Part of Me

BATS Theatre, Wellington

26/07/2007 - 11/08/2006

Production Details

By Kelly Kilgour
Directed By Danny Mulheron

Set design by Dennis Hearfield
Lighting design by Glen Ashworth)

A coming of age story… second time around.
A bittersweet and funny look at modern courtship & friendships.
Part Of Me
is about life, loss, love and coming of age – even after marriage and the mortgage hits. Loving and being loved is fundamental to all of us. We have to find our ways of loving and of what makes us feel most alive, sometimes against all odds.  Sometimes at high cost.

There is an instinctive human desire to want more.  There comes a point in everyone’s life when you begin to wonder if you’ve made the right choices. If you could go back with what you know now, would you do anything different?  Part Of Me explores the impact of living with regret and what happens when we try to do something about it.

Danny Mulheron has been keen to direct Part Of Me since its first script reading.  Danny’s work with new theatre pieces, The Tutor, Daylight Atheist, The Bach to mention a very few, and with such gems of TV as Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, is legendary.  The wry sweetness and charged energy of Kelly’s Part Of Me is fertile ground for him.

Kelly Kilgour was co-writer of the BATS sellout It’s A Whanau Thing, and two award winning scripts in the hot-house of this and last year’s 48 hour film challenge. This, his follow up work to Whanau, is being compared with the likes of Closer, a sharp investigation into the humanity of our relationships. 

Tania Nolan (The Hot House)
Steve Tamarapa (It's A Whanau Thing)
Holly Shanahan (Yours Truly) 
Phil Vaughan (The Tutor) 

Publicity by Marjorie McKee

Theatre ,

Beauty meets average and arrogant but no statement intended

Review by Melody Nixon 04th Aug 2007

Part of Me, written by IIML (script) graduate Kelly Kilgour and directed by Danny Mulheron, is an interesting show to review. Unusual casting choices, the portrayal of disempowered women, and the unnatural life choices of unnatural characters, make Kilgour’s claim that he’s “not making any statements. It’s impossible to,” a little difficult to swallow. And besides, does art not require a certain level of responsibility from the producer? Often social statements are inherent in art works, or unconsciously laid there by the creator; wouldn’t removing oneself from such statements be risking a lack of critical self-reflection?

Fortunately Part of Me is laced with a potent and feisty humour, which immediately and continuously engages the audience, and is strong enough to hold the production together. Courageous performances by cast, despite oft wooden lines and actions that would seem to run counter to human behaviour, manage as a whole to draw the essence of the relationships to the surface.

As the disagreeable yet decidedly endearing Max, Phil Vaughan offers up moments of hilarious, bastardly wit. Max’s actions are challengingly straight-up (“Don’t mind me, I’m just gonna go take a dump”) and rude, yet ultimately perhaps he is intended to be sensitive, if a little too wrapped up in his façade of humour and defensiveness to let true romantic relationships form. One of Max’s love interests, Sarah (Tania Nolan), is easily swayed by his charm. She is tossed between he and the other male character, ostensibly responding to regret, but more likely responding to whether or not they want her. An unconvincing character, Sarah’s unnatural role in Max’s life is worsened by casting choices, such as the placing of gorgeous and elegant Nolan in Sarah’s shoes (a choice we will come to later…)

Similarly, Sarah’s relationship with Little (well played by the consistent Steve Tamarapa) rings hollow; their conversations after four years of marriage are empty of emotional connection. Here themes inevitably arise; the false security and safety of long term commitment, and how people may cling to love despite no longer being in it. And how long term partners have the potential to stop one another from growing (as evidenced in Sarah’s horribly, well, belittling remarks to Little, which suggest that his current crisis is not only to do with Sarah’s devious past actions.)

