BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

02/11/2013 - 16/11/2013


Production Details

Are you ready? 

“The influenza, which came as a thief in the night and lashed the land with irresistible fury, vanished as suddenly and inexplicably as the plagues of old.”Vaughan Yarwood 

Following the lives of the close-knit Jeffery’s family, Pandemic will lead the audience through an experiential and immersive portrayal of Wellington in 1918 and the influenza pandemic that remains NZ’s largest and most forgotten natural disaster. 

Culminated in the loss of over 8000 lives in two months, this devastating virus changed the social landscape of NZ forever. The enormity and speed of the disease worldwide caused real fears that the whole of humankind would be annihilated.

Pandemic throws up the very real question of what would happen if another Flu virus entered the country. Are you ready?

Featuring: Andrew Patterson, Ben Fransham, Jennifer Martin, Michael Ness, Noa Campbell, Phil Grieve, and Sarah Boddy.

The 24/7 Project (Sniper STAB 2004) is a company that tells stories in an interactive and compelling way, challenging audiences to experience theatre through all their senses.

7pm, 2-16 November
BATS Theatre Out of Site PH: 04 802 4175
TICKETS: $22/16 (STAB Season Pass $35)

Harriet - Jennifer Martin
Doctor - Phil Grieve
Lucy - Noa Campbell
Bernie - Andrew Paterson
Olive - Sarah Boddy
William - Ben Fransham
Frank - Michael Ness

Cello - Natalie Hunt
Guitar - Charlotte Pleasants
Ukelele - Michael Hebenton
Accordion - Matt Sime
Singers - Hilary Penwarden, Michael Ness
Adult Chorus
Kylie Davidson - Susannah Donavan
Tracey Mexted - Charlotte Pleasants
Hank - Matt Bentley
Patrick - Michael Hebenton
Nurse Palmer - Hilary Penwarden
Beth, Hank's Wife - Mary Weir
Marj, the mourning woman - Natalie Hunt
James, the drunk - Matt Sime
Annette Reid/Chemist - Renee Pritchard
Bartender - Lee Dowsett
Patients, Townsfolk - Charlotte Pleasants, Georgia Pringle
Slum Women - Mary Weir, Harriet Lane-Tobin, Natalie Hunt
Children's Chorus

Jefferys Children
Cast 1
Rose Jessica Jenkins (Singer)
Nell Rebecca Jenkins
Francis Lochlan Parker
Cast 2
Rose Fiona Rogge
Nell Sammi Park
Frances Natasha Lynch (Singer)

Hank's Daughter/Son
Cast 1
Millie Jenkins
Cast 2
Adam Lynch

Slum Children
Cast 1
Flora Zoe Maitland
Mae Isabel Warden
Peter Isaac Parker
Jack Jack Wharton
Cast 2
Flora Anais Hendrikx
Mae Lauren Baker
Peter Billy Murrell
Jack Ben Park
Producer - Jennifer O’Sullivan
Stage Manager - Julia Harrison
Set Designer - Brian King
Costume Designer - Gillie Coxill
Composer and Sound Designer - Tane Upjohn Beatson
Lighting Designer - James Kearney
Marketing - Brianne Kerr
Publicity Design - Graeme Offord
Chorus CoOrdinator - Matt Bentley
Photographer - Tabitha Arthur

Set:  Brian King
Costume:  Gillie Coxhill
Lighting Design:  James Kearny
Music and Sound:  Tane Upjohn Beatson
Stage Manager:  Julia Harrison
Marketing Manager:  Brianne Kerr 

Theatre , Site-specific/site-sympathetic ,

Unbeatable immersive history lesson

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 13th Nov 2013

To attend the first of the two 2013 STAB shows is like travelling back in time and we do literally go on a short journey to a replica of a 1918 quarantine station. The pandemic known as the Spanish Flu wiped out three to five per cent of the world’s population. In New Zealand it took, to quote Michael King, “four and a half times as many Maori lives as non-Maori (5516 to 1200).”

The journey starts when some nurses usher us into a small hall and we are thanked for being volunteer infirmary aides to assist in preventing the fast spreading influenza from taking hold.

Just as we are practising some simple first aid, the 21st century interrupts with officials handing out 2010 Dept of Health pamphlets about getting ready for a pandemic and at the same time telling us we are all in quarantine and have to be transported to a less populous part of Wellington.

From then on this piece of immersive promenade theatre dips us into one small health district and involves us by dramatising the tensions in one family, racist attitudes, and what happens in the pub, the coffin maker’s workshop, an inhalation chamber, and a hospital ward.  But we are also asked to mop the hospital floor, attend the sick, and to fold sheets and the like.

