Otago Museum - The Beautiful Science gallery, Dunedin

22/03/2019 - 24/03/2019

Dunedin Fringe 2019

Production Details

While real people are out there killing themselves or other people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the image-world that bids to outlast us all – From ‘On Photography’, by Susan Sontag.  

The characters speak their truth, but is it fallible? What do you miss? What do you misinterpret?

Prospect Park Productions is proud to present the premiere experience of Le Sujet Parle, an immersive theatrical exploration of what lies behind. Staged in the Beautiful Science gallery (Otago Museum), we invite you to move around the space, while the strands of performance wrap themselves around you. Innovative and provocative, Le Sujet Parle (the subject speaks) weaves live performance, image and sound to immerse the viewer and merge the lines between what we see and the seen.

Featuring striking design from local legend Stephen Kilroy, and an award winning script (Playmarket’s Plays for the Young, 2014) by current Burns Fellow, Emily Duncan, Le Sujet Parle is not to be missed.

Duncan says, “I wrote LSP to explore how photographic subjects’ lives are captured, augmented, and contrived within the confines of the 2D image frame, and the show is an invitation for audiences to investigate these notions in an immersive theatrical setting.”

Aligning with Prospect Park Productions kaupapa of supporting and developing emerging performing artists, a special preview showing of the production will also be available for high school students. Tickets must be pre-booked via the company directly for this showing.

This kaupapa is integral to Prospect Park Productions’ long term strategy and the launch of the redeveloped mentorship programme in April will form one of the pou that gives the company’s long term vision its strength and sustainability.

The Beautiful Science gallery, Otago Museum
22nd-24th March 2019
Suitable for ages 13+, limited capacity.

About Prospect Park Productions

Prospect Park Productions was founded in 2016 by Dunedin natives, producer H-J Kilkelly, and playwright Emily Duncan, who bring together decades of combined theatre experience. Prospect Park Production’s first production, Hold Me, played to sell-out houses at BATS Theatre and Emily received a Best New NZ Playwright nomination in the Wellington Theatre Awards for the script.

Shaken, set in post-2011 earthquake Christchurch, garnered a best actor award in the 2016 Short + Sweet Festival (Wellington).

In 2018, Kilkelly and Duncan launched the multi-award winning three-part thriller podcast, Dark Dunedin: Heaven Looks On during the Dunedin Fringe Festival, and premiered the critically acclaimed Eloise in the Middle at Dunedin Public Art Gallery (winner of Best Script and Outstanding Performance, Dunedin Theatre Awards 2018).

Prospect Park Productions delivers professionally developed and presented performance art (theatre, podcast, visual), and facilitates a platform for new and emerging local playwrights.

Having received funding from the Dunedin City Council, Prospect Park Productions is pleased to signal the return of the Fortune Theatre’s 4×4 Programme in a new format and with a new name and extended kaupapa.

Kilkelly says, “It’s still aimed at local new and emerging writers as 4×4 was. What’s critical for us (among other things) is that writers are held in a way that works best for them – i.e. the personnel and processes for each writer will be tailored to what the writer understands their specific needs are. We’ve been working on this for the last six months and we’re really looking forward to getting it live.”

The pair are eminently qualified to develop and institute such a programme. Duncan has an extensive history of dramaturgy, directing and other work in theatre practice, and her work has received many awards and accolades, including a Doctorate and her being the Burns Fellow 2019.

Kilkelly has produced specialist writing development platform, Breaking Ground, for Māori, Pasifika and Indigenous writers the last four years. She also produces masterclasses (writing in English, writing in Te Reo, dance, directing, acting) for high school students during Kia Mau Festival, and she has also worked on the development and production of many new works over her career.

More details about the new programme will be available in early April after the official launch, at which time the application process will also open.

For more information: H-J Kilkelly (producer), hjkilkelly@gmail.com, 0273571488

Performed by Kelly Hocking and Orion Carey-Clark 

Theatre ,

1 hr

Truly provokes

Review by Terry MacTavish 23rd Mar 2019

Despite the company’s sensitive decision to truncate the title, the shocking relevancy of Le Sujet Parle is immediately apparent. The stunning script, by illustrious writer and current Burns Fellow Emily Duncan, actually starts by quoting Susan Sontag: “While real people are out there killing themselves or other people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the image-world that bids to outlast us all.”  Now here we are in New Zealand, in the aftermath of March 15th, attempting to comprehend a gunman who simultaneously commits an act and attempts to record the images of that act as he wishes the world to view it. And today we hear that these images are being shown in another country, as part of an election campaign.

