Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

01/11/2011 - 12/11/2011

BATS Theatre, Wellington

16/08/2011 - 27/08/2011

Production Details

“Words are like men, once you get your tongue around them they’re yours for life” 

Rich, beautiful and bored, Gloria Lord is a charming and outrageous young socialite. One night she meets Jimmy, a would-be writer moonlighting as a waiter at her father’s lavish birthday party. Gloria decides she’s going to marry Jimmy, no matter what he says. 

A stunning new comedy written by New Zealand playwright Richard Huber Glorious is set in America in the 1930s – it’s a quick fire, screwball comedy in the vein of classics Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Storyand a skillful blend of sophistication, slapstick and social commentary. 

“…fast, funny dialogue delivered at breakneck speed … sharp, witty, laugh out loud funny” (Theatreview)

“It’s more than glorious, it’s brilliant” (Otago Daily Times)

Season: Tuesday 16th August Saturday 27th August 2011 (no show Sun/Mon or Saturday 20th August)
Time: 8.30pm
Price: $18 Full / $13 Concession / $14 Groups 6+ 
Length: 1hr 20min 
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Cast & Crew 
Anya Tate-Manning and Sam Bunkall
Director: Patrick Davies (Dn; Wn) / Sam Shore (Ak) 
Designer: Costumes by Sharon Matthews
SoundOriginal Score by Danny Still
Lighting: Jennifer Lal 
Production design (Ak): Sam 
Shore, Sam Bunkall, Anya Tate-Manning 
Lighting & sound operator:  (Ak): Ruby Reihana-Wilson

Cleverly constructed, well-performed, frequently amusing escapism

Review by Nik Smythe 02nd Nov 2011

On entering we can see the shadow of a woman through a white paper changing screen sitting, drinking, yearning.  The front of the stage extends to a short catwalk with the audience seated around three sides.  A small wooden desk-table and other minimal furniture items grace the upper stage area and clever use is made of the theatre’s usually concealed backstage staircase. 

There couldn’t really be a more atmospherically fitting venue than the decades-old humble Basement to stage this play, the main setting being the modest, rundown apartment of would-be romantic thriller novelist Jimmy (Sam Bunkall).  When he catches the eye of bored upper-crust spoilt-brat socialite Gloria (Anya Tate-Manning) it’s practically all over, once she’s made the decision that she will be his bride, and not a blushing one at that. 

From the sure hand of director Sam Shore comes a fairly seamless two-hander packed tight with rapid-fire rug-pulling wisecracking and wit that keeps the audience laughing along wryly for the duration.  The production design, comprising the set, the effectively moody lighting and the upliftingly nostalgic big-band swing soundtrack, is credited to Shore, Bunkall, Tate-Manning and lighting & sound operator Ruby Reihana-Wilson. 

Tate-Manning and Bunkall create an engaging contrast between the unapologetically self-indulgent, unrelentingly presumptuous poor-little-rich-girl and the handsome but cynical, pseudo-leftist struggling writer too sensitive to express himself except through fiction. 

Playwright Richard Huber has plainly mined the archives of depression-era Hollywood, in particular the definitive ‘screwball comedy’ genre, to produce a crackingly verbose script that both embraces the form and frequently references it, notably in Gloria’s numerous claims that she feels ‘like that woman in that film with Katharine Hepburn’.

Between the gags are poignant philosophies, heartfelt declarations and heartbreaking admissions that serve the characters and their story well, and in classic screwball style just about every preconception set up is in some way subverted if not completely turned on its head.  Will it end as Gloria says all good books do – with a marriage?  Or not?

For all its appealing charm and acuity, there is an odd sense of veneer about it all.  Although they play with different genres, I’m reminded of Ross Gumbley’s slapstick stage adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps – cleverly constructed, well-performed and frequently amusing escapism.  Plenty to recall fondly, little to really chew on. 

The political and socio-economic issues framing the piece carry as much significance as ever yet the displacement of time and space between these characters and us seems to result in an unavoidable kind of pretension.  Perhaps it’s the broad east-coast American accents, which are technically impressive but slip on just enough syllables to prevent the illusion from taking hold more fully. 

