Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

01/07/2010 - 03/07/2010

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

12/07/2010 - 17/07/2010

Settlers Festival Theatre, Dunedin

13/10/2010 - 16/10/2010

Suter Theatre, Nelson

21/10/2010 - 22/10/2010

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

25/01/2011 - 19/02/2011

Fuel Festival 2010

Production Details

Written by Lynda Chanwai-Earle
Directed by David O'Donnell

Ice Floe Productions


Echoing the restrictions of life in the Antarctic, award winning theatre show HEAT plays the Fuel Festival in Hamilton, 1 – 3 July, then brings its own alternative energy source to power up at the Herald Theatre from Monday 12 – Saturday 17 July to tell an original love story between a woman, a man and a penguin.

“exciting and intriguing … a gripping and moving tale of magical realism.” Laurie Atkinson, Dominion Post

It’s 1999 and a husband and wife scientific team hunker down inside a tiny, tightly packed survival capsule on the Ross Ice Shelf, wintering over in the vast frozen Antarctic, accompanied by only web-cam, sporadic radio contact, the amazing Aurora Australis, and a colony of male penguins.   Struggling to maintain a failing relationship, Stella (Kate Prior) observes breeding patterns among Emperor penguins, while John (Simon Vincent) monitors climate change – until the untimely introduction of a third character (Byron Coll) blows their fragile world apart.

Unlike other conventional theatre shows HEAT uses self-sustainable energy means – powered off-grid with lights, sound and electronics from low drain and/or renewable energy. This unique energy installation on site at the theatre is a world first. The production will look, as the Antarctic stations are increasingly doing, to partnerships with companies developing sustainable, renewable power sources.

With a powerful script written by the acclaimed Lynda Chanwai Earle (Ka Shue, Alchemy, BoxRoleDream), music by CNZ Antarctic Fellow Gareth Farr and design features by Brian King and Marcus McShane, HEAT opens a rare glimpse into the extraordinary isolated experience of being an Antarctic scientist, being a human pushed to the extremes, and of the sheer beauty of a winter in the Antarctic.

HEAT was nominated for two Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in 2008, winning the coveted Best Actor for the role of Bob the penguin.

The 2010 national tour of HEAT includes seasons in Hamilton (1-3 July), Auckland (12-17 July), Christchurch (6-9 October), Dunedin (13-16 October), Nelson (20-23 October) and a return Wellington season (28 October – 20 November).

HEAT contains adult content and full male nudity.

The Fuel Festival 2010
Thursday 1st July 8pm, Friday 2nd July 8pm, Saturday 3rd July 8pm
Venue: The Meteor, Hamilton
Tickets: $32, Student $22 GA
Duration: 90 Minutes

in association with STAMP at THE EDGE
12-17 July 2010. Monday – Wednesday at 7pm.
Thursday – Saturday at 8pm.
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE
Tickets: Adults $25, Concessions / Students $20 (service fees apply)
Group bookings available by phone 09 357 3354
Bookings: 0800 BUY TICKETS or www.buytickets.co.nz 

The Voice of Darran from Scott Base - Isaac Heron
The Voice of Radio Ice Rock - James Davenport

Designer: BRIAN KING
Sound design and composition: GARETH FARR
Lighting design & alternative power requirements: MARCUS MCSHANE

stage manager: Chelsea Adams
technical operator: Isaac Heron
body make-up artists: Chelsea Adams, Isaac Heron & Pat McIntosh
penguin make-up designer: Dianne Wheeler
construction: Iain Cooper and John Hodgkins
production manager:Pat McIntosh
publicist: Brianne Kerr
graphic designer: Robert Appierdo
producers: Lynda Chanwai-Earle & Pat McIntosh

(Circa Two) box office Linda Wilson / house manager Suzanne Blackburn

alternative energy system designed and installed by Graeme Ebbett, Ebbett Automation Ltd
directed by David O’Donnell
designed by Brian King
sound design and composition Gareth Farr
lighting design & alternative power requirements Marcus McShane

HEAT the script was originally commissioned by Circa Theatre with a grant from Creative New Zealand, then first performed as part of the STAB Festival 2008: commissioned by BATS Theatre.

Theatre ,

1hr 30min, no interval

Emotions run hot as relations turn frigid

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 27th Jan 2011

An integral part of living on the ice in the Antarctic is the need for heat. But in Lynda Chanwai-Earle’s play Heat, which is set in a “gadget hut” somewhere near Scott base, the word has far more meaning than its use to cook food or warm the hut. 

The heat generated by two bodies making love, then raging at each other through anger and jealousy and the heat of burning grief for a loved one are all part of the emotional roller coast that husband and wife scientists Stella, studying penguins, and John, studying climate change, experience in the claustrophobic atmosphere of their hut as they winter over on the Antarctic ice. 

As the conditions outside the hut become more extreme, so does their strained relationship inside the hut, the guilt each feels at the death of their son from meningitis pivotal to their deteriorating marriage. 

Things become even worse when Stella takes in an injured penguin that has been isolated from the group she has been studying. She names the penguin Bob and it soon becomes a wedge driving the couple even further apart as Stella transfers the love of her child onto Bob and John goes from jealous rage to anger with murderous intent towards Bob. Eventually the situation resolves itself but not before some heavy and intense interactions occur between all three characters. 

It is the strength and intensity of Kate Prior playing Stella and Simon Vincent playing John and the nimbleness of Bryon Coll as Bob the penguin bouncing between the two that makes this a standout production. Director David O’Donnell does well to keep the play moving forward without over or understating the emotional aspects, Prior and Vincent confidently scaling a range of emotions as they portray their characters coming to grips with both their physical surroundings and their emotional feelings.

They also highlight the play’s humour adding texture and reality to the characters’ relationship. And Coll’s Bob the penguin is a real delight,. Thoroughly endearing, he infuses qualities into the character that are both animal and human.

Brian King’s realistic set is an exact replica of Antarctic huts with a symbolic piece of ice that glows outside. The production is powered by a solar panel and wind turbine set up outside the theatre. This power runs Marcus McShane’s lighting design which adds much to the realism of the production, as does Gareth Farr’s soundscape, making this highly unusual but very theatrical production one not to be missed.
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Dramatic, comic, confrontational, visceral, moving

Review by John Smythe 26th Jan 2011

Heat is on. If you missed it before in Wellington, make sure you see it now. If you saw it at Bats, it’s definitely worth another visit.  

It has taken a while but now Circa Theatre – which commissioned Lynda Chanwai-Earle to write it just over eight years ago – has brought Ice Floe Productions’ second iteration of Heat in to Circa Two, following seasons in Hamilton, Auckland and Dunedin last year. (The world premiere was a Stab commission at Bats in 2008 – reviewed here.) David O’Donnell has directed both productions.

Always authentic Kate Prior remains in the role of penguin-observing scientist Stella while Simon Vincent plays her climate scientist husband John and Byron Coll takes the role of Bob the penguin. All are superb, as were the original cast. And Gareth Farr’s sound design and composition remain sublime.

It’s hard to pinpoint what has changed otherwise. Brian King’s evocation of an Antarctic hut is wooden rather than aluminium-framed. Marcus McShane (whose questions raised in the Comments stream of the premiere production clarified whether the power source was truly sustainable or just off grid) is now the credited lighting designer and the alternative energy system (Graeme Ebbett and Don Blackmore) is indeed clean and green this time.

The story plays out powerfully. It is 1999 and Stella and John, who have lost a child to meningococcal meningitis, are apparently getting on with their professional lives by wintering over in the Antarctic. But the heat of unresolved grief is threatening the sustainability of their relationship …

Articulation is some of the plot points, regarding their loss, is a bit clunky and Stella’s poetic soliloquies seem stylistically out of place, but nothing can subvert the build of tension and drama, judiciously laced with comic relief and touching humanity, as Stella’s fixation on the rejected penguin, Bob, generates levels of ‘madness’ readily recognised by grieving and jealous lovers anywhere.

The more the characters lose touch with reality the less concerned I feel, this time, about the poetic licence taken (e.g. being outside at 14 degrees below without gloves). Indeed the surreal elements – e.g. when Bob takes a swig of Bourbon – ring very true as manifestations of their altered states of being.

Bob is a huge challenge for any actor. Brian Hotter set the standard in ’08 (he won the Gail Cowan Management Award for Actor of the Year at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards) and now Byron Coll equals if not betters him with a stunning feat of physical acting.

His childlike vulnerability, inquisitiveness, cheekiness and clumsiness (in a human environment) is mesmerising, and its equal and opposite effect on Stella (love) and John (antipathy) is as credible as it’s compelling. Rather than the child simile, perhaps it’s more like being lumbered with a rambunctious dog that one partner loves and the other initially loathes.

Kate Prior and Simon Vincent also bring a strong physicality to their well-grounded roles and relationship, from romping fun to serious fighting. It is this dimension in all three performances that transcends the words and elevates the in-turns dramatic, comic, confrontational, visceral and moving action into the realms of exceptional.

