BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

05/04/2018 - 14/04/2018

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

27/11/2018 - 29/11/2018

Production Details


Shortlisted for Playmarket’s Playwrights b4 25 competition in 2016, Movers by James Cain is a hilarious and heartfelt take on the differences in age, race and class at a moving company. 

It’s a common scene: a student gets a job to pay the bills, and finds themselves having to get along with their old(er) co-workers despite massive differences. In Red Scare Theatre Company’s Movers, that student is Tai, a wannabe stand-up comedian who has just finished uni and has no real clue about what to do next. When he takes a job at a moving company to kill time, he meets Oscar and Bruce, two Pākehā blokes as ‘middle New Zealand’ as can be. 

Playwright James Cain, a recent graduate from the Master in Scriptwriting course at the International Institute of Modern Letters, was inspired by the interesting dynamics at the little odd jobs he worked at while completing his degree. “It’s like school all over again,” says Cain. “You’re meeting completely different people with massively different backgrounds than you, and you start this dance of trying to figure out how to get along.”

Cain says he “kind of fell in love with small businesses” during his time at university. “One job I had, I wandered into a video store and my friend was behind the counter. He said he was leaving in a couple weeks and to chat with the guy in the dairy across the road, cause he was the owner.” Within a week, Cain was scanning DVDs and sweeping floors. “It was just so casual, the owner gives you a hard stare then goes, ‘Yeah, alright’.”

Director Matt Loveranes says he was drawn to Movers because it “handles everyday micro-aggressions and tensions regarding class and race in such a modern, refreshing way.” Loveranes is glad to be continue a long relationship with Red Scare Theatre Company after appearing as an actor in Yellow Face (2017) and as the writer of The Showgirl (2015). He’s particularly interested in Tai, a young man of colour who has to juggle millennial and cultural anxieties. “The situational observations are truthful [and] humorous,” says Loveranes. “So often you see these stories and they’re weighed down by this incredibly heavy handed style; Movers sidesteps all that.”

Movers is a beautiful and subtle piece,” says Sepe Mua’au, who plays Tai. “The familiarity in characters and parallels with experiences in my own life are what drew me directly into the play.” Well-known performers John Landreth and Lloyd Scott round out the three person cast as Bruce and Oscar respectively. “We’re so lucky to have such great established actors on board,” says Cain. “Both John and Lloyd have a knack for presenting a character you love to judge then slowly peeling back the layers.”

BATS Theatre, the Heyday Dome 
5th – 14th April 2018
Tickets are $15/$20.

*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

Meteor Theatre, HAMILTON
27 – 29 NOV 2018
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Sepe Mua'au as Tai
John Landreth as Bruce
Lloyd Scott as Oscar

Michael Trigg – Lighting Designer
Lucas Neal – Set Designer
Patrick Barnes – Sound Designer
Cassandra Tse – Production Manager
Samantha Burnard – Stage Manager
James Cain – Marketing Director

Red Scare Theatre Company was founded in 2013 by Cassandra Tse and Bruno Shirley. They are a non-profit theatre company based out of Wellington, New Zealand, dedicated to staging dynamic productions of contemporary scripted work. As an organisation, Red Scare is interested in exploring the role of music in theatre and championing original New Zealand plays, and prides itself on presenting bold, inspiring productions interpreted by some of Wellington’s finest theatre practitioners.

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Funny, compassionate and thought-provoking

Review by Ross MacLeod 29th Nov 2018

There are a lot of strong elements to Movers but if I was to select my favourite, it would be the way it deftly manages to be both brash and subtle in perfect sync. It’s clever character comedy, exploring clashes in race, class and generations but even though you get a sense of where things are going, the characters are so likeable and believable that you’re engaged from start to finish.

It’s a simple enough story: In need of work film graduate Tai joins a moving company alongside the older, quiet boss Oscar and the straight forward and loud Bruce.

John Landreth is excellent as Bruce, making his character brash, ignorant and racist yet from the outset making it clear he genuinely doesn’t mean to be any of this. For the younger, smarter Samoan Tai, this is an instant clash but the core of the story is the characters coming to understand each other and it might not have worked without the genuine heart that both the characters give themselves. There’s a soft heartbreaker line two thirds in that turns our perceptions and again Landreth nails it with such a genuine compassion that we can’t help but connect.

