The Gym, The Arts Centre, Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch

14/10/2014 - 25/10/2014

The Gym, The Arts Centre - return season, Christchurch

20/11/2014 - 30/11/2014

Production Details

“The great Theatre of Oklahoma is calling you! It’s calling you today only! If you miss this opportunity there will never be another! Anyone thinking of his future, your place is with us! All welcome! Anyone who wants to be an artist, step forward! We are the theatre that has a place for everyone, everyone in his place! … All welcome!” 

Free Theatre Christchurch becomes the great Theatre of Oklahoma and calls you to the first major new work to be produced in the restored Christchurch Arts Centre.

Free Theatre (est. 1979), New Zealand’s longest running producer of experimental theatre took up the first arts-based tenancy in September with collaborators Arts Circus. Over the year, Free Theatre has been developing Kafka’s Amerika to premiere in The Gym (originally the Boy’s High gymnasium and former Academy Cinema). This is an interactive multimedia theatre production that explores the all-pervasive America of our present as achieved utopia or nightmare.

Directed by Peter Falkenberg and with a set designed by Stuart Lloyd-Harris, Kafka’s Amerika takes up the last chapter of the great dreamer’s first novel and imagines a theatre where everyone can play a part. It is the first in a series of new works that Free Theatre is designing to engage with the emergence of a new city. This new works programme also includes associated education outcomes.

Free Theatre’s new works and education programme looks to contribute to The Arts Centre’s vision to provide a campus of 21st century arts practice. Arts Centre Chief Executive André Lovatt says the ethos of experimentation and innovation that Free Theatre pursues in work such as Kafka’s Amerika is a great fit for the Arts Centre and marks another step forward for the restoration of this much loved part of Christchurch. “Though we still have a long road ahead, reaching milestones like this highlights how close we are to a new era for the Arts Centre” says Lovatt.

“We are excited to welcome the first major arts tenancy to the Arts Centre. The agreement with the Free Theatre is a reflection of the Arts Centre’s vision as a central city hub for the arts, performance and education, which is informing much of our restoration programme.”

Kafka’s Amerika builds on the company’s recent productions, the popular Canterbury Tales and I Sing The Body Electric, which was named Best Theatre for 2012 by The Press.

“If Kafka’s Amerika is as good as The Earthquake in Chile, you can be certain that it is a plane trip to Christchurch for me.” – Jock Philips, Ministry for Cultural and Heritage

“I am impressed by the significant contribution Free Theatre has for a long while afforded Christchurch, but especially post-earthquake when they have nimbly shifted gear to offer relevant theatrical experiences in spaces not generally designated for theatre. It is the shared creative impulse made manifest that makes continuing to live in Christchurch bearable.”
- Julia Morison, Artist

Kafka’s Amerika Performance Information
Tuesday 14 October – Saturday 25 October 2014, 8pm
(No show Sunday or Monday)
The Gym, The Arts Centre, Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch
Tickets: Waged $30. Unwaged $20. Online Bookings Essential. www.freetheatre.org.nz 

The Angel of History from Canterbury Tales, a starting point for the exploration of Angels in Kafka’s Amerika. 

We’re delighted to confirm that due to demand and the success of Kafka’s Amerika we are having an extended season.

8pm: Thursday 20th, Friday 21st, Saturday 22nd November 2014
8pm: Thursday 27th, Friday 28th, Saturday 29th November, Sunday 30th November 2014

Location: The Gym, The Arts Centre, Worcester Boulevard.
Tickets: Waged $30. Unwaged $20. 

Bookings Essential

Karl                                                 Andrew Clarke

Oklahoma Leader                            Greta Bond

Gym Leader                                     Gijs Ochsendorf

Election Leader/Uncle                     George Parker

Oklahoma Troupe                            Louise Wynands-Days, Gwilym Wogan, Sarah Caughley, Morgan Hodgson, Jessica Shaw

Fanny                                              Marian McCurdy

Devils/Angels                                  Dan Heaphy, Micaël Doljnikoff, Stuart McKay, Emma Johnston

Devised and Directed by                  Peter Falkenberg 

Set and Lighting                              Stuart Lloyd-Harris

Set Construction Assistant              Micaël Doljnikoff

Data Systems Analysts                    Jasper Bryant-Greene

Data Systems Assistant                   Ryan Reynolds

Trapeze Coach                                Dan Heaphy

Costumes                                        Greta Bond

Producer                                         George Parker

Production Assistant                       Marian McCurdy

Front of House                                Maud Bernard Verdier, Jack Coggins

Extraordinary creative drive

Review by Lindsay Clark 15th Oct 2014

Boldly interactive theatre using multimedia technology and multi-talented casts has become a hallmark of this enterprising group, as has its community spirit. In this first  significant new work at the Arts Centre, Falkenberg’s team of actors, singers, musicians, trapeze artists, designers and technicians brings an appropriately engaging but challenging experience to all who cross the threshold of the Free Theatre’s new home, in what was once the gymnasium of the University of Canterbury.

They will find that they have entered the great theatre of Oklahoma, where everyone has a place and a welcome, as valuable recruits to the land of the free. The reference is to Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel from the early years of last century, when so many immigrants sought to be part of the American Dream. It is his character, Karl Rossman, an unemployed technician with no papers, whose encounters are at the heart of the evening. It is the application of Kafka’s perceptions about insidious and ultimately oppressive state surveillance which brings extra contemporary relevance.

Before that, though, we are awed and even enchanted by the transformation of a space many of us knew as the Academy Cinema, into an imposing, bewildering vision of New York as inventively designed by Stuart Lloyd-Harris. There is scaffolding everywhere, a towering Statue of Liberty in timber and sack cloth, trapeze swings for accomplished angels and devils and eye-catching roving characters to direct us through haze and shadow to recruiting booths, where we will be screened for … well on the face of it, for support in finding our optimum role. In fact, in this interactive immersive environment, we are already being watched, though it would spoil the effect to explain how. 

In brief, we are shuffled in turn to the Oklahoma booth, the Election booth and the Gym booth. The individual interviews we experience seem gloriously irrelevant in retrospect, but in this place where so much is happening, where everyone smiles, welcomes and cossets, where now and then a trumpet sounds through the city mayhem, engagement is complete. 

Then it is our turn to watch young Karl (convincingly played by Andrew Clarke) as he follows the same pathways and the mood darkens. A list of the texts used in some way is extensive, but gives an idea of the scope, scholarship and flavour of the production: Farah Abraham; Antonin Artaud; Julian Assange; CAFCA; Kyle Chapman; John Donne; Kim Dotcom; Bill Frist; Allen Ginsberg; Franz Kafka; John Key; Dolly Parton; H P Lovecraft, Chelsea Manning; Lindsay Mills; Sarah Palin; The Resistance Party; General George Patton; Presidents G W Bush, Clinton, Kennedy, Nixon, Obama, Truman, and Wilson; Winston Peters; Maurice Saatchi; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Edward Snowden and Andy Warhol.

The extraordinary creative drive of this company with things to say, and now an appropriate space in which to say them, could not have come at a better time as the Arts Centre of Christchurch is restored to the city.


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