Crystal Palace Theatre, Mount Eden, Auckland

18/07/2013 - 27/07/2013

Production Details

‘Whetungarongo te tangata toi tu whenua.
As man disappears from sight, the land remains.’ 

Aotearoa New Zealand has been blighted with an epidemic of unknown origin and is isolated from the rest of the world. The only hint of outside communication is the signal broadcasting across all devices: parallel 38.

With this their only clue, a group of desperate survivors traverse their once idyllic country to the signal’s origin: Kaitaia. Upon their arrival, nothing is what they expect. It is here, at the limits of their endurance and courage, joined by the metaphysical presence of their homeland and haunted by the memories of the ghosts they’ve left behind, that we join the survivors for the unforgettable climax of their story.

The Crystal Palace Theatre
535-537 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden
18-17 July, 8pm
(No show Sunday)
Tickets available at iTicket.co.nz

TELL TALE THEATRE COMPANY is an emerging theatre company that was formed to fulfil the vision of what Hell’s Teeth could be. We have a passion for new and challenging stories that reflect our unique location – New Zealand.

ROSALIND GARDNER is an actor, director and writer. She has worked as an acting tutor on the Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts at Unitec and ran PASNZ’s Between the Lines and Out Loud Youth Theatre Companies for years. Her plays include Shift, Crying For Time, Map for Running, Once, Louisa May, Dreamit(Mylifeasitissofar).co and this work – Hell’s Teeth (originally After, We Will…)

She works in the way of Mike Leigh and Caryl Churchill, applying an intense process, with a rigorous and demanding approach to devising and script. 

Don’t miss Hell’s Teeth, Tell Tale Theatre Company’s debut performance, this July at Mt Eden’s historic and rarely seen Crystal Palace Theatre. 


CAST: Tom Augustine, Damien Avery, Phillip Brooks, Madeleine de Young, Holly Hudson, James Jennings, Shaan Kesha, Mo McArtney, Mary McCormick, Leah Nielsen, Susannah Roy, Sigourney Taylor, Natalie Varcoe, Lana Walters, Bella Wheeler, Jack Wheeler

Creative Advisor and Set Design: Jane Hakaraia 
Lighting Design and Operation: Michael Craven 
Sound Design: Marcel Bellve
Costume Design: Zackary Steiner Fox
Graphic Design: Michael de Young
Stage Manager: Stephanie Waters
Chief Editor: Phillip Brooks
Film Editors: Tom Augustine, Phillip Brooks, Michael Miller, Abraham Mohetaue, Puteri Raja Ariff, Jerry Tian, Arielle Sullivan  

1 hr 30 mins

More histrionic melodrama than intimate intensity

Review by Nik Smythe 19th Jul 2013

The end of the world as we know it seems to be very fashionable right now, as any number of recent films and Aotea Square’s interactive event Apocalypse Z can testify.  Now Tell Tale Theatre Company presents their own take with a dark and wholly ambitious multi-media production, exploring the aftermath of a mysterious pandemic that has killed off most of the world’s population near the end of the 21st century. 

This is essentially the second draft of the company’s foray into this neo-political tale of the breakdown of society as we know it, and the resulting desperate adventure of the few remaining survivors on the run together, though not in much agreement about from whom they’re running, or to where. 

Director/playwright Rosalind Gardner cites respective cinematic and theatrical maestros Mike Leigh and Caryl Churchill as inspirations for the intensive workshopping process employed to devise her original script.  The result plays like a recognisably Kiwi version of Survivors, being as it is part socio-political philosophical commentary, part people-driven soap opera. 

Due to mistaking the venue’s postcode for the street number, we’ve unfortunately missed the first five minutes, entering at the tail end of a televised broadcast for ‘Little Friend’, a sterile, pseudo-wholesome Big Brother type organization.  It takes a little while to get up to speed with the action, though I note the programme’s synopsis gives a fairly comprehensive, ultimately essential overview of the story’s background. 

The cast of fifteen characters all appear to be in their late teens and early twenties, although I presume that’s more circumstantial than relevant to the plot in any way.  An accumulation of a number of smaller groupings, the band of dubiously fortunate escapees from the painful demise that has befallen almost everyone they know, take refuge in the abandoned cinema waiting for the rain to pass. 

Between them the incidental company of refugees is fairly and understandably rife with mistrust, paranoia and a range of conspiracy theories.  Eddie (Phillip Brooks) is the only one in the recommended full body-cover, including mask and goggles.  ‘Camera’ (Damien Avery) videos the ordeal on his smartphone in case they don’t make it, so they might ultimately matter to future generations. 

Ana (Susannah Smith-Roy) is not registered with Little Friend as per the legal requirement, and seems to be harbouring more secrets besides.  David (Jack Wheeler) compulsively studies any and all available material connected with the entire event in the hope of discovering any kind of solution.

These and other motivations drive the hungry, bickering posse forward, if only they can eventually agree on where to go or what to do.  The main divisive issue is to do with how trustworthy their conservative ‘AotearoaNZ Party’ government is, and whether they and Little Friend are genuinely assisting survivors or, as some believe, actually responsible for the outbreak in the first place? 

A large assortment of artists has collaborated to depict the bleak desperation with futuristic gadgetry, and a range of conceptual audio and/or visual artworks.  Michael Craven’s lighting design serves to provide some much-needed and hard-to-define focus between the disparate interactions.  Costume designer Zackary Steiner-Fox’s successfully creates a collective wardrobe as random and seeming un-designed as one would expect in reality. 

As for the play’s claim to being ‘an epic story translated into intimate theatre’, the necessary emotional impact is compromised for a few reasons. 

It’s a challenge trying to follow, let alone engage with the array of characters as they interact with each other, sharing their various backstories and debating the best course of action.  This struggle to clearly identify certain characters results in difficulty with understanding or caring for them.  A handful of soliloquy-like speeches, emphasised with projected semi-abstract graphics, tend to lack definition, so again it takes some effort to relate.  

The majestic presence of the run-down Crystal Palace lends itself greatly to a sense of monumental import, as dressed /distressed with boxes, furniture, blankets, ladders and more boxes by set designer Jane Hakaraia.  In performance terms however, the scale and acoustics create a real challenge in striking the right balance between projection and intimacy.  On opening night at least, the resulting pitch comes off more as histrionic melodrama than any great degree of intimate intensity. 

Besides expressing a distinctly Kiwi vernacular, the intention and underlying message of Hell’s Teeth is less than clear to me, especially in the face of so many apocalypse-themed stories being released lately.  This season is developed from the company’s earlier devised work-in-progress ‘After we will…’ (I further humbly confess I don’t grasp the significance of the new title). 

Overall, my feeling is that the work is still progressing. 


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