Rippon Hall, Wanaka

08/04/2017 - 09/04/2017

Radio NZ Drama Online, Global

14/04/2020 - 31/05/2020

Glenorchy Hall,

07/04/2017 - 07/04/2017

Festival of Colour 2017

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details

The mountain landscape of the Southern Lakes looms large in this brand-new play, in which music and poetry underscore a trio of unravelling lives.

Elsie is a tempestuous young expat who returns to Wanaka to look after her terminally ill brother. She runs into her former lover Frank who is now a glaciologist – a coolly logical and rational scientist. The ensuing complications will push them to the torn edges of love, loss, risk.

Local writer Annabel Wilson teams up with co-directors Anna Shaw and KJ Smith along with a clutch of Wellington creatives to present this fresh new work. They workshopped this show at Rippon Hall in 2016 and now you can see the finely finished work.

Live original soundscape by Cory Champion (Electric Wire Hustle, Pacific Heights).
Presented by Ravel Productions with support from The Black Shack, NZ Pacific Studio, Stone Cottage Partnership and ON Media.

Features Frankie Berge, Calvin Petersen and Chris Tempest.|
A premiere performance.

Glenorchy Hall 
Friday 7 April, 7.00pm 

Rippon Hall
Saturday 8 April, 5.00pm 
Sunday 9 April, 5.00pm 

RNZ is very happy to partner with BATS Theatre for Live On Stage. Now!
For RNZ:
Recording director: Adam Macaulay
Sound engineer:  Darryl Stack
No Science to Goodbye – a theatrical poem by Annabel Wilson
Broadcast 3 May 2017
 Listen duration58′ :29″  

Theatre , Audio (podcast) ,

1 hour

A beauty in the loneliness of disconnected characters

Review by Erin Harrington 14th Apr 2020

Annabel Wilson’s ‘theatrical poem’ No Science to Goodbye is a moody romantic drama, set on the shores of Lake Wanaka, that explores our abilities to come to terms with the messier parts of life. This production, directed by KJ Smith, was recorded at BATS Theatre in 2017 by RNZ as a part of the Live on Stage. Now! Initiative. While I love the evocative South Island setting and the show’s chilly sense of thwarted intimacy, by the end I’m left a bit out in the cold.

The setup is simple, and fraught: Elsie (Frankie Berge) has returned to Wanaka after establishing a life for herself in Berlin so that she can take care of her older brother, Sam (Calvin Petersen), who is dying of lung cancer. While working as a teacher she encounters her ex-lover (and Sam’s ex-best friend), glaciologist Frank (Chris Tempest), whose young son is in her class. Although the three had once been close, “The Three Musketeers”, their relationships broke down terribly. Lines become a key motif; we learn that as lines of communication fragmented, and trust breached, so each of the characters changed in ways that can’t be undone, even if they wanted to try to recreate the past.

Subjective experience is often communicated to the audience through lyric monologues that make use of verse, meter and rhyme. This is particularly lovely as Frank talks us through his research, his scientific observations on the effects of climate change taking the form of a song of lament. There are some lovely turns of phrase. I am particularly taken with Elsie’s comment that hearing the name of Frank’s Swiss ex-partner Claudia “is like a change in the weather”. Lakes, glaciers and jagged mountain ranges are beautifully described, to the extent that I end up feeling almost more affinity for the landscape than I do the play’s interpersonal relationships. 

Dialogue is more naturalistic. These shifts between modes do not always work for me, I think because there is a reluctance to let the dialogue and relationships feel genuinely grounded in the real. Scenes sometimes feel a touch stilted, perhaps because there is such a division between characters’ expressionistic internal and more uncertain external presentations.

Throughout, we are presented with thematic oppositions that explore loss, entrapment, and the interplay between hope and resignation. The glaciers are retreating as Sam’s cancer progresses. Elsie never planned to stay ‘home’ in Wanaka, and Sam wants to leave with her but is denied by his health. To what extent can we fight, or mitigate against losses, large and small? Sam is philosophical in the face of death; “you only die once!” he repeats with gallows humour. Frank’s scientific rationality, in turn, is no match for a world of emotion in which both change and indecision can be random and catastrophic.

