Mike & Virginia

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

30/04/2011 - 07/05/2011

NZ International Comedy Festival 2011

Production Details

A romantic comedy… about romantic comedy.

Mike and Virginia. Both single. Both competitive. Both lecturers in film studies. Her specialty is romantic comedy, his is monster movies. She thinks he’s an arrogant knuckle-dragger, he thinks she’s a bitter, uptight cow. And he’s not far wrong. So of course the very worst thing they could do is fall in love. Aaah …


So begins this fast-moving romp of a play from two of New Zealand’s busiest screenwriters. Kathryn Burnett and Nick Ward (Second Hand Wedding and Love Birds) have set out to explore and subvert every romantic comedy convention in the book resulting in a love story that is smart, funny and surprisingly tender.

An evening of unabashed entertainment for lovers and cynics alike.

This romp of a play may be the first time screenwriters Kathryn Burnett & Nick Ward have ventured into the world of theatre but it has attracted some serious talent. TV personality Te Radar, comedian Michele A’Court and well known actors Lisa Chappell, Stephen Papps and Will Hall.

Premiering on April 30th, as part of the 2011 New Zealand International Comedy Festival, this fast-paced romantic comedy follows Mike and Virginia, both Film Lecturers, both single, both on the cusp of 40.

Her speciality is romantic comedies, his is monster movies. If they didn’t hate each other they’d get along fine.

This unabashed romp of a play about love and who you think you shouldn’t fall in love with subverts every rom-com convention in the book to create the kiwi love story we’ve all been waiting for – smart, biting, funny and surprisingly tender. 

Two screenwriters, (frustrated by how long their various screen projects were taking) collaborating on a theatrical romantic comedy might not seem like an obvious recipe for fun but when one of the screenwriters is Nick Ward the writer behind popular films Second Hand Wedding, Stickmen and Love Birds it just might contain some charm.

And as first plays go – it has certainly attracted some stellar NZ talent. Director Te Radar says he was interested in directing the play from the minute he heard about it. 

“I first saw this play in a public reading forum and was struck by how smart and funny it was and how shamelessly entertaining. When the opportunity to direct, presented itself I grabbed it with both hands.”

The seed was sown for Mike & Virginia when Kathryn Burnett (The Strip, Amazing Extraordinary Friends, The Cult) and Nick Ward were teasing each other about who was the more popular screenwriting tutor. This silly rivalry quickly gave way to a fully fledged idea that both writers thought would be well suited to stage. Now having combined their considerable screenwriting experience and a few stories about their own experiences with the L word they have created an unmissable theatrical rom-com with a plethora of New Zealand talent.

“It’s a dream cast” says Burnett “and we feel very lucky. Nick and I are both humbled and delighted that people of this calibre wanted to become involved in our play.”

Mike & Virginia
The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE,  Auckland
30 April – 7 May, at 8.30pm (Sunday show 6pm, no show Monday).
Tickets are $30.00* and $25.00* concession
available from the Aotea Centre Box Office
or on 0800 BUYTICKETS
or online at www.buytickets.co.nz (*Booking fees apply).  

Lisa Chappell
Michele A'Court
Stephen Papps
Will Hall
Erin Wallace 

Improbable romp short of clever

Review by Janet McAllister 05th May 2011

This play has a great starting premise: Virginia (Lisa Chappell), a film lecturer whose specialty is romantic comedies, has her own love-hate relationship with resident monster movie expert (Will Hall).

But it’s not quite clever enough, and the main characters aren’t sympathetic enough, to pull off its coy, self-referential flirting with the audience: is it a romcom or not? Will they live happily ever after together? It takes 110 minutes (20 minutes longer than the advertised 90) to find out. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.   


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The fun is not in where we end up, but how we get there

Review by Adey Ramsel 02nd May 2011

“You don’t have to stare at a dead dog for an hour and a half to know it stinks!” So runs Mike’s philosophy on reviewing theatre and walking out before the end. A brilliant line, one of many that places this play in the ‘definitely not a dead dog’ category.

Homage, parody, send up or piss take? It’s hard to know for sure where the authors were wanting to take this (it has to be said) typical ‘all plotlines there and all bases covered’ romantic comedy. It is, after all, a simple boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy and girl falls in love, boy and girl split then… the end is ambiguous and of course that’s the intention but we didn’t need to be given the lines to read between. It is fairly obvious. 

In fact it’s all obvious, and I think that is why this play is a cracker. It runs like a well-oiled typewriter and it works on the level that is parodied within the play. We know what’s coming, we’re comfortable in the territory and even though we know they’ll be surprises and laughs along the way, we know it will all end happily. This genre will always go down well: the fun is not in where we end up, but how we get there. 

Kathryn Burnett and Nick Ward have honed a refreshing script, peppered with well-turned phrases, belly laughs and some beautiful insights. Their screen experience creeps through though with one too many short scene after short scene, though I have to admit it was handled well with snapshots of ‘set’ on the back wall. 

Lisa Chappell and Will Hall play the title characters, film lecturers both with firm beliefs on romantic-comedies. She prefers the art film, for him it’s everything that’s B-grade. Along the way they ‘lecture’ on the ins and outs, pros and cons of rom-coms and then, of course, mirror them in their own tempestuous relationship. 

Chappell’s Virginia and Wall’s Mike largely represent the two sides of humour in the piece. She is classy, full of wit, biting and dripping with literary sarcasm. He peddles the gutter humour, the sexual and sexist banter. Both hit home: bullseye! 

Again, as is nearly always the case, the secondary characters of Sally and Harry steal the audience’s heart, not having the unenviable task of appearing on every page. Used largely as a Greek chorus and shoulder to cry on they provide insight, exposition and fill-ins for Mike and Virginia’s past lives. 

Michele A’Court is a delight. As befits her background, her comic timing is perfection and she translates it oh so easily to the scripted stage. Her acting style is smooth and she masters that hardest of all tricks, of being motionless whilst relating a heartbreaking anecdote. Definitely the highlight of the evening, she excels in moving from hard-arsed sex-mad man hunter to a woman with a little bit more insight than we first give her credit for. The dainty comedienne should do more theatre; she looks as if she’s to the manner born and would be a welcome addition to any company.

Stephen Papps gives us a gorgeous labourer in Harry, reflecting on his philosophy of life in terms of his job and past relationships, again at opportune times to coincide with the main characters. His constant look of bewilderment and black and white attitude is a nice contrast. Both Papps and A’Court’s brief speeches are laugh out loud and their inevitable meeting is priceless. (Clever writing in that we don’t ‘get’ that there is a Harry and Sally until they have actually ‘met’.) 

Erin Wallace completes the company of five as new age poet Melissa, who is part driven by teenage angst and despair over love for all sexes. A well-delivered debut. 

Director Te Radar has kept a steady hand on this play. Running at a little over an hour and forty-five, with no interval, it doesn’t drag in terms of performance. 

Twice, though, we thought the end had come and applauded accordingly. Twice it continued and, albeit with no ill feeling on our part, it did maybe have one or two glance at their watches. Maybe an inclusion of an interval or a smoother flow at these points? Who knows.

But on a pre-winter evening, if you fancy a bit of television theatre, full of laughs, Mike and Virginia are the one’s you want to go and be with. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.   


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