Edgewater Resort, Wanaka

27/09/2016 - 01/10/2016

Production Details

If you’ve got happy memories of post-natal coffee group, if coffee group makes your insides scream, if you were the only guy there, if you don’t have a clue what coffee groups do, or if you’re a tea drinker instead, Losing Faith is the play for you.

Written by Liz Breslin, directed by Fiona Armstrong and featuring Becky Plunkett, Bene Schwarz, Lisa Moore, Alice Crowther, Will Cole, Samantha Stout and Gilly Pugh, Losing Faith takes a look at the trials of new parenthood through the lens of coffee group culture.

Director Fiona Armstrong was one of the lead actors in Liz’s last play, It’s your Shit which enjoyed five sold-out performances in the Hawea Flat hall and a two-night stint in Arrowtown. Alice Crowther and Gilly Pugh were also in that play. Gilly is well known in Wanaka for writing and directing her own pieces, sharing her time and talents in leading the Aspiring Children’s Theatre School. Bene is Gilly’s son and many people are happy to hear he is returning to performing in Wanaka.

We’ve got so much talent in Wanaka.

Becky, who plays the lead role of Faith, trained formally in London and was a ‘jobbing actor’ for a few years before giving it all up for ski instructing. As you do. She’s returned to Wanaka this year to work again at Cardrona Resort.

Will, the youngest of the cast, is at the Hostel at Mount Aspiring College. He played the Reverend in this year’s MAC musical, Footloose, and is really enjoying spreading his performing wings during his year at the MAC hostel.

Sam is particularly looking forward to the t-shirts she gets to wear for the play. Her comic timing keeps the rest of the cast in fits, even when she’s not on script. 

Lisa has a history of acting and directing over the hill in Queenstown and plays an active-wear-clad new mummy. She says, “the play will be interesting because it explores a really important and universal issue in an honest way – I feel that motherhood is represented unrealistically in the media and puts a lot of pressure on new mothers to cope and find joy in every moment.”

And fathers. There are two new fathers too.

None of the new parents in the cast are parents themselves. To this end, they have been researching hard, and director Fiona has been putting them through their physical paces. She says, “They’re flipping brilliant! … an amazing group of actors who have invested so much into their characters. They have done their research, they have improvised key moments in their lives and they have both physically and mentally committed to telling us their story.”

Yes, there are joyful moments in Losing Faith, and comic ones, but potential viewers should be aware that the play comes with a hazard warning tag because of ‘distressing baby cries, post-natal depression and sweary language.’

“Comedy is such a good vehicle for serious issues,” says Liz. “I mean, dark humour is a coping strategy in its own right. Lots of people, lots of times, crying the yeah-nah, she’ll be right tears. And the statistics on post-natal depression in this country are on the increase. 15% of new mothers and 13% of new fathers. It’s a lot of us.”

Losing Faith is being performed
at the Edgewater Resort, Wanaka
from September 27th – 30th at 7.30pm
and on October 1st  at 11am.
Cash tickets can be purchased for $20 ($10 concessions) from Pembroke Wines. 

Theatre ,

Post-natal truths

Review by Sue Wards 03rd Oct 2016

The opening minutes of Losing Faith promise something very special indeed: a delicate, moving scene choreographed to song sketches out the relationship of a young couple, Faith and John, through romance, bonding, and pregnancy. 

What follows has moments which deliver on that promise. This is theatre produced by a community fortunate enough to include an accomplished writer, talented – and trained – actors, and a young director with a sure hand. 

The play looks at the trials of new parenthood through the lens of coffee group culture. The promotional material warns of “distressing baby cries, post-natal depression and sweary language”; the programme tells us postnatal depression affects 15 percent of new mothers and 13 percent of new fathers, and provides information on where to go for professional advice or support.

Post-natal depression is a difficult topic to bring to the stage. Keeping an audience engaged with a central character who is depressed for most of the play is a challenge, as Faith’s emotional range is quickly restricted to lethargy and despair, with flashes of anger. Becky Plunkett is so consistently strong as Faith it is hard to not crave a wider emotional repertoire from her.

But Faith’s depression is mitigated by believable characters who provide more than just light relief: they each have their own story. Naomi (played by Samantha Stout) is a stand out performer and her T-shirts, which run the gamut from ‘Pregzilla’ to ‘Real housewives of Albert Town’, spark much-needed laughs. Jen (Lisa Moore) is a delight as the glamorous mum with a Positive Mental Attitude. Stern, box-ticking Plunket nurse Bridget (Gilly Pugh) is a character you love to hate. 

Missed opportunities abound as Faith becomes increasingly isolated, demonstrated vividly in a scene at the heart of the play where Faith retreats while the others whirl around her. Director Fiona Armstrong’s strength in physical theatre also shines in quirky scenes where Bridget barks out baking instructions as the new parents respond, perhaps in metaphors of their parenting styles.

It is gruelling though. Some scenes, uncomfortable to sit through, may seem extreme to some audience members, while others may feel as though they are watching scenes from their own lives.

The playwright, Liz Breslin, is also a poet, which shows in the word-play. The use of music is sometimes perfect (‘Oh dear, what can the matter be?’). Some lines are so true they sing. From Faith: “Everyone else seems to get it but me”; to her husband: “You really have no idea.” From her husband: “It’s all gone horribly, horribly wrong.”

There are quibbles: the long, narrow set makes for some awkward moments in group scenes. Some details are off: why are the baby gifts not properly wrapped? Faith’s knife roulette loses some impact from the use of a butter knife. Twenty minutes could be shaved off the play’s length.

Breslin rejects a trite ending where Faith’s problems are neatly resolved. “Getting hurt or getting help”, it seems, is up to the individual. In the absence of a prescribed solution, this play forces audience members to examine their own reactions to people they know who have become isolated. 

The lovely dance which book-ends the play is reason enough to watch this – and to watch out for Fiona Armstrong’s work in the future. 

Featuring Becky Plunkett, Bene Schwarz, Lisa Moore, Alice Crowther, Will Cole, Samantha Stout and Gilly Pugh, Losing Faith will be touring further afield in the coming months. 


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