BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

22/11/2022 - 03/12/2022

Production Details

Written by Ben Wilson
Directed by Cassandra Tse

Presented by Red Scare Theatre Company

A Dunedin-based drummer suddenly uproots his job and city; a recently dumped self-help expert is self-destructing; a primary school teacher wants to write violent children’s fiction; and a thirty-one year old, skateboarding, Emma Thompson-obsessed man-child is sleeping on the couch. A comedy-drama set in small-town New Zealand.

Content warning:
Discussion of suicide, mental illness, sexual assault and sexual references. Depictions of choking, smoking, swearing and fake blood.
Recommended for ages 15+

“I wrote homemade takeaways because i wanted to create a work that made people feel less alone – a work about family and home (well-trodden ground) but where empathy is at the forefront of the storytelling.” Ben Wilson 

Shortlisted for the 2021 Adam NZ Playwriting Award
Winner – Best New Play at Playmarket’s Playwrights B4 25 2020

BATS Theatre, the Stage
Tuesday 22 November – Saturday 3 December 2022
Full: $25
Concession: $20
Group 6+: $22
The Difference: $40 

Follow Red Scare on Facebook and Instagram to find out more!

Carol, played by Tabatha Pini-Hall
Paul, played by James Cain
Annie, played by Kate Johnstone
Will, played by Dryw McArthur
Turtle and Understudy by Mia Oudes
Turtle and Understudy by Ren Mahuika

Written by Ben Wilson
Directed by Cassandra Tse

Set Design by Rosie Gilmore
Lighting Design by Bekky Boyce
Costume Design by Victoria Gridley
Sound Design by Maxwell Apse
Stage Management by Anna Barker
Production Management by Patrick Barnes
Publicity by Tyler Clarke
Produced by Red Scare Theatre Company

Theatre ,

2 hrs 15mins

Impossible not to love the characters and hope for the best for them

Review by Wesley Hollis 23rd Nov 2022

Get ready for one of the most watch-worthy New Zealand plays you will see all year. It’s Homemade Takeaways, written by Ben Wilson and presented by Red Scare Theatre Company at BATS theatre. My interest is piqued when I see it has won the Best New Play award at Playmarket’s Playwrights B4 25 2020, and has been shortlisted for the 2021 Adam NZ Playwriting award. Luckily, I have tickets to the opening night.

The set, designed by Rosie Gilmore, is filled with props and various pieces of furniture, showing us the living space and outdoor area of an average Kiwi home. While I also like a play that can portray a lot with minimal props and set, there is no doubt that this show’s rich set up helps the story to come alive. The space never feels cramped or impractical, even during action scenes. Every part of the set is utilised, and the various props help to build the characters and show us the way they live their everyday lives – from the simple routine of making breakfast in the morning, to what kind of DVDs they like to watch.

Sound designer Maxwell Apse’s sound effects and music are used to portray mood and emotion, to indicate a special occasion (such as with Christmas music), or let you know when there is a storm brewing. Bekky Boyce’s lighting is phenomenal, doing everything from spotlighting certain characters, to indicating scene transitions or a time of day or which part of the stage to focus on. I especially like the way the sound and lighting are able to link the first and second halves of the show.

Directed by Cassandra Tse, Homemade Takeaways has a small but strong cast of four actors (or five, if you count a surprise appearance by a minor character during the show). Each character is well rounded with a well thought-out backstory and their own likes, dislikes, anxieties and coping mechanisms – all highly relatable. Anybody who has gone through some kind of trauma, heartbreak, anxiety or depression (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?) will find something in these characters to connect with. Underpinning this all is the characters’ abilities to relate to each other, and to love and connect, even after disagreements and fights.

Annie (Kate Johnstone) and Paul (James Cain) are the two characters we get to know first. Annie expresses a range of emotions from quiet and loving moments, through anxious ones, to explosive arguments and disturbing manifestations of depression. The more I come to know Annie and her pain, the more I hope she is able to heal from her past trauma and move forward.

Paul is the show’s comic relief and the most laid-back character. As the tension builds throughout the show, it is most often Paul who is there to break it. He is also one of the most loving and caring characters, and while we often see his more flippant side, we come to see his sensitive and attentive side as well. We even get to see him during one of his vulnerable moments. He is of the best developed characters in my opinion, and my personal favourite.

Carol (Tabatha Pini-Hall) is the play’s most caring character. She is always offering to lend a hand to the other characters, though we get to see her selfish side poke through at times as well. Carol could be developed more, so we get to know her as well as other characters. While her and Annie’s portrayal of anxiety is very similar at times, Carol is still a wonderful character –her creativity and sense of imagination being especially enjoyable.

Will (Dryw McArthur) is the show’s wildcard, and Annie’s brother. Dryw and Kate do a great job of playing siblings, with many subtle similarities and a dynamic that is as much rivalry as it is love and support. Will is a more introverted, quietly angry character with explosive moments leading to one of the best action scenes in the play. Another character with a lot of trauma, it is wonderful to see both Will and Annie come to terms with their pasts and grow closer towards the end of the show.

Homemade Takeaways takes us on an emotional journey between four characters who, despite all their moments of animosity, love and are drawn to each other. It is a story about healing and coming to love yourself, and learning how to do so over and over again every day. Writer Ben Wilson said he wanted to create a work that made people feel less alone. I think he has succeeded, as everybody can relate to the central themes of connection and family.

There are so many moments in this play to love: little repeated motifs throughout, such as Paul’s love for a certain actress; the shared traits between all the characters, such as smoking as a coping mechanism. Some of the scenes feel a bit long, to the point where the point they are trying to make almost gets lost. Also, sometimes the moments of comic relief and tension breaking make the comedy seem like the point rather than the serious issue. However, even during the longest scenes this show is never boring.

The writing is sensational, as is the acting. It’s impossible to walk away from this play without loving the characters and hoping for the best for them.

Homemade Takeaways is on for the rest of November through to early December, and I highly recommend grabbing tickets through the BATS website. I for one will be keeping an eye on what these actors are up to, and what Ben Wilson will be creating next. If it’s another slice of life story with exceptional characters and design, I will certainly be there.


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