Le Sud

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

16/07/2011 - 27/08/2011

Production Details

What if?  

What would have happened if the French had colonised the South Island of New Zealand and the British the North? Dave Armstrong’s political satire, Le Sud, opening July 16 at Centrepoint Theatre, takes a comic look at the outcome.

Le Sud assumes that the French successfully colonised the South Island in 1839 and that South Zealand or “Le Sud” became an independent French-speaking nation as a result.

Today “Le Sud” is a prosperous socialist country where people work only 30 hours a week, enjoy long wine-fuelled lunches, and the popular Prime Minister, Francois Duvauchelle, is a renowned womaniser.   

Crucially the island also has huge hydro-electric resources.

The English-speaking citizens of the North Island are far less happy. North Zealanders work long hours for little reward, their free-market experiment ended in disaster, and race relations are at rock bottom. Starved of much-needed electricity, North Zealand lives in permanent recession.

Le Sud is the popular, hilarious and politically incorrect comedy of a delegation from North Zealand led by Prime Minister Jim Petersen, who travel south to the beautiful chateau at Wanaka au Lac to persuade their rich neighbors to provide them with cheap electricity.

Le Sud has been produced by many theatres nation wide, and performed each time to sold out houses. The script is altered to make it more relevant for each city Le Sud is performed in. Palmerston North should expect to see the latest, most up-to-date news items cleverly twisted to highlight the plight of the North Zealanders or the plotting of the Southerners. 

Starring in Le Sud is a Palmy local, Jamie Smith. Jamie began his performing life with Centrepoint Theatre’s Basement Company* and from there studied performing at UCOL, followed by 3 years training at Toi Whakaari.

Starring alongside Jamie Smith is ex Massey student and award winning actor Scott Wills, as well as Regan Taylor (Four Flat Whites in Italy), another graduate of the UCOL Performing Arts Course, Nick Dunbar (Flipside), Renee Lyons and Kowhai Wilkie.

Centrepoint Theatre, 280 Church Street, Palmerston North
Show Times:
Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday – Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 5pm.
There will be no Sunday performance on 3 April.
$37 Adults, $25 Seniors, $25 Under 30s,
$25 Community Service Card Holders,
$15 Students, $65 Dinner & Show.
Special Performances:
$15 Tuesday – Tuesday 5 April, 6.30pm.  
Bookings for $15 Tuesday open at 9am Monday 4 April
Phone 06 354 5740, online at www.centrepoint.co.nz, email centrepoint@centrepoint.co.nz, visit 280 Church Street.

Principal Co-sponsors Property Brokers & Fitzherbert Rowe Lawyers
Show Sponsored by Crombie Lockwood

*The Basement Company is Centrepoint’s own youth theatre company designed to extend students who show potential in the field of the dramatic arts. Young performers from high schools around the region gain exposure to professional coaching, direction and life as a professional practitioner during the one-year programme. Artistic Director Kate Louise Elliott says “The Basement Company is such an asset not only to the community, but to the Industry as a whole. To be able to offer workshops with professional practitioners to our youth and see them thrive is inspiring”  

CAST:  Nick Dunbar, Renee Lyons, Regan Taylor, Scott Wills, Kowhai Wilkie and Jamie Smith  

‘Sud’ missile on target as an irrepressible comic fantasy

Review by Richard Mays 18th Jul 2011

Warning! On a scale of 1-10, Le Sud carries a PC-rating of minus 15.

In this alternate universe, the French have succeeded in proclaiming sovereignty over part of New Zealand – its name, La Zealande De Sud. The original 53 French settlers at Akaroa in 1840 have quite literally established a south island powerhouse. Thanks to hydroelectricity, their descendants have become the wealthiest nation in the Southern Hemisphere as prime suppliers of energy to Le Poisson De Maui (The Fish of Maui). 

They also possess the world’s best first-five in one Daniel Cartier; recognise Richard Hadlee as a great petanque champion, and generally hold ascendancy over their English-speaking neighbours. So it is that a delegation from an impoverished and divided north comes to a magnificent chateau overlooking Wanaka du Lac to negotiate a new price for power.

What then takes place is a highly entertaining amalgam of satire, farce, fantasy and sit-com in which much of what passes for political, social, sexual, racial and economic life in contemporary New Zealand is affectionately pilloried. Le Sud is an extended comic riff that becomes progressively over-the top thanks to the physical and verbal gymnastics of its energised cast. 

Fresh from playing a sensitive American in Centrepoint’s much admired production of Ken Duncum’s Flipside, Nick Dunbar portrayed womanising French prime minister Francois Duvauchelie in this spoof in its debut in 2009 at Wanaka’s Festival of Colour and in several seasons since.