It might be simply that the characters, particularly Gloria, talk so quickly that there’s no time to consider any point with any depth before getting bombarded with another three.  Which of course is a large part of the play’s comedic basis and could not – nor would one want it to be – any other way.  

Analytical nitpicking aside, Glorious is a solidly entertaining tribute to the theatrical and cinematic styles of a time where life was simpler, but people were just as complicated.  It is also manifestly a paean to Katharine Hepburn. And why not?  


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Play it again

Review by Lynn Freeman 28th Aug 2011

Richard Huber must have watched a powerful lot of movies from Hollywood’s Golden Years, to write this loving tribute to Hepburn, Grant and the other stars of the time.

It’s a classic love story of the 1930s kind – a headstrong woman willfully goes against her wealthy father’s wishes and pursues a man from outside her class. A writer who dabbles as a waiter, no less. She is obsessed with him, going so far as to hurl his typewriter into a river to get his attention. He of course rejects her advances, which only makes her more determined, before making her experience ‘real life’ by working as a waitress. To tell you more would be criminal, even if you can see where it’s headed.

Huber’s script is filled with the waspish lines Hepburn in particular is remembered for, and the actress is not only referenced by the protagonist Gloria many times, but her mannerisms and way of speaking is pure Katherine. Anya Tate Manning is dazzling and irresistible as pays tribute to Hepburn while giving us a Gloria who is worth getting to know in her own right. She flounces and pouts but you know there is a woman of substance behind the society woman.

As her love interest Jimmy, Sam Bunkall takes a little while to warm too. But once he gets into his stride, he feels like the perfect match for Gloria/Anya. He has a languid elegance on stage, and with his restrained performance, he offers the perfect foil for his fiery would-be wife.

Patrick Davies’ direction is right on the mark, giving his two actors plenty of room to move, and helping them hit exactly the right note, be it comedy or one of the play’s more reflective moments. The two actors hold the stage for 90 plus minutes and leave you wanting more. Play it again – Gloria, Jimmy, Richard and Patrick.  
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.


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When comedy turns screwball

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 19th Aug 2011

Glorious is a strange hybrid. It’s a faux 1930s comedy of manners, a screwball comedy and a love letter to movie stars like Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart who appeared most famously in Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story. It is also the first attempt as far as I know at a screwball comedy by a New Zealand playwright.

In Richard Huber’s play there are only two characters. Gloria is fast-taking, rich, spoilt and attractive, who thinks that everyone when young was given a pony for Christmas; Jimmy is serious, not rich and aspires to be a novelist. Gloria meets him on her father’s jetty when he is a waiter at a party. She decides there and then that she’ll marry him. He’s not so keen. 

There’s an off-stage subplot about Gloria and another man that desperately needs to be on stage so that the continual banter between Jimmy and Gloria can be given a rest, particularly as there is not much wit in the banter. But The Philadelphia Story keeps hovering in the background: there are references to Katherine Hepburn; Gloria’s surname is Lord and Hepburn’s character in Barry’s play is Tracy Lord; there’s an off-stage Dexter and the name Jimmy reminds one of James Stewart. 

Class and world affairs are touched upon lightly as they were in the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 40s (The Lady EveIt Happened One Night) but the real thrust of the comedy is, as Shakespeare well knew in Much Ado about Nothing, how will Gloria and Jimmy achieve a happy ending.

Apart from one hand gesture that would have been censored in the old movies, Anya Tate-Manning’s Gloria looks and sounds as if she has stepped out of a 1930s movie with just a hint of the famous Hepburn New England vowels, while Sam Bunkall as Jimmy is tall, good-looking and sounds a bit like Jimmy Stewart. It’s just a pity that theatre economics being what they are it isn’t possible to find a place for a Cary Grant character. _______________________________
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.


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“More matter with less art”

Review by John Smythe 17th Aug 2011

“Love,” Jimmy the waiter tells Gloria, the glamorous daughter of the rich lawyer who has hired him to serve at his party, “is over-rated.” And marriage is “meaningless.” The lives of her and her kind, he opines, are “pointless”. And so is this play.

Well maybe not over-rated. The joy that greeted its world premiere in Dunedin, reinforced in response to some questions I raised, does represent the pleasure some feel in enjoying craft for its own sake; at the ability of Kiwi artisans to blend their work into the fabric of American culture without betraying their origins (just look at our music industry for plenty of examples of that).  

