MIDSUMMER (A Play With Songs)

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

13/06/2015 - 11/07/2015

Production Details

MIDSUMMER (A Play With Songs) started life as a pilot project commissioned by Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre. Award-winning playwright David Greig was asked to create a piece with a small budget and a short rehearsal time, but otherwise total artistic freedom. Greig was interested in the notion of creating a play with songs that wasn’t a musical. He enlisted the musical talent of top Edinburgh singer-songwriter Gordon McIntyre (famous for his indie band Ballboy) and the pair set about making “a lo-fi, indie anti-musical”. The resulting play has toured and been produced extensively across the globe, picking up numerous awards and rave reviews along the way.

It takes an exceptionally talented and experienced group of people to bring a play of this calibre to life, so we are excited to welcome the creative team from the Circa Theatre production and 2013 NZ premiere of Midsummer (A Play With Songs) to rework their magic on a larger scale at Centrepoint.

Leading the team is acclaimed actor and award-winning director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford. Originally from Feilding, Lyndee-Jane graduated from Toi Whaaraki in 1993 and has been in over 50 professional theatre productions, directed numerous sell-out shows, and been nominated and awarded multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards – four of which were for the 2013 Circa production of Midsummer (A Play With Songs). After first reading the script and “absolutely freaking loving it!” Lyndee-Jane knew she would need a great team around her to do the show justice.

“I could also see the enormity of it, because it is one of those pieces that has so many spectacular things that you have to achieve. Sometimes in theatre you’ve got a couple of things you have to rehearse everyday because they’re complicated, like a fight scene, or a song, or a piece of dialog that is really fast, and this show has something like that just about on every page. It is very complicated and complex in that way, so you have to have bloody good actors and work really hard.”

And by “bloody good actors” Lyndee-Jane means two of New Zealand’s finest, in the form of Erin Banks (The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and five-time Chapman Tripp award winner) and Richard Dey (award-winning actor and musician, and NZ College of Performing Arts tutor) who are also a real-life couple.

“I wasn’t specifically looking for a couple,” says Lyndee-Jane “but when you do a piece like this that is so complex and requires so much rehearsing, you have to be consumed by it, you have to take it home at night and work constantly on it. So it works really well with a couple as they’re usually spending a lot of time together!”

It’s not the first time the couple have performed on stage together. Last year the pair starred together as a couple in Constellations, and Midsummer “is a step up from that,” says Richard “It’s funny, it’s heart warming, and
it’s got a very bohemian and raw feel to it – the kind of theatre I really engage with. It’s a dream acting role.”

Erin agrees.
“It’s fun to share it (with Richard). When I saw it (at Circa) I said ‘I wish I could be in a show like that!’ because it is the dream to be in a show that makes people feel so uplifted and happy.”

So what makes this play so appealing to audiences all over the world? Is it the music? Is it the adventures this unlikely couple get up to? Is it the charming Edinburgh accents? Or is it the show’s openly raw and honest nature?

“I think it’s because they (Helena & Bob) are very relatable characters,” says Erin. “I can see so many aspects of people I know and even parts of myself in them. I think there’s a lot of people who reach their 30s and kind of think ‘oh well this is who I am and this is my life’ and this play says no matter who you think you are or what your lot in life is, change is possible, and there is hope and adventure and love and life out there.”

“There is a spirit about the show. The music, the laughter, the accents even, there is something fantastical about it,” says Richard. “And that credit goes to Lyndee-Jane. It’s big shoes to fill, but I’m ready for the challenge!”

Tasked with creating a space capable of transforming into the multitude of different settings required by the script is local set and costume designer Ian Harman. Ian will be utilising Centrepoint’s new seating plan for his set design.

“The concept is that a map of Edinburgh has been dropped onto a black raised stage, so the actors get to interact with it or it can disappear and become a blank canvas. There are also black boxes on stage that are moved around by the actors to create objects or settings, like a bed, or a japanese bondage den, and even a cathedral! I really wanted to give the actors and Lyndee-Jane a space to just play.”

Centrepoint Theatre is excited to bring this internationally-acclaimed romantic comedy to the Manawatu community. Whether or not you are a sucker for a non- traditional romance or simply a fan of first-rate theatrical experiences, Midsummer is a proven tonic for the mid-winter blues.