As the Stella-Bob relationship grows, the Stella-John relationship corrodes, yet John cannot help but grow to like the maddening Bob … until … The turning point into the final phase raises riveting questions about the health, sanity and wellbeing of all three, making for a gripping conclusion.

With Heat in Circa Two and The Motor Camp in Circa One, following the continuing season of Roger Hall’s Robin Hood: the pantomime, Circa has kicked off the year they way they intend to finish it, with excellent homegrown fare, book-ending their usual spread of international offerings.
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Provocative and moving

Review by Sharon Matthews 14th Oct 2010

Now is the winter of our artistic isolation, made glorious summer by this Otago Festival, as we finally experience those productions that we (I) have read about from afar! (sorry, William). Although I wish to compliment the Otago Festival for their excellent choice of productions, I had to begin this review with my (corrupted) version of this quote from Shakespeare’s Richard III. For some reason the original rendering was echoing in my head as I left the theatre after watching this play.

Heat, to quote the tagline, is a story of a Man, a Woman and a Penguin. A husband and wife scientific team, Stella and John, performed by Kate Prior and Simon Vincent, are wintering over in Antarctica. Their relationship comes under increasing pressure as the claustrophobic environment of a cramped survival capsule on the Ross Ice Shelf combines with the emotional baggage that they both literally and figuratively unpack. Alcohol is also involved, which when combined with sub zero freezing temperatures, sets the stage for reckless and self-destructive adult games.

There is a sign posted at the entrance to the theatre which states that this play contains, “nudity and adult themes.” Damn right there are! And I salute writer Lynda Chanwai-Earle and director David O’Donnell for their temerity in assuming that audiences can cope with adult themes, for taking risks, for extending technical boundaries.

And for asking adult questions, such as “how do we survive?” How do we survive, how will we choose to survive? What do we need in order to survive as individuals, as a couple, as a community? What part of our identity do we give up in order to survive with others? Why do ‘poos’ and ‘wees’ need to be separated for disposal in Antarctica?*

Prior and Vincent give a graphic picture of a long term relationship s they bicker, wrestle amorously, and, ummm, exchange and examine bodily fluids. I must however, salute actor Byron Coll for his courageous and convincing portrayal of Bob the penguin wearing only a body-painted costume. A comment was made later querying the need for his nudity.  But, if he had worn a loincloth to protect the audience from the shocking sight of male genitalia, I would have been unable to see Coll as anything other than a human male. For me, his nudity became a metaphor for honest connection with others, and the demands we make upon them. Thus, his nudity is a stark analogy for the visceral need to breed, and the need to belong, that we share with the animal kingdom. 

But why are Richard III’s words present for me, these bitter angry words from a discontented man, who has rejected a world he feels hates him? Perhaps it is merely the combination of words, as it becomes apparent that Stella and John are fleeing the “stinking hot summer’s day” in which they have emotionally located the death of their son. Perhaps their flight into winter is an attempt to freeze their self-hatred into that moment. Perhaps because all those passions – all that bitterness, anger, and rejection – are unpacked with Cam’s ashes. 

Considered on a global scale, the decision of the Heat production team to experiment with alternative energy sources highlights the unsustainability of our current over-consuming first world practices. On a micro scale, the production illustrates the damage caused by those unsustainable practices we adopt in order to maintain our psychic economy. 

Chanwai-Earle’s powerful script shows that the search for the surrogate ‘other’, the magic replacement, who will heal that inner pain, is a hopeless one that will only cause further wounding. Therefore, I find the closing image in this play a movingly hopeful one as husband and wife are united, perhaps temporarily, in a moment of shared grief and farewell to their dead son. 

Both provocative and moving, Heat will remain in my consciousness for a long time to come.
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*This is a serious question and the answer has ecological implications that will surprise you. Go look it up.


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Polar passion piece worth it for the penguin

Review by Janet McAllister 14th Jul 2010

For once, a play’s tagline is accurate: this drama-on-ice is pitched as “a woman, a man and a penguin” – and they’re not kidding about the penguin. He is the silent star character of this physical show, not some cuddly mascot but rather a point of contention between scientist lovers as they spend a winter together, alone, in Antarctica.

Byron Coll, naked save for some black and white paint and knee pads, is impressively brave and – even better – is committed and convincing as said penguin. He has the bird’s shaking-head, gaping-mouth and flapping-wing mannerisms down pat. [More]
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Darkness and lightness in wintering over

Review by Joanna Davies 13th Jul 2010

Like Antarctica, the vast land in which it’s set, Heat holds surprises, heart-cradling poignancy, and fascination.