There is no disputing that Glorious is clever, stylish, well produced and crisply performed with wit and panache. It certainly proves that Dunedin playwright Richard Huber is adept at imitating the American ‘screwball comedy’ genre of the 1930s; that Anya Tate-Manning and Sam Bunkall have captured the delicious frisson of unresolved sexual tension perfected by the likes of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant; that director Patrick Davies has honoured the genre with a well-paced production that drives inexorably to its surprising conclusion.

‘Screwball’, by the way, is a baseball term for a curveball with a wrist twist that generates a spin to confound the expectations if the person facing it. Hollywood evolved the conventions of ‘screwball comedy’ as the USA was trying to climb out of the Great Depression and somewhat in response to the censorious regulations of the Hays Office. Also, as others have noted, these films reclaimed for women the feisty wit, intelligence and independence of such forbears as Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), Rosalind (As You Like It) and Helena (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), with the more recent leading ladies of plays by Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward arguably paving the way.

To take just one early example of the genre, ‘runaway heiress falls in love with street-wise common man’ was the key to It Happened One Night (1934), written by Robert Riskin from the story Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams and directed by Frank Capra with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert). It was widely disdained as a project – not least by Capra, who claimed he got so bored with it he never finished editing it – until it won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Scriptwriter, Director, Actress and Actress, creating a bandwagon that many happily hopped upon.

“It’ll be a long day before we see so little made into so much,” wrote The New Republic’s critic Otis Fergusson. “We may look askance at Capra’s sententious notion’s about the miserable rich and the happy poor,” Time Out observed in 1980 (ascribing core script elements to the director, as usual), “but there’s no doubting the chord he struck in depression audiences.”

The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael wrote, in the 1970s, “It made audiences happy in the way that only a few films in each era do. In the mid-30s, the Colbert and Gable of this film became Americans’ idealised view of themselves – breezy, likeable, sexy, gallant, and maybe just a little harebrained. It was the Annie Hall of its day – before the invention of anxiety.”

And there’s my point: these supposedly ‘escapist’ films captured a zeitgeist. They tapped into the spirit of the times and sparked off exposed nerve-ends to energise their audience’s desire – suppressed by economic circumstances and or moral moral watchdogs – for greater fulfilment in their lives, either in the shape of romantic love or a more purposeful vocation, or both. They were socially and politically relevant, even if you believe their main objective was to exploit human vulnerabilities for commercial gain and/or to socially engineer renewed faith in the elusive American Dream.

Every now and then Glorious does toss a dart into today’s world, stricken by financial crisis and climate change on a global scale. But the connecting lines, if they were ever attached, do not become taut enough to allow our heart-strings to be plucked or our synapses to twang let alone resonate with our concerns.

The entertainment factor is largely confined to our admiring an artefact that evokes a time gone by; to watching two actors act well, supported by excellent design elements: costumes by Sharon Matthews; sound by Danny Still; lighting by Jennifer Lal; a simple sofa and work table set surrounded by a board walk with a park bench, designed by Patrick Davies.

The story, as I have said, is well crafted. Apparently thrown over by her fiancé for her best girlfriend, Gloria declares to a resistant and recalcitrant waiter, Jimmy, that she will marry him (Jimmy, that is). Turning the ‘miserable rich/happy poor’ premise on its head, Gloria is persistently bright and positive while Jimmy searches for ‘truth’ in writing about the world as it really is – although he is more given to preening over his prose than to angst for his fellow man.

The revelation as to why he is so hostile certainly puts an unexpected spin on our preconceptions. Suffice to say, here, that their coming together has not been as random as we had thought. Which is clever. And true to the genre.

An amused academic appreciation of the work may also be gained – especially for aficionados of the genre – from the self-aware references to “that film with Katherine Hepburn where she …” etc.

But here’s the thing. Late last century American John Vorhous (author of The Comic Toolbox: how to be funny even if you’re not, Allen & Unwin, 1994) ran a TV comedy writing workshop in Auckland. In his excitable New York Jewish accent, he told us: “You guys are so lucky! All the stories have been told, it’s all been said before – but you guys can do it all again in your own way, in your own voice, and make them all seem new and fresh!”