What is so impressive about Pandemic is the sheer size of the enterprise and the logistics of creating all the settings which are done in detail right down to an unused old-fashioned bed pan and hot water bottle which hardly anyone will see hidden under a bed.

The only problem, I feel, is the audience participation feels bogus. There’s a script that is being followed by the actors: what would happen, for example, if a doctor in the audience told a nurse she was doing a procedure incorrectly and took over the scene?

It was the traditional theatrical scenes such as the coffin maker (a modern day Hamlet’s gravedigger) and three soldiers’ welcome home that made an impression on me, not the folding of sheets. However, as an introductory history lesson: unbeatable. 


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Immersive time travel through spaces

Review by James McKinnon 03rd Nov 2013

Pandemic is one of the two BATS STAB commissions for 2013, and it certainly fulfils the STAB mandate of producing innovative, New Zealand performance work. The ‘New Zealand’ part is supplied by the content: Pandemic dramatizes Wellington’s experience of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed up to 100 million people worldwide. The innovative part is the play’s form, which blends realism, participatory scenes, and environmental theatre.

The 24/7 Project aims to create immersive theatre experiences, and Pandemic does this by recruiting the audience into the action. Much of the play’s frisson comes from its unpredictability, so it would be inappropriate to give too much away, but rest assured that Pandemic engages all five senses over the course of the performance, which occupies roughly two hours from the time you arrive at the theatre to the time the bus returns you there.

Oh, that’s right – most of the performance takes place at a mystery venue. Be prepared for a short bus ride and a brief walk – and also be advised that you will continue to walk or stand through much of the play, so not the best night to rock the 5-inch heels. 

Pandemic takes place in the middle of the flu outbreak of October-December 1918, a two-month span during which the disease killed 8600 New Zealanders (roughly half as many fatalities as NZ suffered from the entire First World War).

Created and directed by Kerryn Palmer, written by Rachel Callinan, and featuring Andrew Patterson, Ben Fransham, Jennifer Martin, Michael Ness, Noa Campbell, Phil Grieve, and Sarah Boddy, the play dramatizes these historic events from a personal perspective, focusing on a single family in Wellington.

This identification with a family of regular people keeps the play emotionally engaging. We see and become immersed in scenes from an increasingly disrupted everyday life, such as a party to welcome home the community’s veterans. Scenes like this deftly convey the cruel social implications around the timing of the outbreak, which struck at precisely the moment when it seemed like the five-year war crisis was over. Naturally, we don’t want to listen when a doctor warns us that such gatherings are hazardous – it just doesn’t seem fair.  

Pandemic illustrates how New Zealand was utterly unprepared for the crisis, at both the personal and political levels (an inquiry after the fact led to the 1920 Health Act). The growing fear and confusion is aggravated by a constant flow of contradictory misinformation. When official advice and regulations change daily, charlatans start to seem more credible. When supplies run low, people confront difficult choices, revealing the racial and social divisions that no one wants to see.

The play also asks us to think about how prepared we are today: would we know what to do if an outbreak struck tomorrow? Would we trust our medical and political officials to look out for us? (The co-operativeness of the audience suggests that, to an almost frightening extent, we would.) 

The single most ingenious element of Pandemic is its dramatic space. Instead of using a single stage to represent numerous imaginary locations, the performance venues are partitioned into multiple real locations, which the audience travels through (and not always together or in the same order).

Literally transporting the audience through space and (less literally) time, the play creates a strong sense of the different places and spaces of public life in Wellington circa 1918. It’s not the sort of play where you watch characters in a living room talking about something that’s happening offstage. Wherever the action is, you will go there! 

The performance is physically immersive, and the constant locomotion and stream of action helps create a sense of the confusion and disorientation of the crisis. However, it is not always emotionally immersive. I felt quite distant from the characters and struggled to identify with them, even when we were sharing a space or performing a task together. Perhaps this is because the characters themselves are so anxious to stay calm and under control; the characters beautifully capture the desire to resume the routines of everyday life after the war. It may also be that our attention is split between the fun of performing small tasks or enjoying tea, and the preoccupation with following the dramatic action as it continues around us.

Even while immersed the action, we mostly remain in ‘fly-on-the-wall’ mode; although we are in the midst of a crisis, we are not asked to make any important choices or influence the outcomes of conflicts. Our only real choice is to wait politely for the scene to resolve and then follow a character to the next one. This format allows the spectators to feel safe and comfortable, but it also limits the potential for complete immersion.


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