Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

04/09/2012 - 08/09/2012

Production Details

Fresh Talent. New Voices. Unseen Stories. 

Emerging writer, Sam Brooks, wants to take you on a journey of Fresh Talent, New Voices and Unseen Stories in his debut shows, Goddess and Mab’s Room. Brookswon the Playwrights b4 25 Award with the script for Mab’s Room, and this talented young playwright presents the double-bill production at The Basement Studio. 

These two dynamic stories delve into places that society often forgets. Taofia Pelesasa, Elyse Brock and Amanda Tito star in the darkly comic story of Goddess. While visually enchanting and contextually insightful, Goddess explores the idiosyncratic friendship between two people; blurring the lines between memory and reality. 

Mab’s Room is a heartbreakingly honest coming-of-age story, about two people navigating through their own experiences and mistakes, and learning from each other in a whole new way. Luke Wilson and Steven Chudley bring the words of this award-winning script to life, in a charming and witty performance.  

The double-bill will aptly be performed at The Basement Studio, where emerging talent flourishes, from 4th – 8th September.  

4th – 8th September 2012, 7pm
The Basement Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD 
Adults:  $20
Students:  $15
Groups 5 +:  $13 each

To book, call (09) 361 1000 or visit http://www.iticket.co.nz/  

Cast: Taofia Pelesasa, Elyse Brock, Amanda Tito
Stage Manager: Amber Molloy 

Cast: Luke Wilson, Steven Chudley
Stage Manager: Sam Brooks 

Lighting Designer: Amber Molloy
Sound Designer: Tanya Furssedonn
Lighting Op: Jaz Davis
Sound Op: Tanya Furssedonn
Assistant Stage Manager: Jamie Johnstone 

1 hr 15 mins + 1 hr + interval

New Voice, Amplified

Review by James Wenley 05th Sep 2012

Playwright Sam Brooks’ work concerns itself with identity, the mechanics of interaction, and an intense focus on what pulls people together… and apart.  

In the spirit of ‘get up and do it’, Brooks, a graduate of Unitec’s Writers course and winner of Playmarket’s Playwrights b4 25 Award, has produced a double bill at The Basement Studio of two of his plays – Goddess and Mab’s Room, directed by Samantha Molyneux and Jacinta Scadden. They are distinct plays, but put together we get a strong sense of Brooks’ flavour and thematic interests as this new (and yes, exciting) playwright finds his voice. [More]   
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An astute eye for the human condition

Review by Nik Smythe 05th Sep 2012

Newcomer playwright / producer Sam Brooks has most ambitiously mounted not one, but two full productions of his original works, taking advantage of both the economic viability and functional versatility of the upstairs Basement studio space. 


Chalk-drawn writing and doodles cover the entire visible area of the two black walls opposite the L-shaped seating.  Much of the adolescent graffiti reads as enigmatic fragments of philosophy, their meaning brought to light through the ensuing intense, stringent drama.  The remainder of the split-level set is painted coal-black too, apart from a large white screen at the far end. 

It’s a very cool set and for such a talking point I’m dismayed to note once again the omission of any set design credit in the programme, for either this play or it’s subsequent double-bill partner Mab’s Room

Elyse Brock is the ethereal manifestation of precocious young Amanda Ree (Amanda Tito), whose extremely high IQ was identified at a very young age, since when she’s lived a life of self-imposed isolation from the ‘stupid/jealous’ people.  Her best, gay and only friend Irvine Coffey (Taofia Pelesasa) is also of extraordinary intelligence, but more playful and socially driven, keen to interact with other mortals despite their inferior mental aptitudes which Amanda finds so repugnant.  

Under the astute eye of director Samantha Molyneux, the adept cast creates a strong and engaging dual portrait of high-functioning co-dependents.  Brock’s Amanda doesn’t so much narrate as give mostly scathing commentary on the action between herself and Irvine, using his diary as a conduit to shuttle back and forth to different points of the decade over which they have known each other. 

