MIDSUMMER – A Play with Songs

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

21/09/2013 - 19/10/2013

Production Details

Lift Your Spirits in the Love Recession 

It’s wet and foggy, it’s midsummer in Edinburgh. She’s a lawyer. He’s a petty crim. She’s totally out of his league; he’s not her type at all. They absolutely should not sleep together. Which is of course, why they do. 

With a Tesco bag filled with cash, Bob and Helena get up to one ‘legendary lost weekend’, the kind that you tell your grandchildren about, although maybe not the raunchiest parts.

From self-loathing hangovers and wedding bust-ups, to car chases and midnight trysts, MIDSUMMER promises a great night out, as two thirty-somethings have a blowout goodbye party to youth (despite being a tad old for such shenanigans).

This hilarious romantic comedy, written by award-winning David Greig and top Edinburgh singer-songwriter Gordon McIntyre, is raining theatrical ingenuity. The widely acclaimed 2009 Edinburgh Festival sensation has toured worldwide, and now finally hits Circa Theatre for New Zealand’s premiere (21 September – 19 October).

MIDSUMMER is nothing like Shakespeare, or a musical – though it does have a few songs for good measure.

MIDSUMMER is performed with comic mastery and charm by Kate Prior (The Tigers of Wrath, Nothing Trivial and Go Girls) and Byron Coll (you’ll know his face from the classic All Blacks MasterCard ads, and shows including Meet the Churchills and Top of the Lake). Directing this dynamic duo is Chapman Tripp award-winner Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, (LovePuke, Miss Bronte). 

Known for her comedic brilliance, she joyfully shapes this fast paced modern gem into an unmissable treat for the senses.

This is a show for those who are ready to be uplifted in the ‘love recession’; for those who have been driven to being both relationship realists and pessimists. “Let’s get one thing straight. You and I are not going to live happily ever after and this ship is not going to sail into the sunset. Is that clear?” – Helena.

Warm up this spring with a taste of MIDSUMMER. 

“You float out laughing as if you’ve just swallowed sunshine on a spoon” – Guardian UK *****

“Irresistible and unmissable.” – Herald 

“Midsummer is utter joyful pleasure” – The List 

Please note: this production contains mature content. Please contact the Box Office if you have any questions.

Circa Theatre Opening Night Saturday 21 September, 7.30pm
Preview Show Friday 20 September, 7.30pm and Sunday 22 September, 4.30pm 
Season: 7.30pm Tuesday 24 September – Saturday 19 October (excl Mon), Matinee Sundays 4.30pm
$46 full / $38 senior / $33 friends of circa / $39 groups 6+ / $36 groups 20+ / $25 under 25s / $25 previews

Book through Circa Theatre on 04 801 7992 or www.circa.co.nz


Set & Costume Design:  IAN HARMAN
Scenic Artwork:  Ian Harman
Lighting Design:  GLENN ASHWORTH
Stage Manager / Operator:  Deb McGuire
Rehearsal Stage Manager:  Lauren Gibson
Publicity:  Yael Gezentsvey

Raunchy rom-com worth the wait

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 24th Sep 2013

It’s amazing that it has taken so long for this raunchy mid-life crisis romantic comedy about two 35 year olds that premiered in Edinburgh in 2008 to finally reach New Zealand. 

It’s a funny, arresting, touching two-hander about Helena, a hard drinking divorce lawyer in an unhappy affair with a married man and Bob, a small-time crook with an unfulfilled desire to be a modern day wandering minstrel.

It takes place over a rain-soaked long-weekend in midsummer Edinburgh which is boldly suggested in Ian Harman’s stony evocation of Auld Reekie. Bob is reading Dostoevsky to cheer himself up in a wine bar when he is picked up by Helena whose lover has failed to appear.

They wake up the next day in Helena’s bed with hangovers (cue for duet ‘If My Hangover…’) and immediately avow not to see each other again. This is of course a rom-com and when they do meet again they are running hell for leather down Princess Street, Bob to the bank and Helena to a church where she is meant to be the bridesmaid at her sister’s marriage.

They both realise that they are a bit too old for this sort of activity but they go off on a spur of the moment gleeful farewell to their youth before middle-age takes over completely. They end up in the Princess St Gardens with teenage Goths and a plastic bag full of cash. Their lost weekend ends in a sleazy bar caught up in a Japanese rope bondage session.

But all the time they know that they are going to have to change their lives; even the Castle car park ticket machine suggests change is possible. But can they do this individually or together? And for once you are kept guessing right to the very end.