The other female character, Gabby, is also played by a very beautiful woman; Holly Shanahan. This makes Gabby’s choice of men also difficult to believe. Perhaps it’s because Gabby is trashy – she reads Women’s Day after all – that she’s allowed to go for men like Max. But her role is deepened by strongly comedic lines, and interesting pearls of insight (such as: “It’s not about what the person you’re with looks like – it’s about how they make you feel”). Shanahan’s ability as a perceptive performer also strengthens the part. Though she might work on her stance and posture as a pregnant woman, as a whole she pulls off Gabby’s nonchalance and occasional vulgarity with ease.

Perhaps a minor point, but one I see as emblematic of the problems that a position of “not making any statements” evokes: there is a startling disparity between the level of attractiveness of the men and women in the show (and here I must state, absolutely no offence is intended to the actors!) The effect of this is notable because it is so unusual, and if not a deliberate choice then certainly one the director should reflect upon. Both Tania Nolan and Holly Shanahan are utterly stunning women; to make an awful generalisation, it is unlikely they would end up with “average” Little and arrogant Max. Unless the play is trying to make a particular point about this, why cast them in this way? What statements are you inadvertently making?

Not only does this casting throw up contradictions and double standards (e.g. Max’s reasonably denigrating comments on fat women in scene one, are followed by the arrival of ‘Little’, played by reasonably overweight actor. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but if in the world of the play men are allowed to be overweight and women are not, at least some level of double standard is hinted at), but it also makes ‘statements’, whether Kilgour intends them or not. For example, Sarah and Max’s relationship tells us that, among many things, rude, bastardly men will attract beautiful women.

The intentions of a play that sets out only to ask questions, are admirable. Unfortunately, Part of Me does not seem to be aware of the questions it is asking, but more likely seems to be hoping that they’ll arise out of the production of their own accord. Perhaps Kilgour could go digging a bit deeper in the future if open-ended questioning is what he would really like his plays to achieve. The fact that Part of Me is so enjoyable despite these inconsistencies is a testament to some great performances in this production, and Kilgour’s ability to write well and to entertain.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.



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Snappy writing

Review by Lynn Freeman 02nd Aug 2007

Part of Me by Kelly Kilgour is a small and tightly written drama with four not very likeable characters in their 20s/30s who sleep with each other’s partners.

Unlikeable characters may be fun to write but they do make it hard for an audience to make an emotional connection to a play.

Max is a nasty, selfish, thoroughly objectionable man understandably alone, thanks largely to his ghastly attitude towards women. His old mate Little arrives on the doorstep having cut his ties with his wife Sarah. Little meets and is attracted to the heavily pregnant Gabby, who’s just been doing the wild thing with Max. Sarah, meanwhile, no angel herself, comes by Max’s place desperate to patch things up with Little.

Kilgour is a snappy writer and director Danny Mulheron keeps things moving. Steve Tamarapa becomes irritating towards the end, but til then he’s a sympathetic Little.

Vaughan is no stranger to tough obnoxious characters on stage, he does them well, and one day he’ll show us extra dimensions to his acting.

Holly Shanahan is great at Gabby, a selfish survivor who’s not as tough as she pretends to be, and Tania Nolan makes the best of the woeful role of Sarah.


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One standout scene

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 30th Jul 2007

The striking poster for Part of Me, a new comedy laced with pain, is dominated by a human heart pierced by needles being held in the palm of a hand. Described as ‘a coming of age story second time around’ Kelly Kilgour’s play "explores the impact of living with regret and what happens when we try to do something about it."

The central character of this four-hander is Little (Steve Tamarapa), a bit of a no-hoper who drifts along through life and sees himself as Mister Average. He might get a new job (almost anything would be better than his particular job at the SPCA) and start a new life now that Sarah (Tania Nolan) has thrown him out and he has moved in with his old school mate Max (Phil Vaughan), who has a ruthless attitude towards relationships, particularly with women who nevertheless seem to find him attractive.