But this will not be the only artistic venture to take on chilling new meaning since last Friday, and Duncan’s brilliant thought-provoking script would surely have an impact whenever it was produced. Six photographic subjects will tell the truths behind the images taken of them. All will be brought to life by highly accomplished local actors Kelly Hocking and Orion Carey-Clark, while between the monologues photographic projections prepare us for the next character, le sujet.

The last time I was in the Museum’s ‘Beautiful Science’ Gallery, it was for the Suffrage Exhibition of125 Otago Women, and my own and my mother’s captured images were gazing back at me. We look poised and quite gracious, I think. In control. But on display in the photographer’s shop window is one of the discarded shots, and we are dancing, laughing, exuberant, crazy. How does anyone know the truth? We cannot trust the manipulative photographer, nor the all-powerful Editor. The Editor, a calm, authoritative voice-over, deploying a precise yet poetic arrangement of words judiciously delivered by Shannon Colbert, is in the process of selecting and captioning the images we will see, with no apparent sense of responsibility even though – as PM Jacinda Ardern has just (and justly) said of Facebook – “They are the publisher, not just the postman.”

The first subject, following a series of ludicrous shots of teenage models (the final caption, “This summer, melon and peach are the tastiest shades for girls at the beach”, raising a giggle), is perhaps the character we are most likely to anticipate: a young Russian girl taken to Tokyo to pose for humiliating fashion pictures in a culture that prizes youth. She is even prepared to undertake the ‘procedure’ that will keep her a little girl, to gain the life that, ironically, will please her mother. The seductive sense of time frozen is strongest here, expressed with wistful longing: “You can be beautiful for the rest of your life, in this picture.”

Kelly Hocking is a staunch fearless actor who juggles accents with astonishing skill.  Touching as the Russian model, she is especially impressive as the outraged young Middle Eastern girl, aggressively challenging the photographer who “looked at us and decided the parts we would play.” Who chose what to reveal and what to conceal.  He has chosen to overlook the destruction of a small village by a drone, instead editing out an ice cream dropped by her spoilt little brother in a seaside resort, to make his subsequent tantrum appear the consequence of violent factional clashes. “How much were you paid?” she demands.

In contrast, Orion Carey-Clark brings an arresting vulnerability to his characters, particularly, and most surprisingly, to the idiotic student who heads off to party in Ku Klux Klan costume (think Prince Harry as a Nazi) and whose whole life will be affected because a chance press photo identifies him to the world, which includes prospective employers and disgusted parents. Suddenly I recall that this did happen here, I remember the ODT photos. I wonder if Duncan’s version could be the truth – if he did have to leave the city he had insulted and enraged.

More sympathetic still is Carey-Clark’s gender-fluid character hiding behind their hair, yearning for acceptance, to be seen.  And we respond to the gentle humour he brings to his third subject, from a disadvantaged home, stigmatised as a “moody little bastard” because he won’t smile for a photo, because his front teeth have been knocked out.

Production design is by local stalwart Stephen Kilroy (currently exhibiting his musical skills in the charming Greta, elsewhere on Fringe) with tech design by Stefan Lane. They combine to create a faultless environment, with the stage area set as a photographic studio, actors trapped against the neutral backcloth, and striking still images projected onto the opposite wall of the huge room. During the projections, while the Editor’s clipped voice gives the staccato impression of a camera shutter (“Take a slice of time. Fixed. Framed. Space. Fill.”), we are immersed in the glowing red ‘safe-light’ of a dark room.

I can’t imagine though, how any audience would follow the suggestion given that we should wander around. Possibly on a second or third viewing, but Duncan’s mastery of language and the resonating rhythms are so compelling that you would not want to risk missing a single word. “Prenez une decoupage du temps… Honour it. Vilify it. Verify it.”

In the seventies I was utterly captivated by a book of wonderful photographs called The Family of Man. Many of its images still leap to mind when I think, for example: A girl in love for the first time. A wise old judge. A woman whose children are starving. A man who has seen unimaginable horror. When I became a teacher, I bought a class set as starters for Creative Writing. I think I hoped the kids would tell me the stories I longed to know.

Emily Duncan’s Le Sujet Parle satisfies my thirst for narrative, and convinces me of its truth, but it also provokes me to deeper thought on the ethics of journalism in our terrifying Selfie world. Like her wonderful Eloise in the Middle, Duncan’s lyrical script, somewhere between John Keats and Tennessee Williams with a nod to verbatim theatre, repays attentive reading in its own right, but here in the Beautiful Science Room we have an immaculate, absolutely professional production I only wish I could capture, to replay at will. 


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