The comedy veers off into surprising riffs such as Bob’s conversation with his rigid member and Helena’s altercation with her teenage nephew. And Kate Prior and Byron Coll are two warm, likeable performers who make us care for Helena and Bob and they also have fun playing the minor characters. It’s a sure fire winner.


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Buoyant, magical, dreamlike yet true

Review by John Smythe 23rd Sep 2013

Turning 35: that’s a predictable crisis in adult life. Being a sister’s bridesmaid yet again: that can be quite discombobulating too. Not to mention … 

Well no, I’d better not mention the other causes that produce this particular brand of midsummer madness because the way they’re revealed is part of the fun of this immensely enjoyable play, with music – by playwright David Greig and songwriter Gordon McIntyre of Edinburgh, Scotland. (It premiered at The Traverse Theatre in 2008.)*

Who knew these excellent actors Byron Coll and Kate Prior were also wonderful singers and accomplished musicians? Their opening song, ‘Love Will Break Your Heart’ sets us off on a non-linear mash up of Bob and Helena’s stories, narrated (both in the third and first persons) by each and commented on by each other; re-enacted with great flair, each winning our hearts despite their characters’ flaws and role-playing the bit-parts – all done with comedic truth and deceptive ease.

Any connection between this Helena and that of the jilted lover in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is tenuous at best, despite their ending up at a fetish club called A Midsummer Night’s Cream. This Helena is no lovelorn masochist, although there is something going on – or not – with someone she keeps exchanging texts with, and there is a secret she cannot even tell herself, which sends her off to the pub where she hits on Bob with a tantalising bottle of Cloudy Bay.

Helena is a lawyer specialising in divorce. Bob, once the brightest boy in school, is a divorced petty criminal who reads Dostoyevsky (Notes from Underground) and is the father of a boy he rarely sees. Mismatched from the start, their debauched weekend can only possibly end in disaster. Surely. Even if the sex is “just a great big beautiful ‘now’.”

The questionability of their behaviour at personal, relationship and social levels is nicely offset with richly poetic prose, captivatingly true encapsulations of human fallibilities and vulnerabilities, and songs that take their experiences deeper, wider and higher, while adding to the often poignant comedy. And there is something about their Scottish brogue that makes it all the more delectable.

Kate Prior’s initial presentation of Helena’s assertiveness and resilience gives her plenty of space within which to reveal greater complexities, which she does with profoundly truthful and touching skill. Her Big Tiny Tam Callinan is a formidable force for Bob to reckon with, and her Weather Girl, Shona, is a delight.

Bob is instantly likeable in Bryon Coll’s persona and clearly a good companion for someone wanting to lose themselves in a night on the town – albeit the shortest night of the year – but beyond that? Surely not. You’d have to be a masochist … (omg: have I been too hasty in dismissing the Athenian lover connection?).

While Helena could be said to be running away from her true self, Bob is in the process of (re)discovering his; not that he was consciously looking. But having launched impulsively into a wildly unpredictable weekend, that’s what he finds. His private chat with his upstanding alter-ego is but one high point among many. Coll also captures the essence of Helena’s camera-toting nephew Brendan in an exquisite cameo.

Apart from the fact that they are both on stage non-stop, running is a recurring motif, causing much comment afterwards on the fitness, as well as the talents, of the actors.

The shifts in time, perspective and location would seem to present a formidable challenge when it comes to staging, yet director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford ensures it plays out with an impeccably modulated rhythm and effortless flow.

Ian Harman (better known for his costume designs at Palmerston North’s Centrepoint Theatre) has created a playful yet practical set of moveable boxes within a ‘pen and wash’ style Edinburgh cityscape – lit with panache by Glen Ashworth – that also accommodates musical instruments and the odd prop. Harman’s costumes also fill the bill beautifully, not least the bridesmaid’s dress about which I shall say no more; you’ll just have to see how that fits in.

There being no musical director credited, it must be assumed the actors and director took care of all that themselves and the results are sublime.

Overall there is a buoyant, magical and – yes – dreamlike feel to Midsummer. It never takes itself too seriously – there’s a self-aware summary of the romantic novella genre – and yet it does confront truths of human existence with truth and integrity. And who knew parking machines could also dispense philosophical advice? 

Don’t miss Midsummer: it will put a spring in your step!
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*Billed as Scotland’s New Writing Theatre, The Traverse has been around since 1963. Is it not time we had one of those in NZ? Could this become the next role for Wellington’s Hannah Playhouse?


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