I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose One of My Limbs

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

02/02/2011 - 19/02/2011

Production Details

In a tiny town at the bottom of the world, there is about to be an apocalypse. It will require party supplies. 

Win Win Biscuit Factory brings you the amazing, true-ish tale of a girl who won’t be complete unless she loses a limb.

Budding art genius O’Gradient has a houseful of decadent admirers and an intriguing, invisible friend slash personal trainer constantly fluffing up her ego. Nevertheless, she feels incomplete. She fantasises about suffering; specifically, having one less limb.

Elsewhere in the beautiful but boring town of Love Mountain, way, way down at the bottom of the world, Barney Button and Mrs Button have misplaced Mr Button; Derek is using his religious powers to pick up girls and no one seems to be aware that the town is imploding.

Set to original music, with stunning design, I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose One Of My Limbs is a new New Zealand play with a black comic heart set in a fantastical world that envelopes and delights the audience.

I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose One of My Limbs
Basement, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland,
Wednesday 2 – Saturday 19 February.
Tues – Wed, 7pm; Thurs – Sat, 8pm.
Tickets $26 and $22 (service fees apply)
Book at 0800 BUY TICKETS or www.buytickets.co.nz  

Win Win Biscuit Factory

I Won’t be Happy Unless I Lose One of My Limbs is a new play by Julie Hill, commissioned by Creative New Zealand for Win Win Biscuit Factory and then developed through Playmarket initiatives. It is directed by Andrew Foster, designed by Stephen Bain, with original music by the production company.

Having worked together for over a decade on shows includingA Clockwork Orange, Kafka’s The Trial, The Arsehole and Stories Told To Me By Girls in the guises of theatre companies Trouble, Under Lili’s Balcony and Winning Productions, the group has come together to produce another innovative, highly original work. 

 Win Win Biscuit Factory workers are:

Director: Andrew Foster  
Writer: Julie Hill  
Designer: Stephen Bain  
Actress: Nisha Madhan
Actor: Gareth Reeves*
Actor: ‘Jazzy’ Jeremy Randerson*  
*Gareth Reeves and Jeremy Randerson will be sharing a role. Gareth performing from 2 – 12 February and Jeremy from 15 – 19 February.    

Publicist:  Alex Ellis    

Brave and original experiment

Review by Lillian Richards 03rd Feb 2011

If the Basement were a human being it would be a cross dresser: one night an elegant lady, the next a garish whore. For tonight’s opening of I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose One Of My Limbs the building is no longer a darkened dungeon but an hallucinogenic miniaturized Kiwi town populated by ice cream vendors and Astroturf, paddling pools and bark symbolising mountainous terrain.

The audience are invited to become part of this scenery. Instead of being alien onlookers, we’re talked to and approached by the actors, and as such a rather awkward transition occurs between real life and hyper-real life; the cagey blurring of what’s character and what’s ordinary person, what’s performance and what’s ‘natural’. Perhaps this was intentional? An experiment aimed at isolating these two concepts once and for all? Outcome: awkwardness.

The town we’ve stumbled into – essentially become part of – is Love Mountain: so completely, literally devised by designer Stephen Bain that it’s rather more like a budget movie than the stark intimations of the usual theatre set. If it were a movie it would be one part The Price of Milk and one part The League of Gentlemen.

Billed as an apocalyptic dissection of Kiwi life, I Won’t Be Happy… is a dark and clever meander around a small town invented by an imaginative mind. Writer Julie Hill crafts characters to populate Love Mountain that are new and strange; likeably odd people for whom the limitations of the town metamorphose into limitations on their lives and colour the nature of their dreams.

Gareth Reeves and Nisha Madhan together suit up to bring the entire town to life. Reeves delivers believable parity between characters as diverse as an imaginary friend to a back-water mullet-sporting kid. Madhan takes on, amongst others, the main character of artistically temperamental O’Gradient.

O’Gradient is a commentary on the strangeness of body dysmorphic disorder and the over sensitive ‘I’m more special than you’ sensibilities of The Artist around whom the story centres and the town eventually falls.

Both actors do a wonderful job of remaining buoyant, aware and connected in what is an extremely challenging series of events, called upon as they are to change pace, character, setting, scene and 45s on a record player for over an hour. Part of this, no doubt, is due to Andrew Foster’s direction.

There is a certain off-kilter magic to this town, where the ordinary transcends into a soft madness in the inhabitants. It feels like Reeves and Madhan are letting this town speak through them, embedded in the acting this requires, whilst simultaneously remaining caretakers of the audience. Both actors are on tightrope wires, a hair’s breadth between controlling both or losing either. Yet through a shaky start, both actors emerge, warming to this schizophrenic atmosphere and drawing the audience into this unstable and wonderful place. 