In this character, playwright Dave Armstrong milks the perception that the French political landscape is populated by wannabe mistresses just waiting to be seduced by sophisticated, smooth-talking powerful men – as heightened by the furore surrounding the Dominique Strauss-Khan affair. With every new (s)exploit, Duvauchelle’s popularity increases, and Dunbar misses no opportunity to parade his gallic prowess as woo-eur and lov-eur extraordinaire.

His flamboyant display of pre-armoire callisthenics, to Scott Wills’ more prosaically inclined North Zealand prime minister and ‘Waipuk’ farmer Jim Petersen, out-does Basil Fawlty for elasticated enjambment, while throughout, he shows excellent timing, delivery and hauteur.

The Fawlty image is further extended with Duvauchelle’s total subservience to his female minister of energy. Renee Lyons’ ‘ball-breaking’ blonde, Dominique Le Bons, makes an effective gallic Sybil, putting a bib on his salivations over ‘Gauginesque’ northern delegate and Maui Party coalition partner, (!) Moana Maree. The former Silver Fern is played with sultry aplomb by Kowhai Wilkie.  

Including director Jonathan Hendry, the straight-playing Wills is one of four ex-pat Palmy-nauts in this accomplished company, with a suave and distinguished-looking Regan Taylor as the dodgy entrepreneurial Tama Te Tonga, and former Centrepoint Basement Company member Jamie Smith as the nerdish ultra-right northern finance minister, Lyndsay Marsland.

With ‘offence’ freely given all round (Maori, Pakeha, gay, anti-smacking, anti-smoking, the Left, the Right, bloke-ism, feminism) it doesn’t even seem to particularly matter that Palmerston North provides this slab of contrived surreality with one of its main (and well telegraphed) ‘punch’ lines. 

A feature of the production is topical current affairs references emailed by the playwright and slotted in to the dialogue – dialogue that includes sparkling malapropisms like “simmering the publications” (cooking the books), and “let Flybuys be Flybuys” (bygones be bygones?) while also rendering the fine distinction between treason and treachery. 

Sean Coyle’s beautiful chateau dining room with its imitation marble floors, overlooked by a striking copy of the 17th century Versailles painting ‘Abundance and Liberality’, sets off the artifice of this piece perfectly. There’s the odd lull, but for entertainment value, this ‘Sud’ missile is on target as a mid-winter winner. The warm gusts of laughter generated by this irrepressible satiric fantasy are certain to make any nippy evening, toasty.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Often very funny romp nearly always entertaining

Review by John C Ross 17th Jul 2011

So, the French established sovereignty over the South Island, in 1838, and have managed to defend the island state of Sud-Zélande, or should it be Zealand-Sud, against the Poms, and the forces of North Zealand, for about 170 years. Now, what with the North Zealand government desperately needing to negotiate an affordable price for the electricity it needs to import, the Sud government has got the whip-hand.

It’s a great comic idea, for an outrageous farce, and Dave Armstrong has had heaps of fun with pushing the boundaries. No bedroom on stage, yet it’s manifestly not far off after the public action ends. The kinds of political and cultural collisions that can cause Brits and French to irritate the hell out of each other work just as well with their local variants.

This gets complicated further because each trio of negotiators, prime minister and ministers of their government, is made up of heads of different coalition-partner parties, scrapping for power, and each includes a Maori representative, Ngai Tahu on the one hand and Tuhoe on the other, who are also pushing their own ethnic barrows.

The dialogue at the start, before the delegation from the North arrives, is, naturally, in schoolgirl-level French, yet it shouldn’t matter if you can’t make much of it – the miming is eloquent enough. There are one or two scrappy patches in the subsequent action, but later performances should smooth over those. It’s hard to say more about the play without giving funny twists away. 

The acting styles, especially of the Sud trio, are playfully exaggerated, with Nick Dunbar as Francois Duvauchelles, the Sud top-man, producing a glorious caricature of French-style body-language, with yards of flexible legs. Renee Lyons as Dominique Le Bons, the Minister of Energy, is suitably energetic with impressive variety in her performance. Regan Taylor (the predatory and manipulative Tama Te Tonga of Ngai Tahu) develops authority as the play goes on.

On the North side, Scott Wills is playing on your standard-model Kiwi-Keith type PM, with his farm at ‘Waipuk’ as a backstop, if the going gets too tough, but plenty of vitality and force in the meantime. Kowhai Wilkie clearly shares with the audience her enjoyment of the character of Moana Maree, the sexy Tuhoe tigress. Jamie Smith is suitably obnoxious as the minister of something-or-other, and leader of the Federation of United Consumers and Taxpayers party.

Sean Coyle’s set-design conveys well a stylishly French conference room with a rather fine ceiling painting by Martin Maass high upstage centre.

Let’s say this is a romp, and often very funny, nearly always entertaining. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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