Max has just got involved with pregnant Gabby (Holly Shanahan) after they had met at Gabby’s grandmother’s funeral where Max was a paid mourner. Gabby and Little are attracted to each other and Sarah and Max rekindle an old affair but there are many twists and turns of the emotional knives as Little tries to find where his heart and his vision of himself really lie.

Kelly Kilgour mixes coarse comedy (Max advising Little on the finer points of sexual intercourse) with some strong emotional scenes. But there is one scene that stands out and I wished there had been more of this level of comic writing.

At one point, rather unbelievably, Gabby and Sarah meet at a bus stop unaware that each is involved with Little. The scene starts with the two women being pleasant and polite but as the truth dawns on them the atmosphere becomes icy and a verbal cat fight ensues. It is Cecily meets Gwendolen in the 21st century and very funny it is too.

Though many scenes were greeted with roars of laughter, the opening night performance seemed occasionally lacking in drive and a little casual with the odd word and sentence thrown away.  However, Steve Tamarapa, sloppily dressed and blinking at the world behind thick glasses, made one care about the gormless but decent Little and it was all too easy to see aspects of oneself in his awareness of lost opportunities.


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Shallow characters play honest emotions

Review by Thomas LaHood 28th Jul 2007

Characteristically frank, director Danny Mulheron asserts in his programme notes for Part Of Me: "Great cast, great script, what the fuck more do you want?"  I guess, for me, the answer would be something transformative, touching or unexpected.  But I can’t deny that Mulheron and his well-chosen cast have created a convincing, and at times very funny, production.

The play, by local writer Kelly Kilgour, is a relationship drama about one couple and two singles, who become four singles, and then become two couples, and then become one couple and two singles.  ‘Little’ leaves his marriage to Sarah, goes to stay with Max, hooks up with Gabby, the pregnant chick Max picked up in a funeral parlour.  Sarah comes looking for Little, she has a thing with Max, etc.  It’s a tale of regrets, infidelities, risks and losses, with a cynical and bitter flavour.  For me overall, it provokes little more than a sense of ‘so what?’, but in the details and the characters there is some humanity and truth to be seen. 

More importantly, there are some great laughs in the script – audacious gags about pregnant and anal sex, and the memorable definition of FUPA.  It’s gutter humour, but it’s more honest than some of the dramatic dialogue, and without it there really wouldn’t be a lot to recommend the story.  Essentially these are four self-interested people who are out looking for a better deal.

Despite this one-dimensionality the cast are sympathetic and engaging throughout.  Steve Tamapara in the role of Little covers a range of emotional territory, from goofy shyness to brassy assertion, with conviction.  Holly Shanahan gives a very natural, even charming performance as the refreshingly unfettered Gabby, until her final scene where melodrama undermines the credibility of the role.  Phil Vaughan’s Max is reptilian, cartoon, but also delivers some of the show’s best gags with wonderful timing.  Only Tania Nolan’s Sarah rings a little off-key, her mawkish, sappy delivery at odds with the character’s independent spirit and motivation.

The most successful moments of the play are its sudden and dramatic shifts in tone, exemplified by an early scene between Little and Max that drops from laughter to an icy silence with a single line.  Gabby and Sarah’s inevitable encounter, at a bus stop, segues neatly from small-talk to catfight.  At these times, the contrivances of the plot and pettiness of the characters are transcended by the honest emotions on stage.

As a drama this production shows more human vulnerability and depth than Circa’s recent Fat Pig, but it shares a similar weakness – the motivations of the characters are so shallow that there’s very little to be learnt from following them on their journeys.  As a comedy, it’s brisk, rough and keeps the laughs coming.  It’s got balls, and entertains sufficiently, but what it lacks for me is anything to excite or inspire.  


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Keeps ringing true despite credibility gaps

Review by John Smythe 27th Jul 2007

There’s a character – Max – in Kelly Kilgour’s Part of Me who is variously described as “a horrible arsehole that treats people like shit” and “a shallow, soulless, cruel man”. It emerges he has betrayed his best mate, ‘Little’ (real name John) with ‘Little’s wife of four years, Sarah, yet when ‘Little’ leaves Sarah to clear his head, some time after discovering the infidelity but still keeping it to himself, he comes to Max for shelter.