Also last century, Christian Penny and Anna Marbrook devised a show that honoured ‘film noir’ and they did it (at Bats) in American accents because that was the language of the genre – the same excuse is used by our musicians, except Flight of the Conchords since proved you can get much further by being true to yourselves. And recently, to great acclaim, ex-pat American Leo Gene Peters, a graduate of the Toi Whakaari/Victoria University MTA Directing programme, helmed the development of Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants, which proves that a film noir sensibility can permeate our own voice and stories, giving us visceral access to contemporary life in downtown Wellington. 

Yes of course Richard Huber is perfectly entitled to write whatever play he likes but – as with Sam Shore’s The Idea of America – I can only remain bemused as to why he has chosen to bring his considerable skills to meaningless imitation rather than honour the genre by using it as a means to a more engaging end.  

As Anya Tate-Manning’s Gertrude beseeched my Polonius less than a month ago: “More matter with less art.”

[See also reviews of the WoW! Productions world premiere, and the Court Theatre production.] 
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.


Dane Giraud August 22nd, 2011

 I will certainly check it out. May I suggest Orwell's essay "Notes on Nationalism"? 

Al Bennett August 22nd, 2011

 <sigh> Ok Sam, change 'by' to 'on'. Dane, the book really is great, and I say that as someone who admires both Hitchens and Chomsky. As one of the customer reviews up there says, he goes after bullshit in many sacred cows, and it will smart for everyone at some point. 

Dane Giraud August 19th, 2011

Wheen (author of mumbo jumbo) is a friend of Christopher Hitchens and not an admirer of Chomsky. I like him already. Maybe the two connect over Orwell who would have plenty to say in this debate.  

Sam Jackson August 19th, 2011

Haha, there’s a mumbo jumbo assumption right there, Al – that this site, this ephemeral figment of cyberspace, has a single consciousness that has the capacity to assume things. 

Al Bennett August 19th, 2011

 Many of the choices made by New Zealand playwrights and companies are assumed by this site to be the product of cultural cowardice or ignorance. Tain't always the case. 

Re: the 'choice or is there?' filler. This is a great book:

John Smythe August 19th, 2011

Of course it is all about choice.

Playwrights choose what to write and how, for reasons they may or may not choose to reveal.

Audiences choose what to see – or not – for a range of reasons and are totally free to respond as they choose.

Critics choose to place themselves in the space between, to opine /inform /activate /agitate /facilitate as they choose, inevitably revealing their own predilections as much as a playwright might and opening up the space for others to come and play if, when and how they choose …

Yep, it’s choice all right.  

On the other hand there is no such thing as choice. There is only a tangle of causal chains that make every so-called choice the inevitable result of all that has gone before. Choice is a delusion that helps us all to give out lives the illusion of meaning.

Who knows which is true? It’s up to each of us to choose. Isn’t it? Go on, feel free. 

Sam Shore August 19th, 2011

To refer to someones work as a meaningless imitation is not only personal but grossly offensive. 

I think one of the most wonderful things about writing is that affords for you to go anywhere you want, be it America, France, Lower Hutt or the back end of space. All a play needs to be reflective of New Zealand is to be written by a New Zealander. Even if it isn't set in our own back-yard  it reflects how we perceive other cultures and the world at large. I don't know about Richard, but ive never got more than a pat on the head and a fist full of peanuts for writing a play and every time i do write its for the love of telling a story and nothing more. I agree with James, you write what you are passionate about and you critique the work for what it is, not what  you think it should be. 

Dane Giraud August 19th, 2011

I would say it was (Or should have been) just as must a choice then as now. But, did the past generation really overcome, for the good of the nation, the cultural cringe? And were we ever cringing at culture in the first place, or rather just the general poor quality of works that just happened to be in NZ accents? 

Al Bennett August 19th, 2011

Just to clarify further on the clumsy point I tried to make above: things are different now. It is absurd to criticise one generation's work for failing to live up to the ideals of another.

