Life Is A Dream

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

14/03/2009 - 10/04/2009

Auckland Festival 2009

Production Details

Running wounded, Rosaura is on a crusade to avenge her past. She becomes lost in a wild country, discovering a chained wild man, Segismundo, who has been imprisoned in a tower for his entire life.

Rosaura is a woman disguised as a man. Segismundo is a Prince, who believes he’s a slave. The country is in chaos, ruled by a King who would rather sacrifice his own son than relinquish power.

The couple must conquer a world of treachery and mistaken identity before they can truly awaken to a world of love.

Calderon’s masterpiece from the Spanish Golden Age is an exultant journey through a fairy-tale landscape of destiny, desire and illusion.

Michael Hurst is let loose on this feverish act of poetic transcendence.

Bookings: THE EDGE Ticketing Service 09 357 3355

Segismundo:  SAM SNEDDEN
Courtier:  BREE PETERS
Revolutionary:  BREE PETERS

set design:  JOHN VERRYT
costume design:  VICTORIA INGRAM
lighting design:  JEREMY FERN
sound design and composition:  JASON SMITH

stage management:  LAURYN WATI
properties management:  BECS EHLERS
technical management:  SEAN LYNCH
technical operation:  JONATHAN CROSS
set construction:  2 CONSTRUCT
graphic design:  CONCRETE
production photography:  AARON K

Spaniard’s nightmare of brutality and angst softened with humour

Review by Janet McAllister 16th Mar 2009

Warning: When they say this play contains loud noises, they mean it. Vigorous and intense, Life’s a Dream, written by Spaniard Pedro Calderon de la Barca in 1636 and set in Poland, is an exhilarating tragi-comic ride offering both brutality and humour, and this Silo Theatre production sets the right tone for both.

The cast – made up of young unknowns, many fresh out of drama school – started with a little trepidation but once they got into the swing of things, their relish of cliches as old as Homer was infectious: there are women disguised as men, a royal son imprisoned to prevent his predicted doom, "blatant lover" liars, a foolhardy jester, ambitious would-be monarchs and a palpable lack of guards, just when they’re needed most. [More]


Make a comment

Neo-classical technological production packs a Hurstian punch

Review by Nik Smythe 15th Mar 2009

Beatrix Christian’s translation of Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s original Spanish text is richly humorous and poetic, a good starting point for director Michael Hurst and his well-appointed cast.  The ostensible plot is about love, loyalty and politics in 17th century Poland, as the future of the Queen’s throne is under contention in her twilight years. 

Accompanying the narrative is a strong undercurrent of the recurring theme of a number of productions I’ve already seen in this Festival – existentialism; what is real, what matters, and why?  Perhaps that’s just the ongoing theme of humanity… In any case, Life is a Dream addresses it with skilfully crafted dramatic power.

Two travellers who have lost their horses encounter a chained man, Segismundo (Sam Snedden) bitterly lamenting his fate, not knowing what he did to deserve incarceration.  The man’s jailer Clotaldo (Johnny Bright) learns he is the father of one of the travellers, Rosaura (Rachel Forman), who is on a quest to kill the man who scorned her: Astolfo, a prince of Moscow (Dan Musgrove).

It turns out Astolfo has eyes for the throne, and to that end is wooing the ageing Queen’s vampish niece Estrella (Natalie Medlock).  Queen Basilia herself (Fern Sutherland) determines to test the doomsday astrological prophecy that claims her only son Segismundo (!), will cause the violent downfall of the Polish empire…

There are plenty more startling twists and subplots that I’ve omitted for fear of spoilage, and which can be found elsewhere online.  It all plays out like a classic historical drama, although the conclusion may not be either as joyous or as tragic as you might expect…

It’s mildly surprising that there are only eight actors playing a total of eleven roles… it seems like more.  The general tone of delivery is melodramatic rather than naturalistic, and all the performances are solid.  Snedden’s soundly executed central role is a challengingly complex one, both fearsome and pathetic.  I also particularly enjoy Bright’s nobly sinister Clotaldo, Sullivan’s frail but staunch matriarch Basilia, and of course Renee Lyons’ hilarious jester of the play Clarion, who quietly steals the show with a frank and human wit.

Victoria Ingram’s anachronistic costume design, combining sensual glamour and military distinction, strikingly evokes a sense of past without needing or wanting to pinpoint any specific historic period.

The appropriately macabre sound design by Jason Smith includes a sound-stage setup so that incidental noises are enhanced with eerie, crunchy reverberation.  John Verryt’s empty black set, with the entire black back wall that dramatically slides open and shut, is a dark canvas for the splendidly minimal lighting compositions of Jeremy Fern, at times so minimal they could almost be called darking compositions.

The slight grade of the stage resembles the old Film Noir camera angle trick, creating a warped, unstable sense of vertigo, until you get used to it.  The sloping floor also enables striking moments of forced perspective, to emphasise status and enhance the formidable presence of key characters, most memorably in Segismundo’s initial entrance. 

Feverish acts of poetic transcendence?  That’s one way of putting it, sure.  Less bloody, rapacious and incestuous (but with more deafening gunshots) than the Ensemble Project’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore in AK07, the distinct neo-classical, technological production values still pack a solid Hurstian punch.  


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council