Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

22/10/2020 - 24/10/2020

Production Details

Billy, 20, is enamoured by reluctant Otago Uni Student and closet artist, Aaron, 20. Billy’s romantic endeavours are hindered by ‘Scarfie Lad’ Grayson, boyfriend of Sophie, who is Billy’s close friend from High School. 

Aaron also struggles to understand his feelings for Billy, and as weighty assumptions are made, all of the students pay the consequences in the tempest of emotions that follow.

Developed by emerging playwright Isaac Martyn as part of the 2019 Ōtepoti Theatre Lab Playwright programme, with mentorship from Dunedin-raised director, author and playwright Duncan Sarkies, Partially Furnished features as A.I. Productions debut production.”

Allen Hall Theatre
Thursday 22nd – Saturday the 24th October 2020
at 7pm 

Theatre ,

We’ve all been there

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 29th Oct 2020

It’s a while since I was a student but walking into Allen Hall Theatre tonight feels like popping round to Aunty’s for a cuppa. The red door, the polished wood of the stairs, the black curtains – there is a lot of nostalgia for me in this space. Old and new are overlaid, memories and the now jostling for position in my mind. 

The stage is bare. There is no whisper of what is to come. I read the programme; I browse the cancelled Fringe Week blurb online – from 2020, the year of cancellations and deferments, it’s not surprising that this play has been a long time coming. And I am heartened by the solid attendance; only a few seats are empty. It’s good to see that Covid hasn’t killed Dunedin’s theatre vibe.

Hush descends, the lights go down to black – and so we begin.

Grown from the seed of the Ōtepoti Theatre Lab, writer Isaac Martyn is ambitious in his rendering of a complex story addressing multiple themes and perspectives in a short theatre piece. Acting, staging, lighting and direction all come together to create a story in chiaroscuro: from within the darkness, slivers of light and life are spread across the stage.  

At the surface, Billy is the subject, circumnavigating his experience as a young gay man coming of age in modern-day Dunedin. But slowly, slowly, all four stories are revealed. Like single sheets of paper, small dabs of paint, the picture grows and grows. We see it all, the four corners slowly getting painted in until we see the whole: the four lives, the four characters.

Billy (Ben McCook-Weir) and Aaron (Alfie Richardson) are second-year students meeting for the first time. Their mutual friend Sophie (Ginny Sanders) is on the phone arguing with her boyfriend Grayson (Quinn McHardy). They’re hanging at their flat eating fish and chips from Willowbank.

I can feel the recognition in the audience – we’ve all been there.

Old friends and old lovers are like a comfortable coat; we slide in and out of it without thinking. But over time, we outgrow that old comfort; we notice the threadbare cuffs and the scruffy collar, and we forget the security of the familiar. A new relationship feels like slipping into a changing room to try something new on for size – the anticipation, the possibilities are intoxicating.

All four of these young people are struggling to answer the question: who am I and who will I be? Do I really want to keep wearing this old coat? Looking at this now, down the telescope of time, I see this as a luxury, a hard but happy happenstance to make that choice, to look inside and decide. But when I was them? No. It was hard but inevitable, like giving birth.

Just like their flat, the lives of Billy, Aaron, Sophie and Grayson are partially furnished. And that old coat? Well, it can be patched, cleaned and refreshed. Old and new doesn’t need to be a dichotomy.

It is a long time since I was a second-year student in the early 1990s, sitting in a flat eating fish and chips from Willowbank, and as I walk away, I realise I feel very lucky. To have studied at a time when the little money I had was my own and my parents’ choices had no clout was a luxury I didn’t know I had. I was able to experiment, to find myself, and to grow in my own space and time, and I was able to do that through the avenue of learning. That was a great luxury that I wish I could share with my children.


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