As directed by Foster, I Won’t Be Happy…  is an altogether experimental work that feels as though it would be more at home on the big screen and which in part sounds more like ‘reading’ a book (if you can possibly follow my meaning). The fact that it is brought to life as a piece of theatre is both brave and foolish –foolish in an endearing way – in that the decision to say a lot and act a little less breaks so many rules, you’d either have to be a fool or very wise to pull it off. So does it pull it off? Mostly, yes.

I say it could be a book because the writing is so good, the characters so thoughtful and on the whole unique, that if they were on the page I would keep reading. I say it could be a movie because the aesthetic intentions are so clearly pivotal to the overall theme that if it were a movie the cinematography would have the same delightful play of colour, styling and placement as a Wes Anderson film. But in the end it’s a piece of theatre and must be regarded as such.

One of the stranger elements resulting from this decision comes with the breaking of the fourth wall: the audience are the hills, the people at the party, the sun-baked plebeians eating ice cream, the drunken dancers at a bar. This produces an atmosphere of the experimental. As the audience we’re looking in on the process whilst it’s still half occurring; we’re addressed directly and then asked to switch back into voyeurs.

Part of the script is what seem to be stage directions read aloud. With a set that’s already an entire town, this sometimes over-bakes an already highly stimulated environment and the use of microphones to distinguish between ‘acting’ and ‘scene setting’ is a little jarring. Again it feels like the play, though valiantly rendered, would perhaps better manifest itself on film where the need to explain each character change and scene shift could be done nonverbally.

However what begins as perplexing shifts into enjoyable when you open yourself to the newness of I Won’t Be Happy…  The living and interactive setting becomes a town, the characters spin around you to make a motion joyful to watch. Though each character’s time is split they’re split evenly and I don’t find I favour one over the other. Each time a town member becomes the focus I am glad again to see them.

I Won’t Be Happy…is brave, original and potentially a pretty amazing first draft of a novel of screenplay for a movie I’d very much like to see. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Grae Burton February 6th, 2011

I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose One Of My  Limbs
Wednesday, February 2 at 7:00pm - February 19 at 9:00pm
Basement Theatre
Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD

Nisha Madhan, Gareth Reeves and/or Jeremy Randerson. 
By director Andrew Foster, designer Stephen Bain and writer Julie Hill.

The uncanny power of a good story relies on its ability to transport the recipient into another dimension in which the unbelievable becomes believable, the unrealistic, utterly real.  I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose One Of My Limbs is just such a story experience. 

From the moment of stepping into the cleverly transformed and interactive Basement Theatre Space one is presented with an ice cream and the option of seats against the walls or the more “in the story” bean bags or couch.  The layout presents many problems for the in the round presentation, which the actors navigate with aplomb.

A bold script from Julie Hill has not so much a plot as a premise – that people often need to lose the precious things in their lives to be complete, played out by the strange inhabitants of Love Mountain, the party supplies store lothario with two broken arms, the Asian nurse, the artist with a yearning for amputation, the eerily demented mother and trapped bogan son and Bob, who may or may not exist, much like God, whose presence, and lack of is felt throughout. 

The characters were skilfully presented by Nisha Madhan and Gareth Reeves on the night  I went (Jeremy Randerson subs in mid season to shake up the ever evolving show).  To begin the actors narrate and perform using a microphone (flavours of Brechtian didactic devices are used throughout the performance, well influenced and controlled by Director Andrew Foster and Designer Stephen Bain) at once engaging and alienating to the point where one is not sure if the piece is actually theatre or a bizarre variety show.  It’s not long before the audience is completely immersed in the surreal construction and swept along by the story’s momentum. Clever performance affectation and “modern mask” use helped delineate the characters and the performers did very well to keep them in the realms of relatability and empathy to, from and with the audience.

The first in-venue Auckland theatre season to be staged in 2011 is, in my opinion, a winner (and in case you’re wondering The Basement, with its recent addition of Air-conditioning, makes for a very comfortable experience). 

There are laughs, tears, romance, a paddling pool, live vinyl on the deck and of course The Apocalypse. And ice cream!  The Win-Win Biscuit Factory in association with STAMP at THE EDGE have staged a confounding and remarkable work, as much art as theatre and set a high standard for their creative peers to follow.  Inspired and inspiring work and a must see.  Don’t miss it!

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council