As Tai, Sepe Mua’au also revels in the awkwardness of his character. Whether it’s his physicality while desperately trying to holding his tongue, or his painful bombing at stand-up comedy, Mua’au gives us a character with his own flaws and insecurities, making the two perfect foils. Bruce is worldly but ignorant, Tai is intelligent but inexperienced, and finding a middle ground benefits them both.

The mediator between the two is Oscar, played by Lloyd Scott. Oscar is older, more frail, a quiet man mostly at peace with the life he leads. Scott carries himself with a nobility that makes us like him from the outset; capable of sharp wit but nicely selective with it. He also gets some nice physical acting later in the show, and he makes a perfect foil to make up the trio.

Movers is a show that doesn’t need big drama or clashes to make it engaging and enjoyable. Instead it refines everything it has down to a pure form. The set is cleverly multi-purpose, simple yet tightly linked to the theme. Even the light and sound nicely works to build the world. There are some neat observations about the nature of work and family and, true to its feel, the show doesn’t feel the need to answer every question or issue it raises.

Movers is a funny, compassionate and thought-provoking piece of theatre and the writer, cast and crew are to be commended for it. I highly recommend catching it a The Meteor or elsewhere on their tour if you can. 


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Rolls along effortlessly like a well-tuned van

Review by Gail Pittaway 28th Nov 2018

Red Scare Theatre Company is an exciting Wellington based group with a focus upon featuring contemporary theatre. With the current show from their stable, Movers, getting a bit of a tour around the North Island, it’s great to see the talent and enjoy the writing that earned them a nomination in the Adam Theatre Awards this year.

James Cain’s script uses the very common scenario of a uni student who gets a job with some older guys in a removals company, to explore male bonding, or un-bonding, and to discuss some of the gaps in connection and understanding that cause these tensions. It’s very funny, full of blokes’ humour and rolls along effortlessly like a well-tuned van, but also delivers a few life lessons to characters and audience alike. Hamilton-schooled Cain (parochial plug, but Wellington can’t take all the credit!) brings into the story large chunks of movie trivia, workplace routines and stand-up comedy sequences to keep the action fresh and active. 

Tai has just finished a degree in Film and Media and needs some cash to fund his real passion for stand-up comedy. ‘Oscar’s Movers’ always needs a spare pair of hands and a strong back to assist with removals, but no-one stays very long, perhaps because Bruce, Oscar’s sidekick, is so obnoxious. Tai’s reaction is no exception to the casuals’, but he begins to mine some of Bruce’s more extreme lines and theories, to create a character for his stand-up shows – and the crowds like them. But should he tell Bruce?

Oscar, played with beguiling sweetness by the great Lloyd Scott, is an old hippie, and the salve to their tensions, the oil on the engine and the boss of the company. He keeps providing occasions, not all intentional, for Tai and Bruce to work together. But Bruce’s racism, sexism, ignorance and boorishness get in the way – quite a list of challenges for Tai to work through, but I urge audiences to go along and see for themselves whether this tension is resolved!

John Landreth as Bruce is such a familiar character it’s hard to believe he is acting and not just plucked out of a moving company. A caricature of the Kiwi male it may be, but Landreth brings to the role some wonderful moments of comic timing, and glimpses of the sad soul beneath.

Sepe Mua’au as Tai has the brunt of the script, with outbreaks into his solo comic routines, but holds the line between admonition and disgust in his dealings with Bruce. While the others bring experience and skill to the stage, his is indeed a great new talent to watch for the subtlety and delivery of lines and presentation of a character with a conscience. 

Matt Loveranes’ sharp direction is another joy in this production, along with the perfectly appropriate simple set designed with packing boxes as furniture and props, and the technical aids of lighting (great for the male bonding action movie nights especially) and sound. The movie and technology motif links threads of identity, culture and community so well, even while they show the differences in knowledge and experience between the generations of men portrayed. 


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A night of twists and turns

Review by Ewen Coleman 10th Apr 2018

If the title of this play didn’t give a clue as to what it is about, then the set certainly does; countless cardboard boxes and packing cases strewn about the stage along with a truck cab and sofa and small stage for the central character to perform on all made of cardboard establishes perfectly the background to the play.

A small, just surviving, moving company, run and managed by Oscar (Lloyd Scott) with assistance from Bruce (John Landreth), decide to hire Tai (Sepelini Mua’au), a Samoan doing a postgraduate degree. [More]


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Big hearted

Review by Dave Smith 06th Apr 2018

Movers is a play with a very big heart. It has a gentle New Zealand voice nurtured in Wellington along with three hugely recognizable and touchable people who are a commonplace for those of us living in these windy but temperate climes.  

