05/09/2015 - 26/09/2015
THE GREATS ESCAPE: GEORGE HENARE, RAY HENWOOD AND KEN BLACKBURN REUNITE FOR AUCKLAND THEATRE COMPANY’S HEROES
A heart-warming, mischievous and insightful comedy by Britain’s greatest living playwright, Heroes, will open at Auckland’s Maidment Theatre on 3 September.
Gérald Sibleyras’ Heroes – translated by Tom Stoppard – reunites the ‘knights’ of New Zealand theatre, George Henare CNZM (Anne Boleyn, Who Wants to be 100?, Awatea), Ray Henwood ONZM (The Crucible, Who Wants to be 100?, Gliding On) and Ken Blackburn ONZM (Anne Boleyn, Hillary) for the show they performed at Circa Theatre in Wellington 10 years ago. Now, despite a few years under their belts, the trio will bring their ever-youthful energy to the charming characters.
On the terrace of an old soldiers’ home, three World War One veterans wile away the day, chatting, reminiscing … and plotting their escape.
Gustave suffers from crippling agoraphobia, Henri has a gammy leg and Philippe periodically passes out due to a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain. But nothing can dull their spirits or quell their desire to mount a heroic escape. Except perhaps the young nurses.
For these three friends, the taste of freedom is too tempting. Their querulous and cantankerous camaraderie is tested when Gustave conceives an improbable escape plan that will take them to a distant poplar-lined hill and, perhaps, freedom.
Stoppard brings his magnificent wit and his dazzling command of the English language to Sibleyras’ moving and mirthful musings on friendship and mortality. Heroes stirs the mind and touches the soul and is bravura theatre at its best. Life-affirming!
Under the watch of masterful Director Alison Quigan (The Polly Hood series, A Shortcut to Happiness, Calendar Girls), this is bravura theatre at its best.
Heroes runs from 3 to 26 September 2015 at the Maidment Theatre.
Father’s Day in New Zealand falls on Sunday 6 September.
Venue: The Auckland University Maidment Theatre
Dates: 3 September – 26 September 2015
Tickets: www.atc.co.nzor (09) 309 0390
Henri - GEORGE HENARE
Gustave - RAY HENWOOD
Philippe - KEN BLACKBURN
Director: Alison Quigan
Designer: John Parker
Bon Mot Attack
Review by Matt Baker 10th Sep 2015
At face value, Heroes is not a great play. There is cause for drama, but, like the three characters themselves, it never goes anywhere. There is nothing inherently theatrical about it, its Britishdryness, as implied by the original playwright Gérald Sibleyras himself, being far more suited to a BBC or ITV series. However, three veterans of New Zealand theatre, under the command of director Alison Quigan, firing off bon mots with impeccable precision and timing, is one of the funniest productions this year.
Sibelyras stated that the play is not only about human mortality, but also the universal desire to escape from the confines of your life. This escape never occurs for Henri, Gustave, or Philippe, residents of a home for veterans. Instead, the play follows their forlorn fantasies, delinquent scheming, and even moments of unconsciousness, and while this barely imitates a progression plot, let alone provides character development, George Henare, Ray Henwood, and especially Ken Blackburn play the anarchic action and comical dialogue with great vigour and expert craft. [More]
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A touching, honest window into friendship and solidarity
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 06th Sep 2015
The undeniable craft of George Henare, Ray Henwood and Ken Blackburn delivers a sublime performance of Gerald Sibleyras’ perceptive yet quirky play, Heroes. Under director Alison Quigan’s unrushed touch, the men’s effortless ensemble-interweave hits all the right notes.
Set in 1959, in a French war veterans home, this delightful gem is at times a laugh-a-minute comedy then a palpable reminder of the vulnerabilities and complexities which plague aging souls.
This production is round two for all in the cast, as they played the same roles at Circa Theatre in 2007. Therefore, it’s no surprise that all three are totally immersed in their roles, often employing silence and stillness to powerful effect.
George Henare adds the infectious energy and charm of a young man to his jovial and enthusiastic Henri. Ray Henwood captures the curmudgeon that is Gustave and is completely brilliant. Ken Blackburn’s Philippe, who is often the peacemaker between the two quarrelsome men either side of him, is equally sublime. These three old dogs are occasionally visited by a fourth, who gets a richly deserved star-turn at the end.
As they sit on the back terrace – dissecting the nurses, strategising on protecting their patch, ruminating on the Great War and planning their great escape from captivity – status, power and hierarchy are their major preoccupations. While they infuriate and heckle one another, the fusion of fine performances and text subtly reveals three very deep, affecting friendships. Class and royal connections count for nothing when you’re soon to meet your maker.
Despite their plans to escape being fanciful and hare-brained, the delivery and dialogue is so instinctive and real, that the audience cannot help but be drawn into their world of minutiae and routine, plotting and scheming.
The text is simply poetry. For a work so preoccupied with death knocking on the door, the cast breathe buckets of life and vitality into their roles, each relishing Tom Stoppard’s exquisite translation as they navigate and negotiate who is in charge, as well as other daily rituals.
Even though the play is stylistically the opposite of absurdist, the work has an element of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame to it: the constant tension of whether or not they will actually leave; the co-dependency of the characters and their inevitable intertwined end.
Alison Quigan’s superb creative team complements the cast well. John Parker’s intelligent set design marks two very different worlds. On the one hand, the safe, familiar building our heroes live in, is naturalistic and cosy. Phillip Dexter’s lighting design accentuates the comforts of home by throwing dappled autumn light on the walls as well as warm light behind the window shutters. By contrast, the foreign, alien environment of what lies beyond is represented by sharp impressionist triangles for trees.
Costume design by Gaye Jackson is dapper and well suited. Sound design by Sean Lynch is perfect and includes Edith Piaf’s signature song, ‘La Vie En Rose’, as well as France’s most well-known pop-song from the era, ‘La Mer’ (which most know as ‘Beyond The Sea’).
At the top of the night, ATC’s Artistic Director Colin McColl introduces the work as being (in part) a homage to war heroes – 2015 being 100 years since the Gallipoli campaign. However, for me, Heroes resonates as a touching, honest window into friendship and solidarity, as three lively minds attached to aging bodies, face their encroaching mortality together.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer