Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

29/10/2014 - 01/11/2014

Production Details


Auckland Live and The Hobson Street Theatre Company present the theatre production: Last Chance Café –playing the Herald Theatre from 29th October – 1 November.

This is NOT your usual theatre group, they are based at the Auckland City Mission’s Drop-in Centre and some have called the street ‘home”. Together their story speaks to the heart of all of us. 

You know the local cafe you wish you had? It attracts all sorts – you might pull up a stool beside an ex-All Black one day and have your morning brew beside an eccentric Italian cook the next. Regulars have all affectionately called it “The Usual Spot” for so long that no one remembers its actual name.

Of course it’s all too good to last forever; the Council wants to put a road through the cafe. Suddenly a group of people who didn’t even realise that they were part of a community have to do anything they can to protect it, and they’ll try everything from a tohunga’s spell to a lawyer’s letters. 

The Hobson Street Theatre Company is an arts initiative by Auckland City Mission. The members have all used the mission’s services, some of the members of the group have, or currently are, experiencing homelessness. Some have accessed addiction services, and some are frequent visitors to the Community Drop-In Centre. The show is in-conjunction with and to help promote awareness of World Homeless Day on 10 October 2014. 

Quotes from reviews of previous shows:

Auckland Fringe 2011: “...confident, hilarious and engaging performers…The cast have a joyous giving spirit, and I felt privileged to watch them share their lives and experiences.”

Short and Sweet 2012: “…an impressive and engaging play… – 

Auckland City Mission provides specialised health and social services to marginalised Aucklanders. The Mission offers hope to individuals and families who may be experiencing a temporary setback or long-term problems that need expert attention.

Staff provide advice, give immediate practical assistance, make referrals to other services and develop workable solutions to address long-term issues.

Last Chance Café plays
Wednesday 29 October to Saturday 1 November, 7.30pm
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre. 
Tickets from  
Ticket Prices*   Full $15 / Concession $10 / Groups 6+ $12.00* 
*Service fees apply.

Cast: Shadow, Bevan, Dan, Rob, Kelly, Stephen, David, Gina, and Hare

A great sense of fun, openness and play

Review by Cherie Moore 30th Oct 2014

Last Chance Café – presented by Hobson Street Theatre Company which was founded four and a half years ago, growing out of the drama club at The Auckland City Mission – is the company’s fifth show. A collaboration between people from the homeless community and a handful of theatre practitioners and enthusiasts, the work is a devised piece conceived over six weeks. It is on for five nights only, with proceeds going back to the Mission.

A playlist of well chosen songs, with a largely NZ focus, plays overhead as the audience file in to the theatre and sit in front of a simple café set. Off to stage right there is a separate area which serves as the café owner’s office. As the lights come up, we meet the locals for whom this café is their regular. Over the next forty-five minutes, we see this group come together to try and save their beloved café from being sold to the council and destroyed. 

From a directorial viewpoint, there are a couple of issues that could be addressed to make this work tighter, especially in the first half. Being invited into the world of the café with the characters already inhabiting it at the beginning would make for a stronger start, helping to set up the importance of the café to the characters and removing the need for a clunky scene shift early in the piece.

As we meet the characters, there is a nice bustle in the café that allows the audience to observe the world of the play and its inhabitants, however this goes on a little long and at times the lack of point of focus, which is happens in several scenes, weakens important moments as information is lost with so much going on.

This issue, however, is quite understandable when I learn at the end of the night that the piece isn’t really scripted but instead is shaped around a series of scenes which the cast then improvise within. With that in mind, I think the cast and the technical operators do a great job of telling the story and finding the moments to move on. I also think these performers are incredibly courageous – many seasoned professionals would be fearful of this style of theatre.  

Each character in Last Chance Café is a creation of the actor playing that character. All are clearly defined, recognisable and sustained throughout the piece. Many are also very funny, and each seems to fit within this world and complement the others well. There is a strong sense of the ensemble at work and a true support of each other on stage.

Full credit must be given to these performers, as it is revealed in conversation afterwards that many audience members can’t tell who the experienced actors are in the company. For me, there is also a great sense of fun, openness and play on stage – an uninhibited quality that is totally joyful to watch and is sometimes missing from professional shows with trained actors. 

After the show, the audience is invited back to The Auckland City Mission to share some food and meet the cast. The cast, almost all of who are currently sleeping rough on the streets, are great hosts and totally buzzing after the show. They are really proud of the work they have done, love the process and are looking forward to the rest of the season.

My sadness on the cold walk home is that after such a triumph of a night, they would be returning to the reality far from that of most theatre performers and braving the night’s Auckland storm exposed to the elements.

In the foyer of the Herald Theatre, there is lots of information about the Auckland City Mission and about the Hobson Street Theatre Company. My favourite quote from the foyer is, “Sometimes it’s just a friendly face, someone saying hello, asking how you are – it makes me feel like I’m a human being and not just a faceless piece of trash.”

Last Chance Café is a chance for these performers to be seen in a different way to how they stereotypically are seen, to have real ownership of a story they want to tell, and to be part of a work they can be proud of. This work is a great reminder of the value of people and of the important role theatre plays in society, especially in its ability to create conversations.

It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the work the Auckland City Mission is doing, to find out more about the organisation and to have a meaningful exchange with a marginalised section of our society.


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Review by Matt Baker 30th Oct 2014

The Hobson Street Theatre Company has something significant on their hands: real people with real stories. Founded four and a half years ago, it began as an activity on offer at the mission, eventually developing into a legitimate theatre company, and its company is legitimately developing. 

The central conflict for drama is there, a classic 80s kidult movie plot, but it is only taken so far, and the characters are only given so much to work with, resulting in an ultimately positive yet easy ending. Ironically, the real moments of truth are when the attempts to “act” are dropped, and the rawness of the actors is revealed, especially from Shadow and Haretutewake. [More]


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