Lady of Tears

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

26/02/2008 - 01/03/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Oh, what’s the point? Larff till you stop!

An Enigma within a solution is one way of describing Lady of Tears, but is it is an apt description?

This unusual piece was written for those who prefer their realism heavily laced with fantasy and for those who like to look through the dark glassily. It should also appeal to those who prefer to take their humour seriously.

Does the play encase arcane insights into the outer depths or does it contain a simple message in an Arthurian structure?

However, it is the sort of play you can relax and enjoy without worrying if you’ve missed the point (if indeed there ever was one). A poignant, sad tale.  

Larff till you stop!

Written by Wellington playwright Dan Ashworth Lady of Tears stars Jennifer Thomson, Tanya Piejus, Susannah Donovan, Matt Clayton, Chong Sin Lim and Don Quiring.  

At the Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, 26 Feb to 1 March at 6.30pm, bookings on 934 4068 or  

Olivia:  Susannah Donovan
Lily:  Jennifer Thompson
Crunlin:  Matt Clayton
Dr Carpathian:  Don Quiring
Shaplov:  Chong Sin Lim
Susan:  Tanya Piejus

Stage Manager:  Dan Ashworth
Production Assistant:  Bev Corin
General Hand:  Caroline Grabau

Set Design:  Dan Ashworth
Lighting Design:  Rebecca Weatherhead
Sound Design:  Leslie Craven
Lighting /Sound Operation:  Daniel Weatherhead
Set:  Co-Op Members
Photography:  Tanya Piejus
Poster / Programme:  Rodney Bane
Administrator:  David Austin

Not just weird, but wonderful too

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Mar 2008

The Fringe Festival is an often used as an opportunity to present the obscure and weird, and writer/director Dan Ashworth has taken full advantage of with Backyard Production’s presentation of his play Lady of Tears.

Whimsical and nonsensical, the play is an eclectic mix of Chekhovian dialogue, with absurdist, farce and science fiction theatre that all meld together surprisingly well. It is also littered with a dry sardonic humour, made funnier by the stoic and seriousness of the strong and competent acting of the cast. 

The lady of the title is Lily (Jennifer Thompson) – a modern day Lamia- a female monster from Greek mythology who preys on people’s depression.  Olivia (Susannah Donovan) is in such a state, having just been dumped by her boyfriend. 

Her friend Susan (Tanya Piejus) can’t help her shake off Lily’s influence so the only recourse they have is to call in Carpathian (Don Quiring), Crunlin (Matt Clayton and Shaplov (Chong Sin Lim). 

These three eventually work their wiles and overcome Lily’s hold on Olivia.  Delightfully entertaining, this production is what the Fringe Festival is all about.


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Downright odd

Review by Kate Blackhurst 29th Feb 2008

Billed as ‘a rather strange play written and directed by Dan Ashworth’, Lady of Tears doesn’t disappoint. The dialogue is highly stylised, the narrative is quirky and there are moments of bizarre surrealism.

Susannah Donovan is Olivia, who has been abandoned by the man she loves as she stood waiting for him in front of a grey building. She is befriended by Lily (Jennifer Thompson) who has been watching her and sees the domestic drama unfold. Lily is clearly manipulative, and in a cult-like operation she tries to isolate Olivia from her friends and well wishers including the jolly café owner Susan (Tanya Piejus).

Lily reminds Olivia of all her sadness, fears and humiliations, drawing on her grief and stealing her essence. Like an evil sprite, there is something disturbingly fey about the movement of her arms and the tilt of her head. It transpires she is a creature who seduces vulnerable people to fall under the sway of her influence and then feeds on their sorrow for her emotional fulfilment.

Working in the same grey building, Dr Carpathian (Don Quiring), Crunlin (Matt Clayton) and Shaplov (Chong Sin Lim) have previously fallen beneath the spell of one of these creatures. As they speak they interrupt each other and finish their sentences in an effortless weave of dialogue, while indulging in slapstick moments such as chasing each other with a broom.

They believe it is ‘better to be a cringing emotional cripple than a heartless loveless shell of a person’, and they ‘joke a lot and play silly games because it helps to keep the sadness at bay.’ They have a ritual to banish the gloom, donning shades, singing a ridiculous anthem and downing Prozac. In explaining that Lily is decidedly not supernatural, but that everything is a syndrome with a potential cure, they use ‘benign deceit to conquer malign deceit’. With the recent headline grabbing news that the over-prescription of Prozac is largely ineffective, this reflection on modern medicine and psychiatry is quite timely.

Lily gives Olivia a token and she begins to succumb to its melancholic pull, and for a moment I feared it was going to descend into a Lord of the Rings-type debacle, but fortunately it moves on. Some people genuinely don’t want to let go and would rather drown in their sorrow, but the cure is to think happy thoughts. Susan is the down-to-earth cheerer-upper whose humour is meant to brighten the gloom, although jokes about domestic violence are never funny and her air-guitar playing is particularly painful.

The narrative style of the women is slightly Brechtian as they halt their conversations to face out to the audience and explain the situation and their emotions, rather than showing us. Even the lighting highlights the bits it wants us to notice with rapid changes and sudden blackouts. This play is more than rather strange – it’s downright odd – and it attempts to appeal on a cerebral rather than a visceral level.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader


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Just terrible

Review by Jackson Coe 27th Feb 2008

Watching Lady of Tears was like being jumped by a masked assailant with horribly bad breath and really stinky armpits.  The direction was horrendous, the script was lacking and the performances were wooden.  It was utterly ghastly.

At first the show seemed engaging, and my initial impression was of an unusual play, perhaps a little bit quirky and whimsical.  However as soon as I was confronted with an awkward and forced air-guitaring scene my crippled grandmother could trump, I was embarrassed.

When the moment was repeated several minutes later, I lost all respect for the show.

Several of the actors could benefit from an introductory drama class, so limited were their ranges.  The director has done nothing to help their case and the actors are often left making gestures which simply feel silly.

As a fan of kooky and strange humour, I will grant that the script had some laugh value.  I found the absurd references to horse covers quite amusing.  However, this was undone by an awful joke about a husband bashing his wife during television ad breaks, which was just terrible.  Some things shouldn’t be joked about in such a manner.

[The Fringe website describes the show thus: "At a time of grief we all need to cry, but how much? At a time of distress we all need a friend, but what sort? Forces of the good, the bad and the clumsy converge for a broken heart." To read the production’s media release material, click on the play title above. – ed.]
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