'Death and the Dream Life of Elephants' made a CHOICE to present the play the way they did, just as 'Glorious' made a CHOICE to present the play the way they did. 30 years ago 'Elephants' presenting a work like theirs with a recognisably local setting / accents would perhaps have been a more significant thing. 30 years ago, many more may have seen 'Glorious' as capitulating to American cultural imperialism. In the current climate, making a choice to adopt American, British or any other setting or accent can be seen as a CHOICE. Imposing antiquated cultural anxieities on such work is in itself cringeworthy. 

John Smythe August 18th, 2011

Exactly, Al. And you grew up on Sesame Street. 

Al Bennett August 18th, 2011

 Gak! I'm back. Just to add to this comment from John about 'a generation that likes to think it vanquished ‘cultural cringe' and celebrated our own voice' and ‘cultural distinctions' it has been sobering to realise later generations have to wrestle with it all over again, in their own ways'.' 

It is perfectly natural to celebrate and identify with the triumphs of your own generation, but there is a tendency in some to think baby boomers and those who came a little later completely rewrote the rule book for everyone else. It's part of the boomer mentality to consider everything done because it was so exciting the first time around. Artists should feel free to disregard what's gone before, to 'rip it up and start again'. Also, now that the cultural cringe has been dulled and the world more connected, the canvas is larger. Young artists do not need to fret so much about what their art need accomplish in a macro scale. Thanks for that.  Just remember that while you cats were going to Red Mole shows, you were leaving us with McGyver.

John Smythe August 18th, 2011

Thanks again James. Strangely enough I do take “drivel. Absolute drivel”, “hypocrisy”, “hollow”, “hiding” etc. somewhat personally. But let’s not tarry down that side-track. I am pleased you brought the discussion back to the nature of the work itself. You make valid points about the influence of American culture on NZ culture, and by letting them stand I am not ignoring them.

You and others have made me realise that many young artists feel a strong urge to confront, own, re-contextualise and/or otherwise deal with the imprint of American pop culture on our own sense of identity. Being of a generation that likes to think it vanquished ‘cultural cringe’ and celebrated our own voice’ and ‘cultural distinctions’ it has been sobering to realise later generations have to wrestle with it all over again, in their own ways.

And yet I stand by this in my review: “Yes of course Richard Huber is perfectly entitled to write whatever play he likes but – as with Sam Shore's
The Idea of America – I can only remain bemused as to why he has chosen to bring his considerable skills to meaningless imitation rather than honour the genre by using it as a means to a more engaging end.

You do find meaning in it, beyond a display of skills and the special value it has for those well versed in the genre, and for that I am glad. I approached it ready and willing to be seduced by its magic and found myself appreciating it very objectively. Now we have both been heard and I heartily hope hundreds will go to experience it for themselves.  

James Nokise August 18th, 2011

 Personal Attack? The two issues here are:

1)  Content and the way it is presented. 

2) As Al put it "The conservative, inward looking nature of reviews"

My misinterpretation of American accents is noted, but the rest stands.


It would be highly remiss to simply wave off the points raised here as either focussed completely on John, or as the emotional response of someone who knows people in the show. 


In fact John's belief that my comments come from a need to defend "those near and dear"  is as inaccurate as it is presumptuous about my connection to Glorious. Everyone I know involved in this production has been praised by John. From what could I defend them? 


I do not know, nor have I met Richard Huber. He writes a good script. He is (to my knowledge) a kiwi writer who wrote this, his first play, in Dunedin. It is my belief that this makes him a New Zealand writer, and his work a New Zealand play. The review above implies the creation of this work has no point, no meaning. I take issue with that. Those issues are written above.


My issues are with the reviewer, who's name is on this. I am not attacking John Smythe the man. I am assured by my "near and dear" that the man is quite lovely, with a strong passion for theatre. John, I would never write this and not put my name to it. My name has been on things far worse. If you feel this is all getting a bit personal then, as we are facebook friends and you also have my email, I am always happy to continue correspondence through private channels. 


But please do not dismiss these points.


Al Bennett August 18th, 2011

 I suppose I do need to amend my comments then, as they have been taken as a personal attack. They are not. I am criticising the content of this site. And not all of it by any means. I am disappointed in certain trends here and I am calling a spade a spade when it comes to the weary excuse for 'debate' we're supposed to be satisfied with. For example, I was calling nobody's 'rights' into question, nor was I preventing any other type of debate, but the 'debate' was immediately framed in that false paradigm. I do not want to attack John Smythe, but having these concerns I have to call his judgment into question. After all, he is Charles in Charge around here, and as a reader of this site I have concerns. It may be easier said than done, but I do urge you: don't take it so personally. 

