Land Without Sundays

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

23/07/2008 - 02/08/2008

Production Details

Intoxicating … like wine … she keeps getting better … all the time 

It’s 1937 – Lila, a young Dalmatian woman, leaves her homeland to travel to New Zealand to meet her husband, Miro – she’s married him by ‘proxy’ and has only seen him in a photograph.

Land Without Sundays, the second in a trilogy of plays by Donna Banicevich Gera which trace the stories of Dalmatian immigrants in New Zealand, opens at the Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre on Wednesday 23 July.

Lila joins her husband in West Auckland where he is trying to establish a vineyard and produce wine in keeping with the traditions he has left behind in the Adriatic. To Lila, the whole place breathes defeat and the play focuses on her story as she struggles to overcome the odds and adjust to a new life in a new land.

Donna’s earlier production, Anton’s Women which was staged in February this year, met with critical acclaim and sold out shows.

Land Without Sundays is directed by Cathy Downes and features Alana Barber as Lila and Stephen Papps as Miro, with Liz Tierney as Rosa, Jeremy Elwood as Nick and Darien Takle as Mara.

Land Without Sundays is at the Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre, Auckland from 23 July to 2 August. Book by phoning 09 308 2383 or online at

Lila:   Alana Barber
Miro:   Stephen Papps
Nick:   Jeremy Elwood
Rosa:   Elizabeth Tierney
Mara:   Darien Takle

Production Manager:   Alana Tisdall
Set Design:   Rachael Walker
Lighting Design:   Phillip Dexter
Sound Design:   Jordan Greatbatch
Stage Manager:   Calvin Hudson
Wardrobe:   Donna Banicevich Gera
Props:   Becs Ehlers
Fight Choreography:   Steven Davis
Operator:   Michael Craven
Publicity:   Sally Woodfield
Photography:   Michael Stephen
Poster/Flyer Design:   Tracey Taylor
Set Construction:   Set Scenarios
Lighting Crew:   Michael Craven/Geordie; McCallum

Upheavals of a mail-order bride

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 28th Jul 2008

The second instalment of Donna Banicevich Gera’s trilogy on New Zealand’s Dalmatian community explores the personal traumas and triumphs that lie beneath the familiar narrative of immigration.

The play centres on Lila – a young bride lured to New Zealand by a misleading photo of her prospective husband and who sees her romantic dreams crushed by the brutal realities of New Zealand in the 1930s. [More]


martyn roberts July 31st, 2008

Now you're talking, and I can now see your point better. I can't comment on the production for alas it is at the other end of the country from here, however it sounds like it is worth seeing in spite of your thoughts? I often have students who say 'oh but I heard it was bad show so I didn't go', and more than once the 'bad show' actually has redeeming features. I wonder how often it is that opinions of others (reviewers included) prevent potential audiences from becoming regular, excited, critical, offended and risky theatregoers. Waiting for the show that 'works' for us must surely be a long wait. It is great to be in the audience of bad work. It tells us what is good. What do you think?

Luke Hyland July 31st, 2008

Dear Martyn, Sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities. It was a rash comment, too early in the morning after tossing and turning all night wondering exactly why this production didn’t work for me. My conclusion after talking with my fellow theatregoers was that the major flaw in this production was the direction. I will freely admit to my prejudice as a writer, and to knowing the writer of this production. My analysis of the production is that yes there are flaws with in the script to do with the clarity of the production and exactly what did happen, but the voice of the script and the individual characters were very clear and engaging. The actors where totally engaged in their performance and were totally engaging. The set was one of the best that I have seen since “Yours Truly” which also had wooden floorboards laid and the lighting was good although under-utilised. What truly unsettled this audience member and the others from my group was the direction. The level of delivery was at times irritatingly loud and the double percussive actions of the actors more so. Don’t tell me you have a big dick and proceed to grab your crotch. I would expect that from a fifteen-year-old boy not a man born at the turn of the century. Too many times the actions of the characters took this play beyond the drama and firmly entrenched it in melodrama. Finally what was most irritating was the misuse of such a wonderful set. As I said earlier walking three feet in front of the audience whilst the action is taking place further on stage is something you would expect from university production, not something professionally produced within the universities theatre. Again I apologise for the cheap shot earlier, but I stand by my assessment.

martyn roberts July 31st, 2008

What a ridiculous comment!

Luke Hyland July 31st, 2008

Having seen this last night I would disagree, it would seem Wellington's gain is Auckland's loss. Actors entering in front of the action is not only distracting but bloody annoying.

Welly Watch July 28th, 2008

Excuse me Paul Semei-Barton, but given what you say about this production doesn’t the director, Cathy Downes, deserve some credit? Good to see she is already active up there. Wellington’s loss is Auckland’s gain.

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The poetry of hardship

Review by Hap Richardson 24th Jul 2008

The cast of characters in Donna Banicevich Gera’s play Land Without Sundays feel so authentic, so convincingly three dimensional, that you could be forgiven for thinking that you walked into West Auckland vineyard in the 1930s. 

The star of this play is the words; the language that Gera uses is incredibly sensual, evoking a strong image of this group of Croatian immigrants trying to make their way in what is a testing and sometime hostile environment.

The story centres on Lila, an 18 year old fresh to New Zealand having been betrothed to Miro, a 41 year old vineyard owner toiling on his land to build a life for himself and his family. Lila is played as spirited romantic by Alana Barber, her disappointment palatable that Miro looks somewhat older than his 41 years, and that Henderson has neither the welcoming village life of Croatia nor the modern comforts of the Auckland she experienced on first arrival.

Miro is lovingly (in a tough way) watched over by the spirit of his deceased mother Mara, always ready with her hard won wisdom. One of the many delights of this play is the way in which Darien Takle handles this Matriarch when in full flight, squeezing the juice from every word from Gera’s wonderfully poetic wine making and the deeper mystery of life analogies.

Rosa the wildcat neighbor comes upon the scene singing, full of life. Her spirit is wonderfully infectious, she is widowed and was unusually married to an ‘English’ man. She is played with an intoxicating sexuality by Liz Tierney, as she takes it upon herself to help guide Lila through the many hardships that this new land can have in store for a newly arrived young girl.

Stephan Papps’ Miro is a hardworking man, believably honest, endearing enough that it is not too distracting when the actor occasionally slips out of accent. 

The juxtaposition with the slightly more established locals comes by way of Nick, the bother in law of Rosa and a worker for Miro, played by Jeremy Elwood. His language does not have the same passion. In contrast he comes across as vulgar; without the salty air of the Adriatic to remember, he has a totally different sense of things good and bad.

Director Cathy Downes has the cast bring the poetry of hardship alive, in a way that I found deeply effecting, finding myself caring enough to shed a tear in some of the more emotional moments.

Land without Sundays – the second in a trilogy that began with Anton’s Women – is not an easy ride by any means, the struggle of immigration and settlement faithfully potrayed as it is, I am left remembering the world of Mara "…and love will come".


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