Lines of Fire
05/10/2006 - 22/10/2006
By Gary Henderson
Directed by Lisa Warrington
“Not everything stops with the trains.”
To commemorate their 10th anniversary, WoW! Productions presents the première of this specially-commissioned play by Gary Henderson (Home Land, Peninsula, Skintight) at the Otago Festival of the Arts.
Stations are places of transience. Journeys begin and end, people pass through, time passes. Lives intersect, all travelling along the tracks together, and yet separate in their experiences of work, pleasure, sorrow, adventure and routine.
Is a railway station more than its architecture? Do we even see the station, when our eye is on our goal? Do we see the people around us? Join your guide Josephine for a story of love and adventure, past and present, laughter and surprise.
Inspired by and staged within one of Dunedin’s finest buildings, this promenade style performance is presented as part of the Dunedin Railway Station’s centenary celebrations.
Otago Festival of the Arts
Thu 05 Oct 06 – Sun 22 Oct 06, on Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat 8:00pm – 9:10pm
+ Fri, Sat 6:00pm – 7:10pm
+ Sun 3:00pm – 4:10pm
Dunedin Railway Station, Anzac Square, Dunedin
Theatre , Promenade ,
1 hr 10 mins, no interval
Station-based promenade play could go further
Review by Terry MacTavish 23rd Oct 2006
Even as I write, there sounds over the city a joyous cacophony of ancient train whistles akin to the ritualistic mating of dinosaurs. The steam locomotives are gathering, for the Dunedin Railway Station is celebrating its centenary.
A luscious building designed by a chap aptly nicknamed Gingerbread George, it has just been listed as one of the World’s Top 200 must-see architectural works. Good enough reason for WOW to commission for its own more modest 10th birthday celebration a site-specific play by Gary Henderson.
This idea seems to have everything going for it. Henderson wrote the wonderful Heartland for Otago’s last Arts Festival, director Lisa Warrington at her best is brilliant, and the cast is composed of the cream of local talent. Somehow though it doesn’t quite come off.
The station is certainly gorgeous and, when I attended, the audience, strictly limited in size, seemed to enjoy the experience of a promenade performance during which we rambled all over the building, ending up seated in a carriage on the historic Taieri Gorge Excursion Train. I looked in vain for a sturdy cup of railway tea and a ham sandwich curling at the edges.
Our guide is the busy spirit of the station, aptly named for our most famous engine, Josephine. Sara Best is cute and engaging, striving to keep her audience involved despite being cast in a rather uninteresting schoolma’am role.
Disembodied voices floating down the staircase singing something beautiful and nostalgic provide a genuinely atmospheric moment to herald the entry of two figures from the past, one a nurse (palely elegant Barbara Carey) on her way to WW1, the other (a warm-hearted Sarah McDougall) off to England in WW2 to help crack codes at Bletchley Park.
One of the audience reveals herself to be Hilary Halba in fine astringent form as Stephanie, bent on catching the last train to leave the station in 2002, but tied to her cellphone by calls from a persistent (and suicidal) wrong number. After waving most of the cast off on their respective journeys, we are summoned back into the main hallway to find Cindy Diver balancing on the balcony for a dramatic if confusing cameo as an unnamed Goth passenger.
The actors give it their best shot, trying to flesh out their characters and making the most of their more philosophic moments. "It all comes down to some man’s quest for immortality – a great building or a great war, you can’t have both."
The direction is accomplished, supported by some tricky technology and the recorded voices of male actors from the first-ever WOW production. But ultimately theatre has to tell a story, and though there was some scope for detective work as the connection between the women became apparent, the story was just not compelling enough.
Certainly we learnt a lot about our truly magnificent Station (seven hundred and twenty five thousand, seven hundred and sixty Royal Doulton tiles on the original floor…) but didactic theatre, even if good-humoured, has limited appeal. I would so much rather go away inspired to do my own research.
That is not to say the production was without a modest charm, and the whole venture proved worthwhile to more than just the train enthusiasts.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Railway station setting transports audience
Review by Barbara Frame 07th Oct 2006
One of Wow! Productions’ distinguishing features is its innovative use of Dunedin venues. Not only does its new production make brilliant use of Dunedin’s gorgeous railway station, but Gary Henderson’s Lines of Fire was written specifically for this location.
Maybe station walls have ears, hearing and remembering the thousands of human stories of which a railway station is part.
Just maybe, Dunedin Railway Station once had a very special guardian angel, named Josephine, who listened to travellers, offered help and advice, and sometimes helped them make important decisions.
Directed by Lisa Warrington, Lines of Fire takes its audience (quite literally) into different parts of the station, and brings together stories from the thousands of people who have passed through.
A nurse leaving for one war struggles to write an important letter, a mathematician departs for another, and years later a mystery phone call startles a passenger who thought she knew where she was going.
Gradually the stories begin to link to each other and form a larger narrative.
As the ever-present Josephine — tour guide, helper-out and voice-of conscience — Sara Best holds the show together and keeps the action, and the audience, moving.
Other parts are capably played by Sarah McDougall, Barbara Carey, Hilary Halba and Cindy Diver, and there is no need for scenery. The Railway Station, whose centenary this is, provides it all.
Lines of Fire provides the perfect excuse to visit Dunedin’s most magnificent building, learn more about it and see it in new ways.
Last night about 30 people embarked on the journey and loved the experience.
Hint: wear warm clothes.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer