Downstage Theatre, Wellington

01/02/2013 - 16/02/2013

Production Details

1 – 16 Feb at Downstage

The stories of real people come alive on stage when Long Cloud Youth Theatre create a unique theatre experience full of sweet, surreal, profound and profane moments.

A night on the town…

Nights out become the stuff of legend, our own personal myths; where we risk touching heaven, or even (if we’re lucky) each other.

Perfectly Wasted aims to capture all the beautiful energy of youth, as well as the painful, ugly situations on a quest for the perfect night out in Wellington. It is a party, a celebration, a search for connection, tequila and Lynx body spray.

Changing the shape of Downstage…

This show also marks the first creative reconfiguration of the Downstage auditorium space since 2010’s Apollo 13: Mission Control.  The major performance will take place ‘in the round’, while the production will also utilise other spaces within the Hannah Playhouse to create a distinctly new experience for Downstage visitors.

The return of Long Cloud…

This show marks the third partnership between Downstage and the Long Cloud Youth TheatreSummer School programme. Where previously the students presented established plays such as Daughters of Heaven, The Portrait of Dorian Gray and Vernon God Little, Company Director Aaron Cortesi (previously seen at Downstage in Mark Twain and Me in Maoriland and Goodnight The End) has since guided the participants to use their own experiences as young people living here and now.

Long Cloud Youth Theatre is a hothouse for New Zealand’s most exciting young acting talent. Run by Whitireia Performance Centre and based in Wellington, Long Cloud is training and production company for people aged 16-21.

Innovative leadership…

This year’s Summer School project is created under the leadership of director Leo Gene Peters, whose previous award-winning work includes Awhi Tapu and Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants at Downstage in 2011.

Elephants was created by Leo Gene Peters’ company A Slightly Isolated Dog Ltd,  Wellington-based performance company that has been creating new devised theatre since 2005. They aim to build performance through dialogue with the public. 

A space to experiment…

Downstage is once again providing the opportunity for Long Cloud to present its students’ work in a professional environment as part of its commitment to developing the future of New Zealand performing arts. Downstage Director/CEO Hilary Beaton says:

“Downstage has always been a dynamic space for experimentation, not just a venue.  It’s very exciting to be showcasing the versatility of this building – a work of art in its own right – and to be placing that opportunity in the hands of such talented and committed young artists.” 

Tickets:  $25/20 

All shows 7.30pm 

Performance Dates: 

Wed 30 Jan – Public Preview 
Fri 1 Feb – Opening Night 
Sat 2 Feb | Thu 7 Feb | Fri 8 Feb | Sat 9 Feb | Tue 12 Feb | Wed 13 Feb | Thu 14 Feb | Fri 15 Feb | Sat 16 Feb – Closing Night 

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at (04) 801 6946 or in person at Downstage’s box office. 


Frankie Berge

Mitchell Bernard

Paddy Carroll

Kieran Charnock

Brie Cox

Lily della Porta

Rori Evans

George Fenn

Angela Fouhy

Ella Gilbert

Bella Guarrera

Patrick Hunn

Amanda Hutchinson

Brianna Jamieson

Ryan Knighton

Olivia Mahood

Irene McGlone

Lewis McLeod

Calvin Petersen

Hen Priestly

Nino Raphael

Freya Sadgrove


Director: Leo Gene Peters

Artistic Director LCYT: Aaron Cortesi

Production & Stage Manager: Paul Tozer

Sound + AV Designer/Operator: Matt Eller

Set and Publicity Designer: Oliver Morse

Lighting and Production Assistant: Jason Longstaff

Downstage Liason: Alana Kelly

1hr 50 mins, incl. interval

Perfect Energy

Review by Lynn Freeman 08th Feb 2013

Straight after seeing Perfectly Wasted, two young women scantily dressed as cops (Sevens) talked incessantly on the bus home about how wasted they were. Having seen the devised work by young actors reflecting on the rite of passage to adulthood these days, I was more sympathetic to my fellow commuters than I would have been ordinarily. 

Decades on from my own rite of passage, I can’t help wondering if it’s much tougher for the current generation. Clubbing, texting and social media add degrees of difficulty that, seeing them portrayed this honestly and rawly on stage, force you to feel for them. Not that this is their intention.

Long Cloud Youth Theatre gives young actors an outlet for their imaginations and energy. The energy alone is astonishing, as they hurl themselves around the stage. The 20 or so strong cast have devised the work around nightlife, so we join them as they lie to parents, lie to partners and lie with partners, as they lose themselves in the music and find things out about themselves and each other. It’s a heady mix and it’s done wonderfully well. Their commitment to the work is absolute and their honestly is impressive.

Helping them turn their thoughts and experiences into an engrossing if disturbing theatre piece is the inventive director Leo Gene Peters.

The set design by designer Oliver Morse not only uses the Downstage space in a whole new inclusive way, but when the stage lights go down, the innocuous looking cardboard boxes and black plastic turn into something absolutely magical. 


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Opportunity wasted as audience left in the dark

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 04th Feb 2013

Watching Perfectly Wasted is like being asked to a party and then finding yourself barred from entering. You can see and hear most of what’s going on but not all and you are no more involved than you are when walking hurriedly through Courtenay Place on a rowdy Saturday night.

A mass of young people dancing, singing, fighting, binge drinking, playing spin the bottle, vomiting in a toilet, cautiously or nervously experimenting with drugs, sex, and alcohol may reflect what is actually going on just outside the theatre but it doesn’t tell us anything more.

Perfectly Wasted is a pale, sanitised kaleidoscopic reflection of the party that is Courtenay Place, not art. Surely we need some sort of view or attitude expressed about all this hedonistic activity. Apart from the punning title of the show there is none. And at almost two hours, including an interval, that’s a long time to be without either a plot or some sympathetic characters or some sort of structure to hold it all together.

Who are all these people? As at many a party, we never get to know any of them because the focus keeps constantly shifting from a crowd to a group to an occasional individual – a young man serenading at 4 a.m. his girlfriend who has dumped him – and then back to the crowd yet again.

At one point I counted six small groups dotted about the levels of the set, and even though a roving microphone eavesdropped on them it was impossible to hear or even see two or three of them from where I was seated, which is one of the drawbacks of theatre-in-the-round.

However, there was one bright moment when an actor read a brief but illuminating speech which was presumably from a transcript of an interview held by a cast member in his or her research. The interviewee should be quickly found and asked for more of his acute observations on the social activities of young Kiwis. For a couple of minutes Perfectly Wasted connected with its audience. 


Downstage Theatre February 4th, 2013

Laurie Atkinson’s Dominion Post  review (Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s Perfectly Wasted 04/02/2013) prompted me to respond.

This work was developed as part of a Summer School programme over four weeks by students between the ages of 15-25. They are sometimes called the “screen generation” or “internet native”- the children of successive parents who put them in front of a television and to whom the world marketed the new technologies. They are makers and consumers of the online, networking open world where conversation and storytelling is fleeting and endlessly interconnected.

They are not automatically looking for a clear cut narrative that ties up the ends neatly. They seek out a moment, an insight, a connection to an idea that then clicks (or shifts focus) to another moment or insight or idea. The narrative then becomes one of their making not necessarily “the playwright’s”. It’s not linear but experiential – an accumulative progression of encounters from which the individual decides what’s relevant. Think of the rise and influence of “open world” computer games, where the environment is shared, but the narrative is individualised. You definitely do not need to hear everything, and the more dimensions occurring at the same time, the deeper the experience.

We are going to see a lot more of this kind of work and we need reviewers with a fresh perspective who can embrace the future.

Consider this review of Perfectly Wasted from, a site which exists primarily to balance the disproportionate prevalence of critics in traditional media who are at least a generation older than the artists making new theatre.

No matter your age, we'd like you to make up your own mind, and tell us what you think

Hilary Beaton

Director/CEO Downstage

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22 actors in search of an author

Review by John Smythe 02nd Feb 2013

Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s Perfectly Wasted leaves us in no doubt formidable performing arts talent is continuing to emerge in Wellington. It is based on the group’s extensive research, with director Leo Gene Peters, into the experiences of young people on weekend nights in Courtenay Place where they routinely get wasted, ritualistically wasting ‘the best years of their lives’. 

The quality, commitment and discipline of their ensemble work offers a splendid contrast to the aimless, self-absorbed, somewhat desolate lives they depict in their desperate longing to belong; to not be left out or behind.

But how interesting is it for an audience to watch 90 minutes of this (intersected by an interval)? Watching a good ensemble work well as a team can be its own reward, to a point, but it should be the means to a greater end.

Oliver Morse’s set design, surrounded by and surrounding the audience, is brilliant. Made largely of booze boxes that seem to litter the central black pit of despair, it lights up to become a wondrous facsimile of the city at night surrounded by hillside suburbs etched out with street lights. And bed lamps – intimating a place of intimacy, aloneness or both – light most of the action, often hand-held.