John, you're right about the redundancy in my previous post, I withdraw the term 'ad hominem'. Let it stand that any argument which relies even slightly on undermining the person making it instead of addressing what they're saying is not one worth making or hearing. 

In fact, excuse me for going back on my word to such an extent, but I'd also like to go on the record as saying Theatreview is a fantastic resource and is providing a heroic service to the performing arts in this country. First and foremost, John Smythe deserves praise and recognition for what he has done with this website. Now it has taken its place firmly in the NZ theatre landscape, we should be able to have these grown-up conversations.


Sam Jackson August 18th, 2011

 Jeepers James and Al, if John reviewed a play like you review him he might have a case to answer. 

John Smythe August 18th, 2011

Thank you, James, for your spirited defence of those near and dear to you (and for posting under your real name). To answer a couple of your points:

Having grown up thinking ‘screwball’ just meant ‘nutty’ (because NZ was not baseball-literate), my discovery of what the genre actually denotes increased my appreciation of Huber’s objectives and his skill in meeting them. To detail how he does it, however, would involve plot spoilers, so I offer the general explanation to enhance the enjoyment of future audiences.  

Nowhere have I
praised American accents being used in a [NZ-created] theatrical ode to Film Noir.” Quite the opposite. The characters in Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants live and belong in Wellington, as do their stories. And it is especially interesting that it has taken an American to help us discover our own voice in that genre.  

I happen to think John Vorhous made a very valid point so I share it and source it. Why is that such a crime?

‘Al’, I refer you to the final element of the Wikimedia definition of ‘tu quoque’:
It is considered an ad hominem argument, since it focuses on the party itself, rather than its positions. 

To both of you, please be assured your extremely personal attacks on my ability, judgement and integrity hurt me deeply and, when I have my breath back, cause me to evaluate and re-evaluate the quality of my work – so thank you for that too.

Al Bennett August 18th, 2011

 I have not been asked a question, Sam.

'You are being much more prescriptive...' I refer you to my 'irony' comment above, and also to this . Have a look around the logical fallacies and you'll come across others - straw man, false dilemma, ad hominem - which you'll recognise from their starring roles in the blind-leading-the-blind circle jerk that passes for 'debate' these days.
There is an air of the crusty school master to the site (see the patronising explanation that 'critics are not reporters' above) that I think goes largely unchallenged because among the qualities evident in many theatre types are self-preservation, insecurity and sycophancy. With that in mind, I commend Mr. Nokise for his comments. In fact, I was going to cite an example from the review of his 'Public Service Announcements' in this comment, in which he was scolded for not satirising Don Brash in a very specific way. This typifies the conservative, inward-looking nature of many of the reviews here. I worry that in the absence of other voices, young theatre makers will view Theatreveiw as a cultural gatekeeper and give it an undeserved level of influence. 
I am concerned that this site features an uncomfortable amount of purple prose and curmudgeonly hobby horse-riding stuffed with irrelevances, where it could contain something better. It could contain better writing with interesting ideas expressed well. That I can't express this without it seeming like heresy (the histrionic barking about 'rights' and the 'I offer no apology' grandstanding above) betrays the esteem in which real self expression is held here.
And you know what? That's all I have to say. I'll leave you now to make assumptions about my motives, say Nokise and I are ganging up on poor unpaid volunteers and attack things I haven't said.  

James Nokise August 18th, 2011

No Sam, not "fair enough".


John this is drivel. Absolute drivel.


I'm not sure why you felt the need to go off on a tangent about the history of Screwball comedy . A tangent that was longer than your write up of the play you are "reviewing". I find it down right incredulous that you had the lack of sight to see either the hypocrisy or irony in finishing with THAT particular quote from Hamlet. Hamlet! 


Also, you've praised American accents being used in a theatrical ode to Film Noir, but seem to wish this ode to an equally popular cinematic language, from the same period should be in - what? Bro accents?! (actually that would be quite fun).


Your assertion in the comments section that "Critics are not reporters" sounds hollow when this write up contains more "objective information" than "subjective opinion". There's around 540 words on Glorious and around 650 on facts, figures, and history. You might count it differently, but even so - Al isn't debating your right to ask "why was this written?", "why is it being produced?", "why do audiences go?" - he's probably just wondering why those 650 words couldn't have been turned into a blog with the link at the bottom of the 540 words. 


You can't have it both ways. This review reads like a man hiding from his own opinion, masking it with unnecessary background. I mean, re-read it. Seriously, who cares that you were at a TV writers conference in the 90's? Who brags about any association with 90's NZTV comedy? Did it need a paragraph? The Conchords reference is clumsy, probably insulting to musicians, and showed a glaring lack of knowledge in your subject, which I consider dangerous in a reviewer. 


Clearly you liked everything about Glorious except that it was an American medium. Your well known passion for championing New Zealand cultural works is beginning to slide towards xenophobia. With that kind of preset biased, is it any wonder you struggled to engage? 


There is plenty of room for writers in this country to create work which is a homage to the cultural influences they had growing up. I really shouldn't have to explain the social economic factors that led to the strong effect American culture has in this country. It is also the right of any creative person to make something they are passionate about. I'm sure, if you put your mind to it, we could bask in the glory of "Pelonius: The Musical".


Glorious is a funny screwball comedy. That's hard. Anyone reading this, ask yourself when the last time you saw a screwball play was? Or how many of those old screwball films you actually like? I saw Glorious in Dunedin and it's funny, and part of the reason it's funny is because the writer clearly has a passion for his subject and it seeps through. 


John, do you have any idea how few comedy theatre writers there are in this country? That are funny? Actually funny. To call this play "pointless" is both insulting and misleading. For the writer, the point is he made a good, sharp, screwball comedy. He did what anyone who has ever written a first play, or thought about writing their first play did - wrote what he was passionate about. For the audience, there now exists  a fun, entertaining play - that is by a NZ author.  


If the chief reviewer of  believes producing entertaining work, that puts a smile on an audiences face is "meaningless", that a homage to yearning for an American dream performed in modern day NZ is "meaningless" (go hang out at Reading to see how relevant that is), then perhaps your website needs a disclaimer: - "you write the play, we'll decide if it's kiwi enough"


I'd apologise for the length of this, but then you might not get the point.


Sam Jackson August 17th, 2011

Still not addressing the question, Al. You are being much more prescriptive – didactic – in expressing your ‘do it my way’ notions of how critics should review plays.  John has simply said a display of fine talent is not enough, for him, in and of itself, then backed it up with examples of other shows that honour genres by using them as the means to more relevant ends. Fair enough I reckon. 

Al Bennett August 17th, 2011

 I suppose it's a matter of taste. I'm just a little bored with the didactic tone in so many of these reviews. That's all.  

John Smythe August 17th, 2011

Critics are not reporters, Al. They engage with the works they review as informed individuals, openly blending objective information with subjective opinion and often discussing the works within wider contexts because, to borrow from Donne, no work in an island entire unto itself.

Theatreview encourages critics to be provocative because this website is not a one-way street; opposing, broader and narrower views may be readily expressed by anyone. Personally, however, I would rather debate the questions raised than the right of a critic to raise them at all. 

Al Bennett August 17th, 2011

 I would suggest this site adopt a features or essay section so points like this can be made cohesively (and debated) outside of the reviews section, as many of the reviews are starting to feature extraneous and tangential discussion. Sure, that is a bonus of the medium, but often what we get is 'This is how I would have done it' rather than comment on what has actually been done. This is not to say that the above does not contain that.  But things like your review of the Comedy Fest showcase... why complain about a dearth of topical satire? There's something a little 'my way or the highway' about it.   (He says, fully aware of the irony of making a suggestion based on personal preference to do with the site at large in the comments section of a review)

John Smythe August 17th, 2011

OK Al, ‘rationale’ then. And I offer no apology or excuse for debating this: it goes to the heart of why scriptwiters write, why productions are mounted and why audiences buy tickets. 

Al Bennett August 17th, 2011

 It's not an 'excuse' it's a choice. More review with less soapbox.

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