Lot 23, 23 Minnie Street, Eden Terrace, Auckland

08/09/2016 - 17/09/2016

Production Details

Compelling, funny and intriguing love story by Pulitzer finalist and Obi award winning playwright Rajiv Joseph comes to New Zealand for the first time.

Navi Collaborative presents Gruesome Playground Injuries by Pulitzer finalist Rajiv Joseph, directed by Nicci Reuben featuring Dawn Glover and Tyler Brailey.  

Gruesome Playground Injuries finds a fresh way of expressing human vulnerability, and two individuals’ struggle to understand their need for each other. Joseph takes risks, as in a key scene in which circumstances force one character to do all the talking, in a big confessional monologue that pays off emotionally. The unaffected humour, catching what many will recognize as normal weirdness, keeps the play fun and unpredictable. An adolescent first kiss scene is nothing new, but the one in GPI boasts the funniest payoff I’ve seen in any play or film. –”

“…Running about an hour and a half, GPI is a tour de force for the two actors who must stumble through just about every life-sucking experience known to the modern world.  –”  


Over the course of 30 years, the lives of Kayleen and Doug intersect at the most bizarre intervals, leading the two childhood friends to compare scars and the physical calamities that keep drawing them together as they spar, spat, and haltingly try to rescue one another.  With great compassion and humor, playwright Rajiv Joseph (Broadway’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) crafts a compelling and unconventional love story about the intimacy between two people when they allow their defenses to drop and their wounds to show.


On first reading Gruesome Playground Injuries, I (Nicci) was struck by the tenderness and love between Doug and Kayleen whilst alarmed by the familiarity of the harm and destruction that the characters inflict on themselves. I feel that this play presents a true reflection of how many of us experience aspects of our lives. Be it in past relationships, someone we have known or know or even in ourselves, we have all experience life’s beauty followed by a quick sharp shock into the random pain that life can also inflict. At its core this story is about love, and that is fundamental to all of us. While this drama shows that life is hard and painful the script is interspersed with humour and strength of character. Ultimately Doug and Kayleen survive despite and maybe because of how their lives have turned out, and maybe because they have each other. In the end, Gruesome Playground Injuries is a message about not being alone in suffering. There is always someone going through something that is the same, or worse than ourselves. 

Navi seeks out pieces of theatre which inspire us and that we believe, through tragic catharsis or core clinching laughter, has the potential to be thought provoking, moving and engaging for an audience. We always aim to have our audiences leave our productions feeling in a different emotional place from where they were when the first walked in to theatre. We believe Gruesome Playground Injuries to be the kind of play that will do just that.  Our production will be the first time that this past Off Broadway darling (which starred actor Selma Blair) by Pulitzer finalist and Obi award winning playwright, Rajiv Joseph, has been performed in New Zealand. 

Gruesome Playground Injuries
Lot 23, 23 Minnie Street, Eden Terrace, Auckland 
on 8, 9, 10, 16 and 17 September 2016.
iTicket – book here



Dawn Glover is a founding member and the Artistic Director at Navi Collaborative. She is thrilled with how the company has been developing over the past two years and is excited to see what new doors our production of Gruesome Playground Injuries will open here in New Zealand. Dawn has a Masters in Performance from Purdue University (USA), trains and teaches at The Kacie Stetson Studio, is a partner in running Chocolate Lantern (a children’s drama program), and is represented as an actor by Trio Arts.


Joshua also completed his Bachelors of Performing and Screen Arts, at Unitec, specialising in Film Production. As a part of Navi Collaborative, Josh coordinated our very first The Schools Project at Tangaroa College (2014). He is the writer of Navi’s project Balls, which he developed since mid-2015.


Morgan Bradley is co-founder of Navi Collaborative, producer and people relations. Morgan is loving how passionate the team members of Navi are and they are the reason Navi has been so successful over the past two years. Gruesome Playground Injuries had always been on Navi's radar and Morgan is delighted to be head producer of this production. 

Outside of Navi, Morgan is on the performers committee in Equity NZ and an ambassador for Southern Stars Charitable Trust. Morgan is represented by Auckland Actors & NZ Models. She has just finished shooting TVNZ's latest TV series 'Dirty Laundry' & AMC's 'Making Of The Mob - Chicago' has been airing on US televisions since June 2016. 


Raluca is new to the Navi team and is in charge of all things ‘marketing’. She is brimming full of great ideas for Navi and a love for the theatre and all things film. Raluca is also an actor who has had guests roles on New Zealand programs such as Shortland Street.  She is represented by Bold Artist Management.


Nicci Reuben has worked as a performer, teacher and director for over 20 years. She is thoroughly enjoying this journey with Navi Collaborative and directing Gruesome Playground Injuries. It is a beautiful thought-provoking piece that she is looking forward to showing Auckland audiences. Nicci has recently created Chocolate Lantern Theatre Company, specialising in puppet and mask theatre and children’s drama classes/workshops. Previous directing credits also include: Oedipus by Stephen Berkoff, Virginia by Edna O Brien, Box by MYPT, Find Me by Olwyn Wymark, A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney.


After a two year stint with the Hagley Theatre Company in Christchurch, Tyler Brailey moved to Auckland to further his craft with a bachelor of performing arts at Unitec. Since graduating Tyler has signed on board with the Robert Bruce agency. He was thrilled to be included in Navi Collaborative's Gruesome Playground Injuries and has thoroughly relished the process of discovering Doug through an intensive rehearsal process.

Theatre ,

(No shows 11-15 Sept)

Gruesome injuries over decades won’t cut you to the quick

Review by Janet McAllister 12th Sep 2016

This slightly perplexing play is absorbing enough: a physically daredevil young boy meets a psychologically fragile girl, and we see them meeting up at various points during the next 30 years.

The dialogue is well-written and well-acted, and there are some nice moments of comedy as well as intensity between the two characters. The youthfully traded insults feel real even when the construct of meeting every five years feels artificial.

But while the play delves into some serious issues, it’s unclear exactly what it’s trying to say. Possibly that it’s hard to let people in when we’re going through rough times. [More


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Skilfully pinpointed truth

Review by Nik Smythe 09th Sep 2016

American playwright Rajiv Joseph’s subtly penetrating script examines the dysfunctional affections of an accident-prone young man and anxiety-prone young woman, during their various encounters over a thirty year period.  Director Nicci Reuben and her accomplished cast of two bring an acutely engaging rendition to the cyclorama studio-cum-intimate theatre space of Lot23.

Local ex-pat Christchurch actor Tyler Brailey and emigrant ex-pat Indiana USA actor Dawn Glower give commendable depth to their respective roles.  Doug is a wilful, fearless romantic with a resolute passion and an unwavering sense of right and wrong complementing his apparent subconscious death wish.  Kayleen is a troubled girl with estranged parents, prone to self-harm and sabotaging any possibility for a loving connection with the one man who lives to treat her right.

The strength of the characters’ charisma and chemistry is enhanced by the actors’ notably believable portrayals at different ages, presented in five-year intervals.  Beginning at age eight years old in the school sick bay, through to the final hospital scene at thirty-eight, the timeline of the intervening scenes jumps back and forth, presumably to maximise the impact of various recollections and predictions.  I am vaguely curious how it would play in chronological order.  Beyond their school years, the scenes depicted are evidently the only times they ever meet up. 

Psychologically and philosophically there is a whole lot to unpack from the duo’s ongoing plight.  Framed within his increasingly physically damaging exploits, Doug’s generous advances and invitations to share are perpetually undermined by Kayleen’s pathological unwillingness to allow herself to even try for her best chance for happiness.  There’s an echo of Great Expectations in the narrative, albeit sans any malicious intent or vindictive stepmother calling the shots on Kayleen’s part. 

The grisly contributions from ‘Set and Gore Advisor’ Ross Reuben are technically impressive, without upstaging the performance in any way.  Doug’s various wounds through the ages are applied by himself during the scene and costume changes. 

The set is both an aesthetic and functional feat in itself: wardrobe racks and mirrors each side, bricks and planks framing the edges, and a large colourful faux stained glass window hung at the rear reflecting onto the scuffed white cyclorama wall.  The centrepiece, and arguably third cast member, is a versatile hospital gurney representing Doug’s various points of convalescence through the ages and, in the one non health-centre located scene, a dead man’s coffin.

Collectively the changeovers take almost as long as the action in between, each occurring at a measured, unhurried pace over the duration of a poignantly selected indie rock and/or folk track (soundtrack uncredited).  This simple but effective montage device is nonetheless engaging in a soothingly contemplative kind of way.

Typically, as outside observers, it’s infuriating to witness two hapless chumps who – as is obvious to the entire universe – ought to get over themselves and get together.  Their relatability is testament both to Joseph’s insight and the director and actors’ skill in pinpointing and conveying the truth within the classically oxymoronic human condition. 


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