The show’s strength is in the way it expresses the disconnect between characters. Each speaking ‘alone’ to the audience, they share thoughts and perspectives; they tell us (in what’s possibly the best line of the show) that “Love is a hill start in a Kingswood with a green light and a stuffed clutch”. Nonetheless, when actually together, they speak past one another, never truly hearing what each other has to say.

Cory Champion’s evocative and sparse electronic soundscape curls around the characters, making tangible their sense of yearning and isolation. We can hear the echoes in the gaps between them, and the chill in the air. Its minor key recalls the blue of the glaciers that are compared, at one point, to the blue of a lover’s eyes. It’s here that we really sense the piece’s strong sense of mood and environment. 

That said, I find that there’s something about the connections between the characters and some narrative details that I can’t quite unravel. I don’t get a sense of the piece’s theatricality, including the shifts between poetic direct address and the more grounded scene work, nor do I know who I am supposed to feel sorry for. Importantly, I don’t feel like I know much about Frank, which impacts upon how I understand (or not) the attraction between him and Elsie. His sudden choices in the piece’s climax, and the way this action plays out, stretch my credulity.

The audio is well-produced and mixed, but it might be that there is something lost in the transition from live performance to audio, perhaps the partial absence of embodied characterisation and the performers’ physical chemistry with one another. Within the script these connections, and the shifts between modes of expression, also remain underdeveloped; I suspect that the lack of staging renders this all the more visible. It’s a lonely piece, and there is beauty in that, but sometimes all you want are people. 


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Beautiful and evocative script needs more work in production

Review by Sue Wards 10th Apr 2017

Audience expectations were high for the world premiere of No Science to Goodbye in Wanaka yesterday evening: a play written by a local author; a promising workshop in the same space just five months earlier; an audience of people familiar with the playwright – some of whom would have contributed to the PledgeMe campaign to have the play developed, and some of whom know the backstory which informed the play.

For a ‘theatrical poem’, as the playwright describes it, the ingredients are all there in a stunning natural backdrop, a cast of competent and engaging young actors, universal themes of love and loss, and Annabel Wilson’s beautiful and evocative words. But while the poetry carries strong emotional impact, the theatrical aspect does not.

Elsie returns to her home town to be with her terminally ill brother, and encounters her old love, Frank. Lines of connection and communication are referenced, but failed connections are what we see as the actors don’t convincingly engage with each other. What should be a lovely, tender moment between Elsie and Frank highlights the lack of connection: he is talking about glaciers, she is falling asleep. 

The spare set design which worked so well in last year’s workshop loses its impact as the clarity of lines (“skylines, snowlines, fishing lines, washing lines: the ties that bind”) provided by taut string lines echoing mountain peaks have become a few saggy wires. (One of the loveliest moments from the workshop, where Elsie pegs her underwear on the line next to Frank’s and unpegs them when they break up, is not used in the play.)

The soundscape, which at times seemed intrusive in the workshop, feels appropriate and effective here.

The strongest characters may be the lake and mountains. Wonderful “the lake today” updates (a blade, corrugated iron, gin-clear, bottomless black) carry more emotional range than the human characters. The metaphorical landscape (Sam’s “malignant milky way”) is lovely, but I end up caring more about Frank’s retreating glaciers than I do about Frank. 

The pace drags as we spend time trying to interpret Elsie’s expression as she gazes into the distance.

About halfway in a rogue piwakawaka (fantail) makes its way into the hall and becomes trapped. Its fluttering and cries are distracting, not only because similar movement and interest is not taking place on stage, but also because the significance of a piwakawaka inside (in some Maori traditions it is a harbinger of death) carries more emotional resonance than the onstage drama.

The pace accelerates as the play neared the end, with an effective pile-up of events, soundscape and overlapping voices. The final twist is surprising but not moving.

One of the many great lines – “Love is a hillstart, in a Holden, with a fucked clutch” – echoes the lost opportunities in this production. I live in that landscape, live with loss and the knowledge of illness: but I am not moved. 

This beautiful and evocative script, by an accomplished writer, deserves more work by a dramaturg and stronger direction to become an effective and moving theatrical experience. 


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