Samoan standup comedian Tai (Sepelini Mua’au) is the good honest man who graduated at uni (his most significant move upwards in life). Like so many worthies of his generation, Samoan or not, he can’t find remunerative work. Oscar (Lloyd Scott) and Bruce (John Landreth), the men who operate Oscar’s Removals, by contrast, simply move boxes, trunks and crates from point A to point B, and render invoices. Their life motion is day-to-day horizontal rather than intellectually and financially vertical. They have spent their whole lives learning more and more about less and less.

Oscar owns the marginal company and constitutes its kindly, if middling, brainpower. Bruce is its overt and untutored brawn; he having abandoned school at 15 before leaving the usual trail of social and human destruction often wrought by life in our less polished suburbs.

The top man is feeling the derelictions of advancing years so Tai and the company really do need each other. It would be simpler though if Tai were strong only in body, not Samoan and marginally less witty. Bruce now has his work cut out.

We first meet Tai, who would not go amiss in the All Black front row, rocking up to the depot looking for any kind of job. The depot is one made entirely out of beige-coloured boxes. This overlay of a cardboard world populated by cardboard workers is nicely carried through the play via the cardboard delivery van and the cardboard comedy stage that occupies the back wall.

This is a fine and robust concept and it serves the play well. It enables us to see Tai stumbling through his first stand-up routines as he struggles to come to grips with seriously heavy lifting plus sharing a van for long periods with tin-eared Bruce. The latter’s idea of building rapport is to shower Tai with one cockamamie Māori stereotype after another; a few too many in fact.

In response Tai does the traditional Samoan thing of stoically taking it all on the chin and when it becomes too gross simply walking off into the shadows – only to re-emerge as an ever more confident club comedian outside work time. The audience is skillfully taken through a well thought-out process of Tai’s assimilation into the business as Oscar begins to fade and Tai inexorably grows. Bruce’s initial inarticulate reservations yield to his appreciation of Tai’s impressive heft and admiration for his clear-eyed but understated knowledge of the world. Tai gives Bruce the tools to understand and experience true friendship.

So Tai has achieved a quite special thing. He is ‘filling in’ at a job where he is increasingly feted by shiny-headed Bruce while using that very process to feed his comedy act with the insights into ordinary people his job allows him. Alas, this is where I sense that the play loses some of its cutting edge. Author James Cain may be missing a trick up there on the comedy stage where Tai is oddly described as “the liver of Wellington – the man you all love to hate”. I just don’t get that at all.

I would reason that we really would hate him if his routines were to become ever-more-crude comic distortions of his life on the delivery van; interpersonal treason no less. I’m sure that is the broad intention. The audience needs to be slammed hard against the jarring disconnect between Tai’s equable days and the no-holds-barred life of the stand-up.

Sotto voce has its place in comedy, where the most trenchant lines can be whispered rather than spat out. But how can we “hate” a man who is a boon to his employer while being a perplexingly genteel performer on the boards. Putting on a leather jacket is only the start, not the full deal. The taped act intros at the club are the most raucous thing occupying the back wall when maybe that should be Tai. To add sharp drama into this Tai needs to be more overtly Dr Jekyll at work and Mr Hyde by night. All we ever hear (much later) is that he is “an onstage Bruce”. Show us don’t tell us. We need to be made uncomfortable.     

Dramatic tension in the second half is created only by the state of Oscar’s health which unleashes the terrors that Bruce can perceive about his future. He cannot accept that “filling in” always brings with it a farewell from the outset. As with the intermittent comedy act, the Tai-Bruce exchanges that follow are civil and intelligent but oddly muted. Tai’s unflinching niceness and Bruce’s unwonted self-control dilute the disillusioned ire that would flood in when brutal economic survival is at stake.

All that aside, this is very good play indeed. It is built on a sound comic premise and it well merits its listing with the Adam NZ Play Award.  All three actors show a good understanding of who they are and why they are here. The director is to be complimented on his clear perception.

The lines perhaps need to engender more in the way of dramatic conflict, though. Final happiness and audience delight (as here) can easily be assured in comedy – but only after the characters have had to endure a bit more in the way of painful emotional pratfalls along the way.   


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