Max is a professional mourner who, in the opening scene, picks up Gabby, a heavily pregnant blues singer, at her grandmother’s funeral. Maybe he knows grief is an aphrodisiac. Maybe she’s at the stage of pregnancy where she’s horny a lot of the time. But such rationales are not offered. Their casual sex just happens (off stage).

Then ‘Little’ turns up at Max’s place and falls for Gabby, knowing she’s just had it off with Max. “Didn’t know you were into sloppy seconds, mate,” is a typical Max line.

When Sarah, who claims to really love ‘Little’, comes looking for him at Max’s place, and is told that ‘Little’s gone off to Gabby, she barely blinks. Next thing we know, she’s shacked up with Max – although it seems she still has her own place because in a later scene she mentions having to sell her car to help pay the mortgage.

At some point Gabby makes the acute observation that the good thing about Max is that he isn’t complicated or devious: “You know what you’re getting with Max.”

The same could be said for the play itself. For the convenience of the playwright – without bothering to rationalise, justify or otherwise render credible the behaviour of the characters – it takes unconscionable liberties with emotional logic. Kilgour shuffles his quartet through a sadly depleted deck – discarding everyone else in their lives so they only have each other to play with – and simply goes, “What if …?”

And because the actors find the truth in each scene, regardless of how they got to it, it works. Apart from acknowledging the timeless truth that otherwise intelligent women are so often attracted to bastards, and good men suffer, Part of Me uses Max as the catalyst for exposing some of the less savoury thoughts, concerns and attitudes that many people have but suppress: an excellent way of shocking us into laughter.

In Dennis Hearfield’s open set (lit by Glen Ashworth), director Danny Mulheron embraces the lack of emotional logic and credibility, the contrived convenience of characters just turning up when the play needs them, and the absence of a wider world from which they may have come, by simply having the actors turn to step into the next scene, the next conversation, and get on with it. The Nike approach: just do it.

So mostly it plays as a series of dialogues punctuated by Max flipping the top off countless bottles of beer and adjourning to the outside door to light up (avoid that corner if you don’t want the blow-back). Oh, and there’s a bit of action involving Max forcing ‘Little’ to demonstrate his sexual technique that lifts the roof on opening night.

The sublime minimalism of all four performances also helps style to distract from the credibility issues, while distilling the essence of character that Kilgour captures neatly in their dialogue.

Phil Vaughan slips into Max’s hairless skin to make the role indelibly his own. Steve Tamapara’s ‘Little’ is quietly bewildered and determined when he needs to be. Holly Shanahan’s amoral in-the-moment Gabby is deliciously uncomplicated. Tania Nolan glides through the traumas Sarah is apparently experiencing with an eerie calm.

In his programme note, Kelly Kilgour says, “Part of Me explores the impact of living with regret and what happens when we try to do something about it.” I can’t say this rationale manifests itself in performance. But in retrospect I can see that it informs the logic of the plot. May we take it, then, as a cautionary tale? If so, the moral is:

If you see your wife in bed with your best mate and don’t confront it there and then but let it build into an existential crisis (who am I, what’s it all about, where am I heading, why …?) and leave her to get your head together, then seek solace with someone who lives so in-the-moment you can finally see no future together, your wife will wait a nanosecond for you before she shacks up with the mate and even though she has warned the mate she’ll be back to you like a shot if you return, she’ll go and get pregnant to the mate (for the second time, by the way) and this time she’ll want to keep it – and then where will you be?

And that’s where it leaves us, to consider what we would do next – or whether we would have done any of the things that lead up to this moment. But first we have to fill in the credibility gaps, which is not really our job. Meanwhile we can enjoy 70 minutes of stylish theatre riddled with moments that keep ringing true, regardless.


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