Lynda Chanwai-Earle’s play was originally performed in 2008. It follows Stella (Kate Prior), a penguin expert, and her climate scientist husband John (Simon Vincent), as they winter over in an Antarctic outpost to research their areas of expertise. Stella and John’s only contact with the outside world is via a radioed voice from Scott Base (Isaac Heron).

Isolation in Antarctica becomes the perfect setting to examine the effects of grief on a marriage and the two individuals involved. Stella and John’s story unfolds to reveal they lost a child and it addresses how they both cope, or don’t as the case may be. It raises issues around how each parent is expected to deal with tragedy and whether a couple can weather such a storm. And the catalyst for everything is Bob (Byron Coll), an Emperor Penguin who turns to Stella when he’s ostracised by his colony.

For all that, Heat is playful. There’s a lightness and optimism to many of the characters’ interactions, all of which are beautifully directed by David O’Donnell. In the wrong hands it could easily be a disaster, but O’Donnell draws a natural camaraderie, physicality and honesty from the cast. 

It’s no surprise that the production involves many major names and reputations. The remarkably haunting, atmospheric soundtrack is composed by Gareth Farr, who drew on his own experience as artist-in-residence with Antarctica New Zealand. 

Brian King is behind the compact, realistic set that makes the audience feel at times welcome guests and at others uncomfortable voyeurs. And Marcus McShane created the set’s lighting design using technology similar to that found in Antarctica and taking the piece entirely off [i.e. away from] the grid. 

Thanks to those huge contributions, the cast has the freedom to bring their characters to life so vividly.

Stella and John share their cramped space well at times, and almost suffocate in it at others, while Bob’s intensely physical role highlights their lack of spatial freedom. And although he is a penguin, he also becomes the elephant in the room of Stella and John’s marriage.

But he cannot be ignored, and it’s for that reason I suspect the choice was made for Bob to be painted, not costumed in a penguin suit. The more he and Stella interact, the more body paint is transferred to her, showing how closely entwined they and their experiences become.

While Prior, Vincent and Coll are each exceptional in their roles, Coll’s portrayal of Bob is so realistic I was thrown when his face broke into a smile for the audience’s applause at the end. Suddenly the penguin vanished from the stage, and I wasn’t expecting it.

Congratulations to everyone involved with Heat. What you’ve created deserves a far longer run.
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A passionate, powerful play

Review by Gail Pittaway 05th Jul 2010

One of the more extraordinary characters in the Fuel festival this week is Bob the penguin, an unexpected star in this extraordinary play set in Antarctica.

Scientists Stella (Kate Prior) and John (Simon Vincent) are wintering in a tiny hut through the darkness and ice of the southern winter; she to study the mating and nesting patterns of Emperor penguins, he to monitor climate change. They are married, and at first excited and happy to unpack the few materials and provisions that will take them through their sojourn.

But extreme conditions at this extremity of the earth, coupled with their claustrophobic dwelling, cause the heat of grief to rise. Their son, Cam has died suddenly presumably of meningitis or some such condition and this removal from ordinary life into the heart of winter seems more of a desperate act.

Into their bleak horizon comes Bob (Byron Coll in a superb physical performance, naked but with penguin body paint) – offering a surrogate for Stella and several kinds of threat for John.

Even while portraying their very convincing tensions, the play also has moments of surprise, humour, even fantasy. There’s a webcam set up which broadcasts many inappropriate private moments to school children back in New Zealand, and Bob gets hooked on John’s computer as it plays his beloved rugby tests. 

Kate Prior’s Stella is determined, obsessive, but fragile, while Simon Vincent’s John is perfectly poised between the joking desperation of bloke-dom and inner rage. When mixed with Bob’s bland, blinking wildness, and in the confines of the cabin, the heat indeed rises.

It’s a passionate, powerful play; one that will charm as much as disturb the audience, with the quality of the performances, the fine, taut music by Gareth Farr and the crisp lighting cues from an alternative energy system, to a unique, appropriate design.

The deceptively simple set, by Brian King, with its basic polar cabin, transparent walls and illuminated square of ice, is an inspiring concept for Lynda Chanwai Earle’s play. There’s even a toilet and this most elemental aspect of Antarctic life is not glossed over.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the trade, but when the characters don snow suits and boots, then stomp downstage to peer into the penguin colony which rejected Bob or at the ice breaking even in winter and disappearing beyond the horizon, it’s the audience they confront: our flawed relationships, unspoken griefs, deliberate acts of violence and above all carelessness with our fragile world.

Fortunately, for the characters as well as the audience, it’s also to look out at Aurora Australis, the southern lights. The play closes just after winter solstice, to a slice of new light and with the promised return of the sun’s heat to the frozen wasteland. 


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