“Fragile and funny, but never just cute, Midsummer is that rare beast: a romantic comedy that has a good head on its shoulders as well as a huge heart at its centre.”- The Guardian

“Buoyant, magical and dreamlike”- Theatreview

MIDSUMMER (A play with songs)
Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North
13th June – 11th July
Wednesday 6.30pm; Thursday – Saturday 8pm; Sundays 5pm
$20 Tuesday show: 16th June 2015 – tickets for this performance on sale Monday 15th June
Please note there is no performance on Sunday 14th June
TICKETS: $38 Adults | 
$33 Groups of 10+ | $30 Seniors } $30 Under 30s
$28 Community Service Card Holders | $18 Students | $68 Dinner & Show

*$30 thirties special* if you are in your thirties you can come and see Midsummer (A Play with Songs) for just $30! Contact the box office for more details.

Creative Talent
Cast: Erin Banks & Richard Dey
Director: Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
Set + Costume Designer: Ian Harman
Lighting Designer: Glenn Ashworth
Set Construction: Harvey Taylor

Theatre ,

Midsummer a wonderland

Review by Richard Mays 20th Jun 2015

Winsome, witty, wacky, warm and wise: few plays manage to capture these qualities so completely.

As the southern hemisphere’s shortest day looms, Centrepoint Theatre embraces it with a romp set during the opposing solstice – Midsummer (A play with songs), a production that takes place on a large street map of Edinburgh.

Helena and Bob, an unlikely couple of 30-somethings, accidentally find one another, twice – and end up having one whale of a weekend.

Enter Bob (known around the traps as ‘Medium’ Bob), a bit of a loner and a petty crim (though you can tell his heart’s not really in being either); fan of Dostoyevsky and moody 80s–90s Scottish band The Jesus and Mary Chain. His big failed ambition is to busk Jesus and Mary Chain songs around Europe. 

Helena, an unmarried divorce lawyer having an unsatisfactory affair with a married man (who stands her up, thus precipitating her encounter with Bob), is ever so slightly jaundiced about love and her legal calling. Even her extended family are keep-at-arms-length material. 

Played by real-life couple Erin Banks and Richard Dey, the pair hit it on, then off, then on, all in the space of an illicit cash and alcohol-fuelled, rain-spattered couple of midsummer days. 

Whether Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream provides the underlying metaphorical inspiration (Helena is a character common to both plays) is moot. It’s a thoroughly modern, anti-romcom that has the characters almost cutting a James Joycian caper across the Dunedin of the north’s fairy woods, the map almost coming alive beneath their running feet. 

Beautifully orchestrated by director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, the tale is authentic, absorbing and so well played, consistent Scottish accents and all, as to make the surroundings real, even without any prior knowledge of the city. 

There are delightful moments of wack: Bob’s morning-after conversation with his erect penis; a bedraggled vomit-flecked Helena in an encounter with her 12-year-old autistic camera-toting nephew on the steps of the cathedral where she is supposed to be a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding; the song likening their hangovers to, among other things, a country, a film and a sport (FYI – Belgium; four hours long and French; cricket). 

The music, played on guitar by Banks and Dey, necessarily sounds more Proclaimers’ Sunshine on Leith than The Jesus & Mary Chain’s Happy When it Rains, (interestingly, both groups founded by brothers named Reid).

Nevertheless, these alt-folk styled songs happily and naturally accompany the couple’s situations, as the actors play characters who at times adopt the position of pause-the-action commentators, replaying snippets of their own stories from different (and also sung) perspectives. It’s something akin to giving the stage a replay button.

Complex and cleverly constructed without appearing too contrived, the frolic even manages meaningful reflections on life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Wonderful.


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Wonderfully flexible, fluid and clever

Review by John C Ross 15th Jun 2015

Midsummer in Edinburgh, and on Friday night the rain’s pissing down, so what’s to do but get pissed. Saturday, Midsummer’s Day, is not much better. Sunday starts foggy, but by mid-afternoon, yay, the sun’s out.

Midsummer’s Day is Bob’s birthday. He’s turned thirty-five and the other character, Helena, has just done so: halfway through the traditional allotted span. So, is this it then? Is the rest of their lives to just be more of the same, except heading downhill? Whatever you dreamed and hoped you might do, you haven’t done it by now, so you won’t?

The play starts with a song, by both of them with guitars, which implies a kind of slanted response to these questions – ‘Love can break your heart!’ – yet they’d still want to go through a relationship than go without. And the action, once it gets going, is interspersed with further songs. Also, it shifts in and out of the characters’ heads, with some bits being repeated, perhaps as if one is going over them in memory, and with others, re-playing with: that is what I said but this is what I meant. These processes are wonderfully flexible, fluid and clever.

Erin Banks as Helena and Richard Dey as Bob handle these roles, and shiftings, with seemingly effortless assurance and empathy. They sustain a slight accent excellently. They play also other characters. Bob has been scratching a kind of living by during odd dodgy jobs for a brutal local criminal, Big Tiny Tam. A couple of times Erin plays this tough, once while still wearing a bridesmaid’s dress, yet with her face and body language exuding malevolence. At one stage Richard plays a mood-swinging twelve-year-old boy, including stripping to his (rather spectacular) underpants.

