Kiss of the Spider Woman

Court One, Christchurch

18/10/2008 - 15/11/2008

Production Details

Director Geraldine Brophy believes that KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN is topical and timely theatre: a play that "asks us to review our opinions and position in an increasingly complex political world". Manuel Puig’s story of two men forming an unlikely friendship when forced to share a cell is a resonant story of love, longing and liberation.

Martyn Wood makes his Court debut as Valentin, a young activist imprisoned for opposing the government. Keith Adams plays Molina, a middle-aged homosexual jailed by the same regime. To pass the time, Molina recounts stories of classic films; creating escapist fantasies into which Valentin is gradually drawn.  

Brophy believes at its heart KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN is a love story. "The power of the play is the extraordinary relationship that changes these two people forever. Whatever your politics or sexuality, it is their humanity that creates an unforgettable theatrical experience".

The Forge’s resident designer Julian Southgate makes his Court One design debut for KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and has created a setting that could as easily be Guantanamo Bay as Puig’s own 1976 Argentina. "Despite the liberation our society claims, wrongful persecution and imprisonment is still a current global issue", says Brophy. "This story of longing for freedom – both political and sexual – could occur anywhere and any time. It is theatre of the now."

The story behind KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN is as extraordinary as the play itself. Puig wrote the book in exile, speaking out as a homosexual against the right-wing Argentinean dictatorship. "Puig risked as much as his characters in writing this remarkable piece" says Brophy. The novel received considerable acclaim and was made into an Oscar-winning film, an award-winning musical and adapted by Puig himself for the stage (translated by Allan Baker).

KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN incorporates video projection to blur the line between fantasy and reality in the play. "At the time voiceover was new in theatre – we took that concept and updated it" Brophy explains. University of Canterbury Fine Arts student Andrew Todd filmed the sequences in "as film noir a style as possible" to draw the audience into the dream-world the two men create.

The Court is proud to present thought-provoking theatre and invites audiences to enjoy this classic drama. KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN plays from 18 October until 15 November.

Venue:  The Court Theatre, Christchurch
Cast:  Martyn Wood, Keith Adams, Nicolas Kyle
Production Dates:  18 October – 15 November 2008

Performances:  6pm Monday / Thursday; 7:30pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (no show Sundays); 2pm matinee Saturday
Tickets:  Adults $37, Senior Citizens $32, Tertiary Students $23, School Children $15, Group discount $31
Bookings:  The Court Theatre, 20 Worcester Boulevard; 963 0870 or  

Molina:  Keith Adams
Valentin:  Martyn Wood
Guard:  Nicolas Kyle
Warden:  Geraldine Brophy

Director:  Geraldine Brophy

Set Design:  Julian Southgate

Lighting Design:  Brendan Albrey

Audiovisual Design:  Andrew Todd

Sound Design:  Geoff Nunn

Costume Design:  Jenny Cunningham

Properties:  Nicki Evans & Louisa Davies

Acting Production Manager:  Anna Dodgshun / Mandy Perry

Stage Manager:  Annabel Butler

Assistant Stage Manager:  Nicolas Kyle

Operator:  Geoff Nunn

Set Construction:  Julian Southgate, Nigel Kerr, Maurice Kidd, Richard van den Berg, Richard Daem, Claudia Piepenbrock
Costume Construction:  Jenny Cunningham

2 hrs 15 mins, incl. interval

Bold and thought provoking

Review by Lindsay Clark 19th Oct 2008

The strongly worded Director’s Note for this play, describes it as "a play of longing. Longing for political freedom, for sexual freedom, and ultimately a play about sacrifices made for freedoms." Geraldine Brophy’s clear concept infuses the material of the play with an unblinking awareness of human need and the precarious nature of affection without losing the tension of cat and mouse games at the heart of the plot.

The background of the work, published initially as a novel in 1976, is the political oppression and vicious prison conditions of the military dictatorship in power in Argentina at the time. It was banned in that country until 1983 and the return of democracy. Although the stage version is set in a chillingly realistic cell for the two main characters, at its deepest level it is about the prisons human beings create for themselves through suspicion, prejudice and fear.

Valentin (Martyn Wood) and Molina (Keith Adams ) are prime examples of the way such barriers are fortified and ultimately the ways they are overcome. The process is at times bitter, at times delicate and always absorbing. There is gentle laughter along the way as the pair tell serialised stories to preserve neutral ground.

Valentin, produces ‘rational’ non-fiction which is not always true. Molina recounts the fabulous plot line of a deadly panther woman, based on a real film noir work. This turns out to be more true than he could have realised. Imagery of the female predator builds in startling ways which it would be unfair to describe.

Valentin is a political activist being held in the hope that he will give away information. He is driven by the need to stay focussed and disciplined, maintaining his analytical cool and distance by reading and thinking, conceding nothing to circumstance or companion.

In direct contrast, Molina, a volatile homosexual whose indiscretion with minors has led to imprisonment, capers about with feminine grace, creating little treats and prissying things up in general. As the play develops, his real function becomes clear and the second half is full of tense dramatic irony. The relationship itself becomes a poignantly intense one.

Both actors bring the sort of truthfulness to their roles that leave an audience stunned by the reality of the world a few feet away.

Julian Southgate’s set encapsulates a concrescence of the grim concrete wretched prison and the poetic force of the Spider Woman metaphor. Together with sound (Geoff Nunn) and lighting (Brendan Albrey) design, as well as Jenny Cunningham’s cleverly functional costumes, his transformation of the space is both practical and imaginative. To be picky, I felt that the images used on the side screens were distracting when there was such a tight focus on the stage itself, but this is a very minor pick.

As a bold and thought provoking piece of theatre, a thriller plot driven nevertheless by fully fleshed characters, the production deserves every moment of the wholehearted applause it received on opening night.


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