King of the Road

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

09/03/2009 - 11/03/2009

Auckland Fringe 2009

Production Details


Up to 2003 Paul Norell was mostly known as ‘Falafel’ the dodgy fast food vendor on Hercules.

After being cast as The King of the Dead two years previously, he finally arrived on the set of Lord of the Rings just as Sir Ian McKellen and Billy Boyd were leaving their final wrap party and New Zealand. Paul spent three days with Jackson under heavy make-up as the damned King of the Dead, who along with his skeletal army, turns the tables in the final film of the trilogy.

Norell went home, but it wasn’t long before the success of Lord of the Rings created a foreign fan base that threatened to rival the Star Trek fans. Paul Norell along with Bruce Hopkins, Jed Brophy, Craig Parker and Karl Urban, began to attend the various European conventions. Love letters from Germany followed him, proposing marriage to the King of the Dead, some even willing to have his babies. Fans would arrive dressed as the KOTD. Norell was swept into a whirlwind of parties and tours. On his return to New Zealand he began his own schools seminar on the LOTR experience.

At the same time as Lord of the Rings was becoming an international phenomenon Paul discovered that his wife of many years, Irene Drake, an Auckland casting agent, had motor neuron disease. Irene managed her last unassisted walk up the red carpet at The Return of the King premiere in Wellington. After this she was forced to use walking aids.

A few months later, Irene, now in a wheelchair, accompanied Paul on his European tour. On their return Paul chose to give up acting to nurse his ailing wife. Later, to restore his own health, Paul took up long distance cycling (which features in the stage play). Paul Norell is currently cast as a major character in an international film about Jesus being shot. [??-ed]

In King of the Road Paul’s joined on stage by the versatile Carol Seay, his current real life partner. She plays La Dame de Coeur, Queen of Hearts. Her multiple roles include, Frida – an obsessed German dentist, Peter Jackson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and actually portraying Irene Drake onstage. Allen, Norell and Seay intend to tour King of the Road around NZ and Europe.

The Basement (Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD)
Monday 9th March
9:30pm – 10:20pm
Tuesday 10th – Wednesday 11th March
8:00pm – 8:50pm
Tickets $25/$20/$10
Tickets available through Aotea Centre Box Office (09) 357 3355 or

The Auckland Fringe runs from 27th February to 22nd March 2009.
For more Auckland Fringe information go to

King of the Dead:  Paul Norell
La Dame:  (Multiple Parts)  Carol Seay

Original Music:
Khia Amin & Lament Of The Dead Queen -
Composed And Performed, Harp And Vocals:  Robyn Goudge
Recorded At The Depot, Devonport 

Set:  Geoff Allen
King Poster Images:  Victoria Timmins & Amy Jesensek

Lighting:  Stuart (Fringe Tech)

The Basement Team: Anders Falstie-Jensen & Charles Unwin

Dedicated to the memory of:
Irene Drake  & Phil Standring 

Funny and tender

Review by Candice Lewis 10th Mar 2009

Thank the unholy mountains of Mordor; to enjoy the ‘real story’ behind this particular King it is not necessary to be a rabid fan of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. Unlike most of the audience, I am unable to recall who ‘King of the Dead’ is, but fear not, Paul Norell will remind you.

Norell’s love of cycling serves as a metaphor for his journey into a strange kind of stardom which sees him travel all over the world featuring in LOTR conventions. His desire to be valued and recognised as an actor is in turn funny, self absorbed and escapist.

Carol Seay plays many parts, from a circus style MC to various LOTR characters, but the role that wins it for me is that of Norell’s loving and feisty wife, Irene.

The first half of the play is overstated; the humour is hammy and obvious, but the audience are lapping it up, possibly getting more out of LOTR jokes than a self confessed non-fan. Just when I think I may leave unsatisfied, the genuine heart and light of the play shines through.

Spoiler Alert:
Norell’s wife, Irene, has motor neurone disease and grows increasingly weak as the story progresses. Norell’s fight for recognition as King of The Dead speaks more of his sorrow and the desire he has to relieve himself and his wife from her exhaustion and frustrations.
Alert ends

Earlier jokes or over-acted inventions are now bought back to the stage with a meaning they did not possess in the first half of the show. This is done without sentimentality, yet tears form in my eyes. Damn, I’ve run out of wine.

Norell portrays himself as a man muddling along the best he can, a man who realises that every King has a ‘back story’. The story he invents for King of the Dead becomes his own; a man who cries out, his voice stolen from him.

The ‘stolen voice’ is literal; he doesn’t find out until the red carpet screening that he’s been dubbed! Much later on he finds out that fellow actor Craig Parker is the one they used to dub his voice; and a karmic comic outcome involving pig pooh has all of us laughing.

His back story is now evident; his Queen was Irene, and it is in acknowledging this that he can get back on his bike and join the land of the living. In the process, he has created a play that is both funny and tender; one for fans and ‘non fans’ alike.


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