04/07/2012 - 14/07/2012
Comedy Hit of Edinburgh Fringe comes to Wellington
The second coming is coming…
You’re young, free, single… and haven’t had sex for eleven and a half months. Then one morning you wake up pregnant, and the Angel Gabriel is on your doorstep claiming it’s the son of God growing in your womb. Suddenly, three more potential fathers claim parentage: an ex-boyfriend, a geek from school… and the Devil himself. Things quickly spiral into farcical confusion and important questions emerge: how does the modern woman deal with the Immaculate Conception? What happened to pro-choice? How do you tell the son of God that if he doesn’t do his homework he’ll amount to nothing? Will God pay child support?
Multi-award-winning UK writer, Oliver Lansley’s Immaculate premiered at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where Metro hailed it as “genuinely a laugh a minute” and The British Theatre Guide declared “in a Fringe which is filled with comedies, this has to be one of the funniest.”
Now one of New Zealand’s freshest new directing talents, Melanie Camp (Summer Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night) brings this quirky original comedy to Wellington. “It’s so refreshing to work on a play that’s just pure good fun. Oh sure, it asks a few real questions, but there’s enough insanity to cover it up if you’re not in the mood for contemplation” says Camp.
This is a show for those wanting a relaxed, fun night at the theatre: “It’s a bit naughty and a bit obnoxious and it makes no apologies for it… It’s written in the best flavour of British comedy that we Kiwis love, and we added an American just for kicks,” laughs Camp.
Immaculate stars a talented cast of internationally and locally trained actors, including award-winning US actor Tommy Truss, working alongside recent acting graduates of Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School Tess Jamieson-Karaha and Aidan Weekes, and two-time winner of Best Actress, V 48 Hour Film Competition, Rebecca Parker.
Starring: Rebecca Parker (NZ), Stuart Lawson (UK), Todd Dixon (NZ), Tommy Truss (US), Tess Jamieson-Karaha (NZ) and Aidan Weekes (NZ).
Produced by Backyard Theatre
4 – 14 July, 8pm
Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11, 6:30pm – no show Sunday/Monday
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Tickets: Full $25/ Concession $20/ Student Standby $10
Bookings: 0508 iticket
Mia: Rebecca Parker
Gabriel: Stuart Lawson
Lucifer: Tommy Truss
Michael: Todd Dixon
Rebecca: Tess Jamieson-Karaha
Gary Goodman: Aidan Weekes
Producer: Rodney Bane
Stage Manager and Lighting Design: Joseph Mahoney
Publicist: Fiona McNamara
A fertile imagination at play
Review by John Smythe 06th Jul 2012
Unexpected pregnancy can do strange things to a single woman, even more so when she hasn’t had sex for eleven months; not that she remembers, anyway. This is the premise of UK playwright Oliver Lansley’s whimsical play, happily relocated in NZ by director Melanie Camp, given the situation is universal and the script does not demand cultural specificity.
Lansley premiered it at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival as writer, director, designer, actor (he played Gary Goodman) and ticket-taker. An outside eye may have encouraged him to trim it, although it is the multiple perspectives he brings to the story that inevitably lead to the sense of repetition. All six characters – well, not quite Gary – get to address the audience directly with their side of the story.
In impressive masks (by Jonathan Kingston-Smith), an intentionally dodgy Greek Chorus opens the show, telling us in rhyming couplets the protagonist’s task is to incubate a child whose paternity is unclear. Then a very pregnant Mia emerges from the bathroom trying to decode a pregnancy test. And later, after it has long been clear to her and the five others gathered in her apartment that she is six months gone, her doctor phones to confirm she is pregnant.
That is just one example of the over-writing which, amazingly, does not bog down this buoyant production, played out with alacrity by a lively cast. The effortless shifting between the now and previous moments that illustrate a point or re-enact a key experience, indicates we are privy to Mia’s busy and inventive mind.
Rebecca Parker is wonderfully fluent as the hitherto cynical Mia trying to make sense of her extraordinary predicament. A marine Biology student, she also took a Comparative Religions paper which feeds her fertile brain no-end. She speaks with the wit and self-assurance of a satirical columnist, even when she is feeling vulnerable; even more so in those moments, perhaps. Her gift-of-the-gab is simultaneously her salvation and defence mechanism, and Parker makes it all very true.
Her ex-partner Michael is given the most obvious ‘comic’ performance by Todd Dixon, both in the flashbacks and the ‘present’ scenes, as he justifies his self-centred nature and betrayals. But can we take the ‘present’ as objectively real or is it all in the mind of Mia? Some of it, surely, must be real …
The arrival of the angel Gabriel – via the door, without wings and conventionally dressed – with his glad tidings of great joy, is played low-key and ‘for real’ by Stuart Lawson. He leaves us in little doubt that the second coming is upon us, even if is rather coy about discussing sex. But his access to God is not sufficient to answer the many questions Mia has, about child support and paternal visiting rights, for example.
The fallen angel Lucifer is the other contender for paternity and American Tommy Truss brings a splendidly modulated manifestation to his much maligned role.
Mia’s best friend Rebecca, introduced early as utterly repulsed by the idea of pregnancy, birth and motherhood, is played with a spot-on comic sensibility by Tess Jamieson-Karaha, who beats Parker hands down in the motor-mouth stakes with one impressive outburst.
Gary Goodman, the dork from high school whose very name is enough to make the women mock-vomit, is made cringe-worthily real by Aidan Weekes both in a recalled encounter at a bar, where the barman looks strangely like Lucifer, and in his sudden and unexpected appearance at Mia’s place.
Was it Gary who spilled the beans (entendre intended)? Has news of the imminent second coming really gone global, as evidenced by multilingual news broadcasts (sound design by David Lawrence)? Or is it all down to hormones; to Mia’s inner struggle to choose between a holy role, carrier of the devil’s spawn or the heroine of a Greek tragedy. And if the latter, what tragic flaw made this happen?
You’ll just have to go and decide all that for yourself.
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