Lobby Hero

Silo Theatre, Auckland

21/06/2007 - 21/07/2007

Production Details

By Kenneth Longeran
Directed by Caroline Bell Booth

Shortland Street‘s distinction in New Zealand’s illustrious media industry takes up residency in the intimate Silo Theatre on June 21 as stars Fleur Saville and Kip Chapman join up with the soap’s director Caroline Bell Booth as she undertakes Kenneth Longeran’s latest play, Lobby Hero.

A brutal homicide in a Manhattan high-rise lobby is investigated by a quartet of dysfunctional law enforcers who become inextricably bound to one another and their separate fates are placed accidentally into each others hands.

Jeff, a wiseass slacker stuck as a night shift security guard, the self-made man of integrity and enterprise, supervisor William, rookie cop on the cusp of an assault charge Dawn and sexually over-charged, self admiring rebel Bill are all examined during the course of the multi-award nominated play, beginning it’s month long run at Silo Theatre on June 21st.

Lonergan’s playwriting ability has heralded a myriad of accolades; nominated for an Academy award for his screenplay for Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York as well as providing screen-plays for the Billy Crystal/Robert de Niro hit Analyze This, Longergan’s playwriting was a pre-requisite for the silver screen, with the popular The Waverly Gallery and successful debut This Is Our Youth.

Lobby Hero director Caroline Bell Booth is no stranger to Lonergan’s writing; interspersed with her work directing the 2002 Wellington Fringe Festival award winner French Toast, popular television drama Shortland Street and her Silo Theatre directorial debut, the double season sellout Under Milkwood. Caroline directed Lonergan’s acclaimed work This Is Our Youth in 2005, which became her second sell out season at the Silo Theatre, making her a coveted member of the arts industry as well as a faithful fan of Lonergan’s work.

Lobby Hero also bring together a cast of New Zealand’s brightest acting talent. Shortland Street‘s Fleur Saville is no stranger to the stage having performed in New Gold Dream, Joseph and the Dreamcoat and The Sound of Music, while Kip Chapman takes time away from television series The Hothouse to build on his body of theatrical work which includes Hamlet, Cut Out and the Silo Theatre production of Macbeth.The exceptional talents of actors Colin Moy (In My Fathers Den) and Jarod Rawiri (The Prophet, Korero Mai) join the cast for this vivid comment on contemporary society.

Unique themes and outstanding performances make this Lobby Hero nearly irresistible.” – Seattle Review

Silo Theatre 21 June – 21 July 2007

Mon – Tues 7pm Wed Thurs- Sat  8pm, no show Sundays
Bookings through Ticketmaster on 09 970 9700 or www.ticketmaster.co.nz
Tickets: $18-$30 (booking fees may apply)

Fleur Saville
Kip Chapman
Jarod Rawiri
Colin Moy

Theatre ,

Drama, laughs and something to chew on

Review by Sian Robertson 27th Jun 2007

Set entirely in an apartment building lobby, Jeff the chatty and somewhat gormless doorman and his officious supervisor William are joined by cynical cop Bill and his admiring rookie Dawn. As each character is added to the mix, complications arise, each struggling with how to present the truth, or whether to cover it up altogether.

Dawn is faced with a pending assault charge, on top of which she’s beginning to discover life in the police force is not as black and white as her own idealistic notions. William’s brother’s trouble with the law is dragged into the spotlight and becomes the heart of the conflict.

With credible, lively dialogue, each scene feeds nicely into the next, building up the tension. The characters are played off against each other mostly in pairs, with the occasional triad and quartet creating extra tension and a feeling that there’s just not enough room in this little lobby for these four large personalities.

Although it’s set in Nooyawk, replete with (mostly credible) accents, the themes are not too far from home – an up close and personal look at the abuse of power within a fraught legal system, loyalty vs. honesty, etc. – pretty universal really. It could be like the hundred and one NYPD dramas you can see any night of the week from the comfort of your own tv-facing couch, except this is the grime behind the scenes, coloured by the characters’ tendency to reveal too much: letting themselves be carried away on lengthy, humorous, personal tirades, almost as if they’re thinking aloud except that there are always consequences to these indiscretions…

While there is plenty of hype – drama and suspense, heated notions of morality, murder, sex and violence – and plenty of laughs, this is not just light filler. Part farce, part straight-faced social commentary, there’s something to chew on: believable characters dealing with realistic problems.

Lonergan, accomplished playwright and screenwriter with plenty of notches in his belt, has a genuine concern for the everyday dilemmas of ordinary people and brings them to life in Lobby Hero with substance and humour. At any rate, whether you’re after colourful entertainment that doesn’t require too much thought, or something to go away and mull over, Lobby Hero will satisfy.

Caroline Bell Booth (who also directed Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth at the Silo in 2005) has successfully facilitated the thermodynamics between the characters with a robust hand. All in all, it’s a complementary blend of snappy, insightful dialogue, vivid acting and confident direction.  

It took a while to suspend disbelief with the accents, which were patchy – on the whole authentic (thanks to dialect coach Jacque Drew), but mauled by some incongruous kiwi vowels. I got used to this though, and ceased to be distracted by about 15 minutes in. Unavoidable, I suppose, in that this is an obviously New York story about the lives of some New York law enforcers. The most believable vernacular came courtesy of Colin Moy, as Bill.

In an unusual set-up, the stage area stretches along the length of the theatre, the seating forming an L around the set which, when I arrived and took a seat near the end of the front row, made me wonder if I might miss the full force of the action. However, the actors make good use of this space. Rachael Walker’s longish lobby set is a good platform for the numerous stand-offs and altercations that bring energy to the show, and maximises the intimacy of the space: the audience is in the thick of the action, eliminating for the back row folks that feeling of being perched up there spying on a miniature tableau.

All the characters are well fleshed-out, we get sufficient background on each through their advice to each other, excuses, gossip and self-promoting spiels. Jeff, the laid back doorman (Kip Chapman), bolstered by his boss’ show of confidence, exhibits a desire to stand on his own two feet and start being responsible. Although no hero (the title is somewhat ironic), he’s the catalyst of the story, naively drawing the other characters out of themselves and into the whirlpool of intrigue that ends in the inevitable break-downs and exposure of weaknesses.

Rookie cop Dawn (Fleur Saville) is struggling to reconcile her honourable intentions with the corruption and fraternising within the police force. Bill, the senior cop, always has an eloquent justification for making up his own rules, until they finally backfire (he’s sort of the bad guy, except that Lonergan doesn’t seem to do bad guys: everyone’s misguided, Bill’s the only one who’s not questioning his own motives, that’s all).

The upstanding but troubled supervisor, William, played with authenticity by Jarod Rawiri, must face the idea of compromising his usually unbending integrity.

By the end, all four have learnt something, though it’s not clear what they’re going to do about it – there’s nothing to suggest anyone’s really going to turn over a new leaf or take steps to resolve the problems they’ve been grappling with. But perhaps that’s just what this play is getting at: this is life, we’re given fleeting opportunities or thrust into situations and we have a choice about what we do with them.


Siân Robertson July 6th, 2007

Thanks for that. What I meant though, was not that the accents varied from person to person - that is normal and realistic - but that they were inconsistent in individual characters. Thanks to the comments, I can see that perhaps I have an accent allergy, so anyone who's not oversensitised to pronunciation wouldn't have much trouble being blissfully transported. It is part of my job to be picky, though :)

Jacque Drew June 29th, 2007

Figure I better jump in here as I am the american dialect coach for SiLo theatre and have coached the casts of Bash, Suddenly Last Summer, Dying City, This is How it Goes, This is our Youth, The Women, Some Girls and Lobby Hero. I am currently working with the cast of Three Days of Rain. Regional American accents and dialects can vary widely. The tiniest of regional shifts can alter an accent significantly. Our voices are quite like fingerprints in that no two are exactly alike. Anatomy, breath, muscularity, all play a part in how we sound. Therefore seeking any kind of real uniformity in accents in a play would be a waste of time. In my work in NZ I am often struck by how easy it is for Kiwis to adopt eastern (like New York or Boston) dialects. That is because many of the flattened vowels and dipthongs are very similar to New Zealand sounds. The actors in Lobby Hero chose dialects derived from what they learned about their charcters via the script. Not all New Yorkers speak with the same "New Yawk" sound made popular on the TV cop dramas. The dialects chosen were all appropriate to the setting of the play. Having said that, all good dialect work requires just that -- work. To speak with an american accent requires a very gymnastic tongue and throat, not merely the ability to mimic. Only the actors know whether they put in the practice time to pull off the accent!

holly jones June 29th, 2007

Loved Lobby Hero, acccents weren't an issue

worried worried June 29th, 2007

An accent or dialect is unique to the person, no two kiwi "accents" are the same...how we speak is affected by a multitude of factors...in NYork, not everyone has a NY accent...It is the actor's and director's job to decide on the dialect they wish to embrace...Lobby Hero had a variety of believable American dialects, some more "Noo York" than others...this seemed both right and well executed. Did I believe in the "world of the play" and the character's journeys? Yes. Were the accents perfect? I'm not sure, I'm not a linguist..but I believed the actors....

Moya Bannerman June 28th, 2007

This is interesting about accents. I’m no expert but sometimes I turn on the TV and it takes me a moment to realise something is set elsewhere. Is it just my imagination or do some New York accents (which can vary by region, can they not?) include flattened vowels and a tendency to turn single vowels into diphthongs which renders those aspects similar to Kiwi accents (which also vary by region more than we realise, methinks – but that is a different discussion). Perhaps one of our US accent experts could comment.

Siân Robertson June 28th, 2007

It was definitely the inconsistency, and not the fact that American accents are unfamiliar, that I found discordant. I got drawn in, and then would notice when a phrase or word was out of whack and start thinking about the fact that I was watching kiwis actors playing New Yorkers, instead of being engaged in the action in front of me. My companion on Tuesday night also commented independently on the wavering accents as the one thing that was off-putting, though, like me, he thought it was nevertheless 'a cool play'. That said, it had to be done with New York accents or it would have been a different play, and a large number of highly talented actors struggle with assuming accents that aren't their own. It's a rare skill, and therefore unrealistic to screen the cast on that basis. So, I guess there's no easy answer to that one, but I thought it worth pointing out as something that detracted from the overall effect, although not enough that I wouldn't recommend the play.

Michael Wray June 27th, 2007

Since you mention the accents, I thought I'd bring up something that I've been thinking about since the Fat Pig inspired discussion thread. Firstly, just to say that on the night I saw Lobby Hero, I didn't really spot any inconsistency in the accents but I stopped noticing the voices as being in a "second language" almost immediately. It occurs to me that part of the reason people focus on the use of American accents is that they always sound so strange in person. This occured to me at work recently. I watch television as much as the next person and the American accents of the performers never stands out. Yet whenever I talk to an American who works in my company, her voice always sounds so incongruous until I get used to it again. I think that same thing applies in local theatre. Of course, that could be just me!

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