Havoc in the Garden

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

02/03/2011 - 06/03/2011

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

09/03/2011 - 12/03/2011

The Pumphouse Theatre, Takapuna, Auckland

16/03/2011 - 26/03/2011

Auckland Arts Festival 2011

Production Details

Sometimes it’s the first place I run … and sometimes it’s the last place on earth – My family. Sometimes it is your only truth … and sometimes it’s your biggest lie. 

Havoc in the Garden, a new play from acclaimed British writer Lennie James and Massive Theatre Company (Whero’s New Net, The Girls Show), is another collaboration from the hugely successful team that produced The Sons of Charlie Paora – the 2002 hit that toured nationally and internationally, including a season at London’s Royal Court Theatre. Directed by Sam Scott, Havoc in the Garden features an exciting cast of New Zealand’s emerging and established theatre practitioners.

A play about families – about the lies that parents tell, and children reveal; what holds families together and what tears them apart – Havoc in the Garden unfolds in a small neighbourhood of five houses on an Auckland hillside where an act of violence and rage is about to shatter the community. In an ensuing police siege, five families are forced to confront the truths they have kept buried.

Of the work, Lennie James has commented: 

“I grew up in a children’s home from 9 years old. I became a foster child when I was 15. The woman my children call ‘Nana Pam’ is no blood relation of theirs. Indeed most of the people in my life that I count as family share no blood tie with me. I wanted to explore with Massive notions of family and where they call home and why. Home for me at the moment is London. I’m in Los Angeles working, so home for me is not my house in Willesden Green, it is all of London. I wanted to explore the ‘beautiful…flower garden.’ and the ‘havoc’ Buddha refers too. I wanted to look for the ‘new metaphors’ of what the family is to the Massive company members. As with the 1st ‘adventure’ (The Sons of Charlie Paora) –  I looked for the common ground.”

“[The Sons of Charlie Paora] is generous and strange and resounding and rare.

The Observer, (UK) on The Sons of Charlie Paora

“Massive Company has a distinctive, unique brand of theatre … the freshest, liveliest show in town” – Metro Magazine

Havoc in the Garden
Herald Theatre, 2-6 March, 7pm
Mangere Arts Centre, 9-12 March, 7pm
Pumphouse Theatre, 16-26 March

Festival page

2hrs 20min approx, incl. interval

Moments of magic in marathon to challenge and audience’s resolve

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 05th Mar 2011

The latest piece of youth-oriented theatre from Massive Company adopts the admirably egalitarian but dramatically unsatisfying strategy of giving what amounts to a lead role to each member of the 14 person cast.

The result is likely to test audience attentiveness as no less than five parallel narratives, each with its own back-story, stretch out over a show time that comes close to three hours with interval included.

The drama unfolds in separate houses which are locked down due to an armed hostage taking incident. [More]
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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Intense emotional upheaval in five families from one community

Review by Nik Smythe 03rd Mar 2011

This world premiere production is born out of a two and a half year gestation, during which commissioned English playwright Lennie James worked through a sequence of workshops and readings by the venerated Massive Company. The central theme is family, specifically the question of how families remain inevitably connected, whether they ought to or not. 

It’s morning in the normally laid-back community of Monument Hill, and everyone sets about their respective day as usual. Then everyone hears a series of violent noises emanating from the house up the hill, first shouting, then gunfire, sirens, helicopters. The police superintendent locks the area down until the armed offenders squad can bring the gunman under control. 

Throughout the day and into the night, while they wait for normality to be restored, five local sets of friends and family numbering between one and four undergo deep, personal journeys of their own. 

Sean Coyle’s ingenious design effectively combines five complete sets to evoke a real sense of neighbourhood: a bedroom, a deck, a dining room, a lawn and a basement. The respective groups never interact between them, but they are all reacting and to varying degrees responding to the volatile noises of the fracas on the hill.

The bubbling concoction of fourteen diverse players make for a massive company indeed. As high school student Sina, daughter of the gunman, Loretta Aukuso is both fragile and determined, flanked by her sassy wisecracking girlfriend Eva (Olive Asi) and their awkward lanky Asian friend Mai (Tuyet Nguyen), as they anxiously wait to learn the fate of Eva’s besieged parents. 

Miriama McDowell’s eight months pregnant Hinemoa has a dignified but damaged air to her, with her doting husband Brady played with loveable goofiness by Wesley Dowdell. They have arrived at her old family home to heal a deep wound inflicted long ago. There she is greeted by her unwitting half-sister, happy-go-lucky Pippa (Nicole Thomson), and her frenetic, long-suffering stepsister Connie (Kura Forrester). 

Across the stage a house-painting family team of four Samoan men, two older brothers Davis (Fasi Amosa) and Tyler (Joe Falau) and their nephews Meleki (Beulah Koale) and Saepele (Jake Toaga) are hard at work, both painting and giving each other shit. When Meleki starts intoning ominous sounding speeches in Samoan it triggers a fearful response in Tyler that clearly connects to a dark secret he is heavily reluctant to reveal. 

Down in the basement, the beautifully musical Jani (Bree Peters) is visited, completely unexpectedly and out of the blue, by her pretty-boy golden-child rock star brother Dylan (Ash Jones) who vanished at the peak of his stellar career five years earlier to the day. 

Centre stage to all these dramas, Scott Cotter captures a worldly innocence as recluse blogger Domino, who hasn’t left his bedroom, spoken directly to anyone or stopped streaming for a hundred and sixty six days.

Many scenes involve communication breakdowns whereby people obstinately, even pathologically, evade direct questions, thereby perpetuating the senseless alienations and traumas immersing them. Ultimately for some there is a tangible resolution, whilst others are left more open-ended; some mysteries are solved and some remain. 

Overall Sam Scott’s experienced direction carries the complex intercut series of dramas very well through almost three hours of frankly intense emotional upheaval. Here and there some scenes seemed a tad staged or didactic, not always feeling as real as it does at other times. However, these minor creases should almost certainly be ironed out during its three-venue Auckland tour at the Herald, Mangere Arts Centre and Takapuna’s Pumphouse. 
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.  


Michael Smythe March 23rd, 2011

Doh! - I must read more closely before criticising the critic - I must read more closely before criticising the critic - I must read more closely before criticising the critic - I must read more closely before criticising the critic - I must read more closely before criticising the critic -...

nik smythe March 22nd, 2011

They are the girls in paragraph five, the first actors I mentioned.  They were indeed excellent, as were the entire cast.  There is actually one slight writing criticism for me in the overuse and lacking subtlety of their 'girlfriend' routine.  The forced profundity of that motif marrs an otherwise wholly effective large scale work.

Michael Smythe March 17th, 2011

Saw 'Havoc' at the Pumphouse tonight and was hugely impressed! Nik - you forgot to mention the great performances of the three schoolgirls. All I can say is see this show ito experience the power of well developed ensemble theatre. It deserves to go far beyond Hawkes Bay and New Plymouth,

Central North Island Consortium March 3rd, 2011

Following it's Auckland season Havoc in the Garden will be touring with the Central North Island Consortium;

  • Hawkes Bay 1-2 April, Hawkes Bay Opera House (TicketDirect),
  • Hamilton 12-13 April, Clarence St Theatre (Ticketek)
  • New Plymouth, 16-17 April (Ticketmaster)

All venues are offering earlybird pricing, student prices and workshops with Massive Company. 

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