The characters are amusingly ill-matched. Helena is a middle-class junior lawyer, who’s been stood up by her regular male companion. Bob comes from a far more modest background, although, oddly, when she picks him up in a pub, he has been reading Dostoevsky, “to cheer myself up.” At least they’re good together in bed, and at a metatheatrical level sing well together.

Lyndee-Jane Rutherford’s direction is equally assured, with everything falling into place and well-paced. Ian Harman’s set is frankly theatre rather than realistic, side-on, thrust, with the low stage-platform and the upstage wall covered with a kind of schematic street-map, with about half a dozen boxes moved here and there on the platform, and with guitars, bits of clothing and other stuff hung on the upstage wall. Glenn Ashworth’s lighting design also works well.

On its own terms, sometimes a bit ‘adult’ and in-your-face, in action and language, it’s a marvellously enjoyable show, and can be warmly recommended.


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Delightfully energetic, emotional and just plain funny

Review by Joy Green 14th Jun 2015

It’s always great to be asked to review a play, and, when you watch it, to find that you are able to recommend it wholeheartedly and without hesitation. Midsummer (A Play With Songs) is one of those pieces.

It tells the story of Bob and Helena, two mid-thirties Edinburgh residents who meet on a wet Midsummer Weekend in a basement wine bar. Helena (Erin Banks) is a divorce lawyer who, at the beginning of the play, is sitting waiting for a date, who cancels by text. At a loose end she spots Bob (Richard Dey), a petty criminal who once dreamed of busking his way round Europe. He is reading Dostoyevsky – to cheer himself up – and invites him to get drunk with her. Inevitably, the pair sleep together.

When Helena asks Bob to leave, that should be the end of it: after all, they couldn’t be less suited, right? However, a series of individual disasters brings them together again at the Cathedral steps and with a plastic bag of cash from a strictly illegal deal that Bob should have banked, but somehow didn’t, they embark on a riotously debauched, legendary, lost weekend.

Banks and Dey last year starred in another two-hander, Constellations, for which Banks won the 2014 Chapman Tripp best actress award, and it’s not hard to see why. A couple off-stage as well as on, Banks and Dey have clear chemistry and warmth between them that makes the unlikely couple’s attraction utterly believable.

As well as the lead characters, they also slip effortlessly into a series of minor characters who intersect with the couple, including Big Tiny Tam Callaghan, Bob’s shady employer complete with driving glove and Oedipal angst; Shona, a perky weather girl; Brendan, Helena’s 12 year-old nephew. And all this in near-flawless Scots accents!

Lyndee-Jane Rutherford’s direction has the cast running (literally running for much of the time; the actors are clearly much fitter than the characters they portray) across a set of made up of a map of Edinburgh, and a batch of black boxes which the actors reconfigure throughout the play to create a series of locations, and all the props, musical instruments used in the songs and costumes are easily to hand on shelves and hooks, making for a seamless and playful production.

The set is designed by Ian Harman, who has a long history in production design at Centrepoint: this is his 22nd show. Harman is also responsible for the costumes, including a perfectly hideous – and hideously perfect – peach bridesmaid’s dress, and everything is brought together effectively by Glenn Ashworth’s lighting design.

Midsummer is, as it says, a play with added songs, not a musical. The script, by David Grieg, really is laugh-out-loud funny, but the laughs aren’t cheap; the writing is intelligent, moving and poetic – both in language and structure – and has surprises throughout the play: little revelations that give us telling insights into the characters, how they have arrived where they have and why they feel as they do. The songs are by Gordon McIntyre of indie band Ballboy and the combination of play and music has something of the feel of the wonderful Onc. The songs feel like they arise naturally and organically from the action and events of the play, but they are complementary rather than central and they’re all the better for that.

I guess you could call this piece a romantic comedy. It’s certainly romantic and undoubtedly comedic but to label it so might lead you to expect a formula that the piece is far too clever to adhere to. It gives a nod to the clichés and then moves smartly beyond them.

There are a couple of times in the songs where the guitars are a little loud for the voices, but only a couple and it really doesn’t matter, since the spirit and feeling is conveyed effectively even when the words are a little indistinct.

I’ve heard the word “joyous” mentioned a lot in relation to this play – both about the product and the process – and the opening night audience at Centrepoint obviously feels that. They are completely engaged throughout, and thoroughly delighted by the piece – not surprising: it is energetic, emotional and just plain funny in the best way.

It runs until 11th July: see it if you can.


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