Intimacies: Sweet Thing & I’d Rather Be The Pope

Victoria Theatre (The Vic), 93 Victoria Rd, Devonport, Auckland

09/08/2011 - 14/08/2011

Production Details


It’s too late for therapy! 

INTIMACIES is two thematically linked one act plays by celebrated New Zealand dramatist Stephen Sinclair (The Bellbird, The Bach, Russian Snark). Both plays are set in the near future, and explore the ways in which new technologies are changing our lives and relationships.

Sweet Thing opens with Sally having a frank and intimate discussion with her Mum. The two appear to have a beautiful close relationship — that is, until Sally’s brother Philip storms in, throws Mum out of the room, and demands Sally get rid of her for good. For Mum is not exactly what she seems; she’s a clone that Sally made of her mother upon her death – a way for her to address all the unresolved issues from her childhood.

In I’d Rather Be The Pope we meet Rod, a hard-core gamer who spends of his conscious life inhabiting the amoral universe of virtual reality. A borderline sociopath prone to violent outbursts, he is an outcast and marginalised by society. However when he assaults his Counsellor, her reaction isn’t what you might expect …

INTIMACIES is a new departure for Sinclair, and a disturbing premonition of where our increasingly virtual society is headed.

This world premiere run of INTIMACIES is part of the Outbox Theatre’s inaugural season bringing live theatre back to the historic Victoria Theatre in Devonport.

August 9 – 14 (Tue-Sun) at the Victoria Picture Palace and Theatre, 48 Victoria Rd, Devonport
Tickets available online at
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 Starring Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street, Go Girls), Toby Leach, Micheala Rooney, Yvette Parsons, Dawn Adams, David Beresford, Steven Lyell, and Terry Gray.

The creative team includes Stephen Sinclair, Elena Stejko, David Hornblow, Steve Morrison, Sara Taylor, and Wilma Kotze. 

Sinclair boldly pushes the limits

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 13th Aug 2011

A premiere of work by Stephen Sinclair is always eagerly anticipated and the two short plays presented at Devonport’s Victoria Theatre reveal an intriguing new direction while confirming Sinclair’s reputation for provocative writing that is finely attuned to the quirkiness of the Kiwi psyche.

A residency with the innovative Outbox Theatre has Sinclair in experimental mode as he toys with theatrical conventions and blurs the boundaries between reality and virtuality.

The first offering, Sweet Thing, presents a sharply drawn portrait of a middle-aged woman trapped in a vortex of neurotic self-obsession. But the familiar treatment of middle-class domestic dysfunction is enlivened by a surprising and highly amusing incursion in the world of virtual reality. [More]   
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Watchable if somewhat abstruse black comedy

Review by Nik Smythe 10th Aug 2011

Two new thematically linked one-act plays show something of a conceptual departure from playwright Stephen Sinclair’s previous celebrated works, with mixed results. 

The first play, Sweet Thing, opens on middle-aged Sally (Michaela Rooney) in an emotional reunion with her disarmingly doddery Mum (Yvette Parsons), after what she implies was a lifetime of estrangement. Before long it becomes clear that something’s just a wee bit not right about this, particularly when Sally’s aggro big brother Phillip (Toby Leach) blusters in, totally horrified at what she has done! 

[Spoiler alert – except all this is revealed in publicity and in the programme.]
It’s apparent that Sally has used her Mum’s DNA to clone a new one, to whom she can air all the unspoken grievances of her unhappy childhood. [Ends.]  

Then when Angry Phillip returns to emphatically apologise, the similarity of his Bain-like jersey to Mum’s makes it clear that things are even less right.

The inevitable pitfalls of experimenting with this kind of radical therapy soon show themselves; in the end it raises more questions about personal identity than any perceived technological horror. While the clever script employs a satisfyingly Pinteresque lack of direct exposition or ultimate resolution, the programme contains explanations to aid any probable confusion.

Taking a more absurdist approach to a more realistic scenario, play #2, I’d Rather Be The Pope, is enigmatic to the point of incomprehensibility. 

Angry young man Rod (Leighton Cardno) is receiving counselling for his gaming addiction. Despite doing so voluntarily, he spends the time obnoxiously defending his right to be obsessed with the virtual world and treating his professionally well-intentioned counsellor (Rooney again) – and anyone else he talks to for that matter – with derisive contempt.

When in trouble for inappropriate behaviour as the (14th century French) Pope in an online game, Rob is visited by a facilitator (Leech again) with a stern, friendly warning. Rob takes this in his remorselessly abusive stride, before going back to work on his poor counsellor. It brings to mind the sadistic nihilism of the Beatles’ Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, including the inability to sympathise with a protagonist who displays no redeeming qualities to speak of. 

In the final scene an angelic maiden (Dawn Adams) translates a Gregorian monk’s (David Beresford) ramblings to Rod about predestiny and life’s purpose. I confess the intended message of this play is lost on me. 

Steven Morrison’s minimalist set and lighting design once again makes excellent use of the natural resources of the esteemed Old Vic, notably the brick rear wall adorned with only a framed child’s drawing behind the tasteful, rudimentary household furnishings in Sweet Thing. The second play takes place entirely in black; the lack of any set besides the occasional couple of chairs evokes a kind of purgatorial atmosphere. 

The programme declares this quirky double bill’s agenda is to address issues relevant to our society with disturbing near-future visions. In Sinclair’s writer /director notes there’s a sense that he’s created a theatrical exposé on the potential dangers of the advancement of media technology, in a kind of bid to prevent the potential redundancy of theatre. The narrative events are simply a vehicle for the possible implications it raises for our consideration. 

Personally, I don’t see theatre in any danger of becoming redundant in my lifetime or beyond. If it were, I wonder how effective these works could be in combating it. 

Regardless, Intimacies makes for a watchable, somewhat abstruse evening of experimental black comedy.    
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