Te Pou Theatre, 44a Portage Road, New Lynn, Auckland

28/09/2016 - 01/10/2016

Production Details

Three young women wait in a room.
They are guided through the last few days by a mysterious Usher until they understand what happened to them.

Following on from their sell-out season of Hippolytus Veiled, Theatrewhack presents a new staging of Patrick Graham’s ‘Lost Girls‘.

The play was performed in Wellington and Auckland in 2007 and 2013. This new production was initiated because of the prevalence of rape culture and rape apologists in social media, and as a reaction to recent rape cases such as Steubenville, the defending of sports personalities who are violent towards women, and the current national campaigns to reduce violence in families and relationships.

The play hopes to provoke the audience and leave people questioning their own moral compass.

Date: Wednesday 28th September – Saturday 1st October 2016
Te Pou Theatre, 44A Portage Road, New Lynn
Parking: around the back of the building off McWhirter Place.
Tickets through iTICKET https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2016/sep/lost-girls  

Opening Night bonus – join us on Thursday 29th September, for a 30 minute post-show panel with Victim Support, Rape Prevention Education, the writer and the producer to discuss how we can make an impact as a community and individually.

Theatrewhack is running a Boosted campaign to help pay the cast for their time  http://www.boosted.org.nz/projects/lost-girls

Prema Cottingham (The Rover, Defensibility, Great Bellied Women)
Courtney Eggleton (The Seven Year Itch, The Rover, End of the Golden Weather)
Renee Brierley (The Priory, Stella, Conversations of Karangahape Rd)
Turene Jones (Stage of Fools, The Shannara Chronicles, Mystery Play)

Directed by Theatrewhack regular Mark Oughton in his New Zealand directorial debut.

Produced by Patrick Graham.

Theatre ,

Timely exposé of macho environment

Review by Leigh Sykes 29th Sep 2016

I am a passionate believer that the Arts have an important role to play in making us think, question and respond to issues that are uncomfortable and sometimes frightening. The Arts can help us to find ways to make sense of situations and feelings that are difficult to explore elsewhere, and it is vital that art works have the ability to confront us and make us feel uncomfortable. 

Director Mark Oughton seems to share this view, as his director’s notes state: “I believe that you shouldn’t come to the theatre to feel comfortable.” He goes on to set out his intention to push for “theatricality as opposed to naturalism” in the staging of the show, and asks us to “(re-) commit to fighting the good fight … to change our macho-, toxically-, masculine-, victim-blaming-, rape- culture.” This is a tall order, and the cast of four women tackles it with commitment.

As we enter the theatre, one character is already there, sitting in a corner of the performance space, writing in a notebook. She pays no attention to us, as we take our seats noting that the audience seating surrounds all four sides of the space. The set (no design credit) consists of newspaper covering all of the surfaces and a number of large boxes that are moved around to create all necessary furniture during the show. Shortly after we are seated, three ‘Girls’ carrying suitcases enter the space, all trying to remember why they are in this space that one of them describes as “like a doctor’s waiting room.”

From this point on, the stories of these three characters are deconstructed and then woven back together, helped (although crucially sometimes enabled) by The Usher (Turene Jones). Jones plays a ringmaster-like role, announcing each episode to the audience in Brechtian style and standing back while the action unfolds. However, as the play goes she becomes entangled in the events and ultimately takes on a much darker purpose as she has an explicit impact on each of the three girls.  

It takes a while for us to see how the episodes fit together, as the cast plays a wide variety of characters in episodes of varying lengths. The Brechtian style of staging is designed to remind us that we are watching a play, and to allow us to think about what we are seeing. All of the actors change between characters on stage in full view of the audience, and although this is an authentically Brechtian staging device, on occasion here it is somewhat ponderous and slows down the scene changes. With some episodes being very short, the long costume changes and re-arrangement of the set items can interfere with any tension that is building. 

Gradually we see that K (Prema Cottingham), a young woman whose boyfriend is a brazen cheat and whose home life is less than satisfactory, M (Courtney Eggleton), a small town teenager with a very straight-laced aunt and T (Renee Brierley), a little girl with a harassed Mum and annoying brother, are all being guided through the events that brought them to the ‘waiting room’.

Brierley has the tough task of playing a very young character, and does a very good job of keeping her performance on the right side of caricature, while Eggleton’s small town girl oozes openness bordering on gullibility, and Cottingham’s teenager responds often angrily to being surrounded by people who constantly let her down.

All three play their main characters with sincerity and understanding, making them credible and convincing, while also playing a large variety of supporting characters in each other’s stories. It is here that Eggleton stands out, as she plays everything from a cheating boyfriend to a drunken Mum in sometimes grotesque, but compelling fashion. All of the supporting characters are quickly and accurately sketched by the cast and all of these characters contribute to the final events that befall the main characters. 

The nature of those events becomes very transparent early on, with suitably foreboding music and sound effects, and initially this bothers me. The concept of the show reminds me very much of Gary Henderson’s An Unseasonable Fall of Snow, where awareness of the mysterious events at the heart of the story unfolds over time and the twist at the end is much harder to predict, whereas here the fate of the characters appears a foregone conclusion from a very early point.

Rather than a sense of devastation or outrage, I feel a sense of sad inevitability at the end of the show, but perhaps this is the very point of the play. In a week where very public outrage was required before appropriate action was taken about the Losi Filipo case, this sense of powerlessness about the sheer number of cases like those depicted in the play needs to be addressed. 

As I process the play on my way home from the theatre, the supporting characters are the ones that make me question and examine their (and by extension, our) actions. I question the Mum who excuses the meanness of her little boy, suggesting that it’s just the way boys are; the sanctimonious hairdresser who feels she can pass judgement on others; the sleazy younger brother who feels entitled to hit on anyone; the cheating boyfriend who feels it’s perfectly OK to play the field and blame everyone else when he’s caught out; the father who leaves his family and the uncle who cares more about other people’s opinions than his family.

I also realise that these girls are victims of so many missed opportunities for someone to care about them rather than judge them or try to make decisions for them. T’s Mum makes her go to school, despite her being upset by her brother’s actions; K’s Uncle doesn’t insist that she goes with him and M’s Aunt imposes her own standards on her and refuses to lend her the money she needs to catch the bus; all actions that lead to dire consequences. 

While the majority of the men in the play are unlikeable, a significant proportion of the women also have a negative impact on our main characters, and so perhaps the main lesson I draw from the play is that we all must play a role in taking care of each other. My response to the play is certainly a rational rather than emotional one, but I feel that this is just as valid a way to ‘fight the good fight’ as any other.

The conversation that the play seeks to provoke is certainly a timely one, with the use of newspapers in the set reminding us that actions such as those seeking to excuse the actions of young men within a macho environment are happening right now, and therefore are actions that continue to require addressing.


Terry MacTavish October 1st, 2016

Leigh Sykes, what a great, insightful review of 'Lost Girls' - thanks - it has inspired me to donate to Theatrewhack's Boosted campaign to raise funds to pay the actors for their time - a splendid cause!

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