Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

02/10/2013 - 12/10/2013

Production Details

Backyard Theatre proudly presents the international premiere of Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman. Described as When Harry Met Sally for hipsters, this play is a light-hearted look at real estate woes and the ‘quarter-life crisis’.

This comedy will appeal to anyone who has looked at the TradeMe flat share ads and wondered, “Is this it?”

GRYPHON THEATRE, Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Wed 2 Oct – Sat 5 Oct, 8pm
Tue 8 Oct – Wed 9 Oct, 6.30pm
Thur 10 Oct – Sat 12 Oct, 8pm
Tickets: $25 full /$20 concessions /$18 (groups 10+) /$18 Equity/NZAG members
Bar available
Book via via iTicket

Slick portrait of Gen Ys

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 05th Oct 2013

Life in New York apartments comes to town in Backyard Theatre’s latest theatre presentation, Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman. 

Ruth (Harriett Prebble), the heroine of the piece, has spent the past fifteen years moving through more than two dozen New York apartment hunting for the perfect abode.  On the way she has had affairs and moved in with various lovers. 

She is currently house sitting after just busting up with a married academic, Jesse (Daniel Pooley), who in turn is moving into his own apartment having just divorced his wife after his bust up with Ruth. 

He is also having an affair with one of his students, Bess (Libby Wilson), who is sick of rooming with 6 other flatmates.  His half-brother, Astor (Aidan Weekes), who is best friends with Ruth, is “couch surfing” looking for the ideal spot to put down his roots and looking for someone to share with.

They all have families and some have jobs but they are transient and as the title of the play suggests “hunting and gathering” even though 3 of them are heading into “30 something” territory.

A sort of Bob & Carol Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice meets The Big Chill, it is a quirky and off-beat play with slick, at times rather too slick and superficial, dialogue, that nevertheless has some very funny lines and interesting comments, if somewhat American, about the plight of Generation Y moving into Generation X. 

The set of dozens of brown cardboard boxes that make up the set are creatively, and at times ingeniously used to create rooms and areas that never slows the momentum. 

And the cast of four under the assured direction of Shannon Friday aid the production greatly with their confidence, making the most of the quick-fire dialogue and moving the play along at a cracking pace.

In particular Harriett Prebble as Ruth conveys both fragility and vulnerability yet after all that happens to her is able to show a stoic resolve at the end that that has her moving forward to a new life with confidence.

As the two men in her life Daniel Pooley gives much credence to the plight of Jesse while Aidan Weekes is all nervous energy and he floats from one crisis and apartment to another. 

And Libby Wilson is every part the seductress in snaring her teacher, all of which makes for an entertaining if not necessarily deep and meaningful evening’s entertainment.


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Brisk, energetic, whimsical and enjoyable

Review by Maryanne Cathro 03rd Oct 2013

There’s something instantly recognisable about American theatre. Introspection and neurosis, a tendency to talk about stuff rather than just get on with it. Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Harvey Fierstein – their voice is as distinct from Alan Ayckbourne and Tom Stoppard as Barry Manilow is from The Pogues. (For the record, I apologise for only giving long established male playwrights and musicians as examples, I am showing my age.)

Don’t get me wrong, I actually rather like it. And Brooke Berman’s story about four lost souls looking for somewhere to live in New York is a likeable example. 

Ruth (Harriet Prebble) has reached 30 without ever having a lease of her own. She has house sat and ‘lived with’ all of her adult life. Still smarting from being dumped by her married boyfriend, her yearning to settle down is heightened by her sense of loss and shame at having an affair. She is what happens when the Manic Pixie Dream Girl grows up and wants an existence of her own. 

Astor (Aidan Weekes) has been couch-surfing for years – like his best friend Ruth, itinerant employment and social values keep him poor and unsettled. Torn between his need for a place to live, and his need to be taken seriously as an independent adult, he fumbles on.

Astor’s brother Jesse (Daniel Pooley) is a newly divorced academic at Columbia University. He has found and leased a two bedroom apartment but has no idea how to furnish it. And the impetus of his divorce was his wife’s discovery of his affair with Ruth.

Bess (Libby Wilson) shares a place with six other female students. While auditing Jesse’s English Lit lectures, it occurs to her that a relationship with the recently divorced professor could improve her standard of living and allow her to indulge her passion for Ikea furniture.

So really, all there is to do is sit back and watch how their lives entwine around one another’s.

Director Shannon Friday is North American herself and so I wonder if she appreciates the risk in playing with the provenance of her characters. A directorial decision to leave the actors be, rather than put up with bad American accents, is wise but comes with its own issues. Jesse and Astor are British; Bess a Kiwi. This alters their back stories and upbringings considerably: in these cultures children are not taught to express their feelings at the drop of a hat and so adult characters who do this can seem a little uncomfortable.   

That aside, this production is brisk, energetic, whimsical and enjoyable. The use of cardboard boxes to create the set is clever and practical as well as being evocative of the sense of transience that moving house brings with it.

Use of incidental music and sound is very effective. The space is used to great effect. The story plays out with twists and coincidences that the cast reflects in their dance like moving of boxes.

We all need to find our place, not just to live but to ‘be’ in the broadest sense, and this play does a nice job of paralleling the two. Maybe it isn’t quite as easy to relate to as it wants to be, but maybe that’s because I am past all that angsting and don’t want to be reminded.


John Smythe October 5th, 2013

Thanks for the clarification, Shannon. As usual many NZ actors, who are exposed to multiple accents and dialects from an early age, are wonderfully adept at representing other cultures. 

Shannon Friday October 5th, 2013

As a point of information, half the cast are doing accents: Harriet Prebble and Aidan Weekes are both New Zealanders.  Harriet is doing an American dialect for Ruth, and Aidan is doing a British dialect to match Dan. 

I take it as a compliment that these were not recognized as accents, but these actors deserve credit for the vocal work they have done to make their dialects convincing.  I made an off-hand comment to Ms Cathro before the show that may have been misleading, and I apologise if that is the case.

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