As time goes on, it seems her bitterness and loathing for any form of life outside the narrow spectrum of her superior intellect only deepens. Her own claim of lesbianism can easily be taken as a convenient disguise for her essentially asexual nature.  Longing for more friends and potential lovers, Irvine is frustrated: ‘You think you’re better than them!’; Amanda is obstinate: ‘And you pretend you’re not!’ 

From the beginning of Sam Brooks’ rigorous, sometimes repetitive script, astral-Amanda’s long-suffering derision is relentlessly bulldozed over anyone’s – including her own younger self’s – attempts to simply get on with things, instead of pining for some sort of pre-ordained sanctuary for the mentally gifted. 

Ultimately she comes across as little more than a self-centred, megalomaniacal child unable to get over herself.  Whether or not she really was told from an early age she’s a ‘goddess’, she’s obviously taken the notion to heart, carrying herself with a condescending air of toxic proportions.  The appealing charisma and chemistry of Pelesasa and Tito in the earlier years of their characters’ relationship is essential for the audience to have any sympathy at all for Amanda’s plight.

The crowning feature of the overall production – directed by Samantha Molyneux – is the series of visual sequences ingeniously devised by Ruby Bailey and Matt Wilshere, illustrating the typically juvenile, sometimes hilariously shocking online chat antics of a teenaged Amanda-and-Irvine. (Irvanda?)


The diametric contrast between this also unaccredited set and the previous one is as impressive as the design itself, in both its simplicity and well appointed opulence.  All the chalk’s removed from the walls, replaced by a gilt mirror and a few framed paintings, both floral and abstract.  The furniture – double bed with twin units and lamps and a fancy armchair – depicts a hotel room of some modest class. 

A lanky, aristocratically handsome man sits in senior private school uniform, tie and all, fidgets with nervous anticipation. Clearly feeling the heat, he – played by Luke Wilson – doffs his oppressive institutional garb so that by the time his awaited companion knocks at the door he’s down to his crimson boxers.

A character played by Steven Chudley enters the room bearing wine and chocolate. Wilson’s apparent hot date is also tall and almost as lanky, with finely chiselled features and dressed in a sharp suit, no tie. 

Either their characters’ names are never spoken, or I simply missed them.

Chudley’s character is a young teacher of twenty-five, and with final year exams pending, eighteen year old Wilson’s character has just ceased to be his English student, hence this covertly arranged celebratory liaison.  But while their age difference isn’t nearly as profound as they regard it to be, their respective demeanours seem a generation apart: the pupil’s bright-eyed idealism bordering on delusion, versus the teacher’s authoritative pragmatism bordering on paranoia.

The myriad interlocking implications and ironies brought forth from Sam Brooks’ penetrating script, directed by Jacinta Scadden, defy any simple sort of mapping.  Any sense of will-they / won’t-they is wholly outweighed by the vicarious frustration we feel as we watch the pupil unsubtly lunge for eternal happiness, while the teacher soberly, possibly over-sensitively, backs away from potential heartbreak on either of their parts.   

The title references the Queen of Dreams, a fairy first invented by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, but for all its open-heartedly gay themes, Mab’s Room is anything but gratuitous homoerotic wish fulfilment.

Whilst there is no substantial correlation between these fellows and anyone from the bard’s oft-cited classic, the resulting question remains: is it better to live and die with uncompromising passion, or play it safe to avoid the inevitable struggle and pain of living self-indulgently? 

At times both plays feel a tad overwritten, particularly Goddess; clearly it can be difficult identifying the fine line between dramatic emphasis and overstatement.   

Nevertheless Brooks has corralled a talented company to produce a pair of solid, contrasting pieces that successfully highlights his versatility with style and content, underpinned by an astute eye for the human condition. 


Nik Smythe September 5th, 2012

This from Sam Brooks:  'Basically, both of the directors designed their own set. It slipped my mind to credit them as such in the programmes, which is my muck-up as producer. Won't happen again!'

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