was hugely active in the New Zealand theatre community in the 1970s. He helped found Playmarket, won writing awards, took up a number of residencies and was a Burns fellow. His Dunedin home is now a writer’s residence.
Robert Lord’s retro classics serve up tongue in cheek comedy with a distinctly Kiwi flavour. Recognisable New Zealand stereotypes and events are satirised in an absurd, hilarious, and thought-provoking manner.
The Globe Theatre Dunedin brings two Robert Lord works to the stage.
In Glitter and Spit, an ex-ballet dancer now confined to a wheelchair, a mysterious soldier, a conductor of a small orchestra and a young lady susceptible to suggestion explore the themes of homosexuality, gender roles, dress ups, physical disability, spontaneity and venetian blinds.
Balance of Payments is a macabre farce about parents living off the immoral earnings of their son, the clients of whom are disposed of by the mother. This is the tale of a far from conventional family in their cluttered household. Join them as they work together to disguise the son’s dirty deeds and ask the big questions in life, like is knitting an art or a craft?
Venue: The Athenaeum Theatre, Octagon
Dates: 6th – 15thAugust (except Monday 10th)
Start time: 7.30, except Sunday 9th, 2.00
Ticket prices (includes light refreshments):
General $25; Concession $20,
Globe members $15; Groups of 5 or more $15
School students (with ID) $10
Opening Night Special: $15
Good idea disappoints
Review by Barbara Frame 09th Aug 2015
Lifting two of Robert Lord’s short comedies, both unusually daring and inventive when they were new in the 1970s, out of semi-obscurity and presenting them together is a great idea. Sadly, though, the Globe Theatre’s double bill (at the Athenaeum because of continuing repairs at the London Street theatre) disappoints.
Glitter and Spit, a macabre piece about four very odd people living in the same house, is an exercise in absurdity and ridiculous outfits. Under Emma Feather Shaw’s direction things move too slowly, and an over-ambitious production buckles under its own noise and affectation. Andrew Brinsley-Pirie does a competent job as Richard, but the other performances need more variation of pace and tone. Jo Secher’s Daniel becomes mired in military intensity; Tess Hazelhurst, as crippled former ballerina Louise, spends most of her time on the stage flicking her hair and shrieking; while Sofie Welvaert, as Megan, snivels unconvincingly.
Balance of Payments, directed by Bronwyn Wallace, is better paced and less pretentious, and its farcical aspects more clearly conveyed. It’s about conventional New Zealand parents seemingly absorbed in mundane concerns of knitting and gardening while deriving their income from exploiting their son’s unusual potential. Allyn Robins is all beleaguered dignity as the Son, desperately trying to assert his own business plan, and Chris Summers, as Father, is suitably perplexed all the way through. Mother is the biggest part and Katherine Graham’s performance would benefit from greater attention to the text’s nuances and satirical power, and a more realistic representation of knitting.
Overall, the evening falls short of the Globe’s usual standards, and the grumpy reviewer’s discontent was exacerbated by loud and excessive giggling from some inconsiderate members of the small audience.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Review by Alison Embleton 09th Aug 2015
For a show with such a commanding title, Glitter and Spit is unquestioningly lack-lustre: a decidedly underwhelming performance on most counts.
The script itself is where the trouble begins. A mysterious soldier (or is he really a soldier after all?) and a paraplegic dancer (his once lover, now platonic room-mate) ask two individuals to move in with them, ostensibly to keep the dancer company while the soldier is away on “manoeuvres” (this is a significant plot point that is never explored or developed beyond the point of confusion). The soldier asks a young orchestra conductor, and the dancer a quasi-friend of hers (who seems to alternate between disinterest and hysteria) to move in.
Glitter and Spit aims to explore their changing relationships as various events unfold. The programme boasts an exploration of “homosexuality, gender roles, dress ups, physical disability, spontaneity and venetian blinds”. But a lack of character development and a script relying too heavily on what actors can convey non-verbally leads to an ambling one act play that never seems to hit the mark.
The essential feeling is that the actors on stage are underprepared. There are multiple instances of breaking-character and none of the actors seem to have a clear understanding of who their character is, or what they are trying to convey.
There are many small elements that lead to this play seeming unbelievable: a plastic magicians wand in place of the conductor’s baton; putting the paraplegic dancer in a wheelchair without foot-plates so she is seen obviously using her legs throughout the play (when a wheelchair with foot-plates is used in another scene); an obvious bandaged head wound in one scene that is never acknowledged to any extent.
For a play about relationships, none of the actors have very convincing chemistry. There is a strange scene following a blossoming romance where the couple perform a small mime /mirror routine with each other that played more like a private joke between the actors than an intimate moment for the audience to witness.
While the character and plot development are left flapping in the breeze, there are good moments though the production. Some of the physical comedy is played perfectly: the scenes of the wheelchair-bound dancer (Tess Hazelhurst) vacuuming are genuinely amusing and not overdone. The soldier (Jo Secher) brings a lot of great vigour, lifting the energy whenever he is on stage. The conductor (Andrew Brinsley-Pirie) shows the most aptitude for convincing character development; his muttered asides about his genuine feelings help advance the plot more than most. And the dancer’s friend (Sofie Welvaert) helps to establish the dynamic of all the relationships in the beginning.
The cluttered living room set is very well made and creates a wonderfully rich visual back drop. However, the sound and lighting choices for the scene changes are ill thought-out. The slow light fade for every transition means the audience is forced to watch a protracted process every time and the music choice also seems at odds with the themes and tone of the play. So all in all, the audience is hauled back into reality every time the scene changes, interrupting the flow and believability of an already hard-to-follow play.
Balance of Payments is a curious story of an ageing couple (Chris Summers and Katherine Graham) who are eking out an income from their “well-endowed” son (Allyn Robins), and the amusing yet disastrous consequences that unfold following mutually unsatisfying events.
The most glaring problem in this production is one of the actors not knowing his lines. The other actors on stage are forced to cover up for him and while their efforts are admirable (especially considering they keep character while doing so), it detracts from everything else in the production when someone is mumbling out lines that don’t make sense within the context.
Balance of Payments also suffers from a lack of preparedness in general. There is not a lot of character development from the main actors. They have a lot of stage time together but seem to churn out their lines without much thought as to what they’re saying a lot of the time (this could mainly be attributed to unfamiliarity with the script in general). The relationship that develops between mother and son is rather more convincing than that between husband and wife; their verbal sparring is entertaining and the actors play off each other really well.
The set design is top quality. Various aspects of the characters’ lives are littered about the stage providing visual back-up for information the actors are not necessarily providing. The costuming is also brilliant, giving the audience an instant summary of the characters’ personalities. Overall, the visual features of this production are absolutely on point. You’re drawn into what’s happening because it looks so great; unfortunately what transpires is much less compelling.
The play is a black comedy, however the essence of this is not played up especially well. Some ridiculously murderous events unfold, but the cast seem to rely too heavily on the script in this aspect, rather than bringing physicality and characterisation into play. The interruption of the Vicar (Thomas Makinson) arriving at a most inopportune moment is a good example of this: his arrival provides a great set up for further dark humour but this is largely skipped over in an effort to get to the next scripted plot point. The comedy is built into the structure of the play but the onus is on the actors to bring the more nuanced aspects to the fore.
Balance of Payments hasn’t yet achieved the level of subtlety required for such a performance, but the ground work is definitely there. This production would benefit greatly from more rehearsal time.
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