Matt Eller’s sound design of karaoke tracks and other pop music, his video screen titles of themed sequences (e.g. Morgan & Will) and gossip and txt exchanges about what’s just happened, and his operation of it all, make a strong contribution to the rhythm and flow of the action. And hand-held mic stands give us access to particular conversations amid the maelstrom – or is it more of a miasma? The live music sequences are well done too and the singing is strong.

But is it enough for the medium to be the message? When everyone in the cast is clearly having more fun and more profound experiences (as actors if not as characters) than the audience – with the odd exception in a loyal first night crowd – we have to ask what’s missing.

In short, it’s a spine: a central narrative structure and/or unifying theme that makes the component parts stand up, engage with each other and us, and thereby connect – contribute, even – to the world around it. That’s the deal in theatre. Watching creative people at work for its own sake is a relatively limited experience.

The components could well contribute to a whole that adds up to more than their sum if a playwrights’ sensibility had been brought to the project – witness LCYT’s productions of Wheeler’s Luck, by Nigel Collins, Toby Leach & Damon Andrews (also originating actors and director); Assisted Living, devised with playwright Jo Randerson; Tom Keeper Passes, devised with playwright Eli Kent.

If you catch the title prompts on a TV screen within your sightline you will learn what to look for amid the melee of fun-seekers who compulsively break into snatches of song for fear, it seems, that  a potential storyline, character or relationship might take hold and demand greater scrutiny or development.

What we get, then, are glimpses of moments that come and go, or thin storylines that thread through the evening. The most sustained sees a couple – Morgan & Wills – hook up, make out, break up and only meet up again when she is booked to go overseas (imminent departure is a great aphrodisiac): a pretty standard scenario simply sketched in with no depth or difference to lift it out of cliché.

There’s an intense scene where band members fight because the lead singer and lead guitarist are at odds and someone has invited a girlfriend to band practice without the others’ permission. Because the configuration means we don’t all always see the faces of those talking, I can only say I think this is connected to the relationship that seems to break up remarkably amicably, only to see the boy serenading the girl at 4am to the displeasure of her neighbours. This is the best scene in the show because it allows us to engage and empathise with both sides of the ‘argument’.

There’s a dramatic scenario where a girl gets separated from her group and was seen to get into a car with a group of guys, creating the dilemma of whether her friends should alert her parents. And there’s a funny regionalist joke about where she finds herself in the morning. But if we’d got to know all the people involved, even a bit, this could have compelled much more than the passing glance from the distance to which we find ourselves confined as outsiders looking on.

A young man reads from an essay written as a contribution to the research; well written and read to be sure but it’s source material for dramatisation and squandered when delivered this way.

Nevertheless by interval, even though there are no questions I want answered or people whose fates compel my return, I fondly believe the multiple set ups, or some of them at least, will be developed and pay off in some way, to reward the time and attention we are investing. “The second act, however, fails to fulfil the promise …” (to quote Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound).

Sure ‘essay boy’ surprises us with his response to a girl he met at an 18th birthday party. This may also be the party where a boy collapses and things are done which elicit laughs from those who can see it. A sequence entitled ‘The most miserable night in Finn’s life (with dignity)’ – involving a ‘bender’ apparently – leads to a drinking game called “If the awful thing that’s happened to me has also happened to you [insert details here], drink!” Someone gets their head dunked in a bucket in another ‘game’ …

A shirtless and drunk guy tries to get past a bouncer. A group of girls try to score some “stuff” which leads to a stoned / trippy sequence that only makes me think how much better they did it in Hair (done very simply last year by another youth company in Wellington). Finn’s ex, Sophie, gets off with his mate Phil, which is about as close as we get to a moral dilemma all night. Someone gets arrested for abusing a police officer …

In short we are getting everything in a way that amounts to nothing more than once-over-lightly flip through their undoubtedly authentic research material. It depicts one stratum of lives that are surely lived at more levels than this but given no counterpoint they seem two-dimensional. We get ‘22 actors in search of an author’.

In the end it just peters out. And again we have to ask what’s missing when someone ‘in the know’ has to lead the applause to tell the rest of us it is over.

Given the narrative and thematic coherence of a slightly isolated dog’s masterful Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants, also helmed by Leo Gene Peters, it’s surprising such fundamentals have been ignored in Perfectly Wasted.

In her brief after-function speech in the bar, Downstage CEO Hilary Beaton noted that Sir Paul Holmes (whose death was the news of the day) had got his start at Downstage at 18 with John Clarke (21) and Ginette McDonald (15) in a late night review called Knickers (1968), followed two years later by Knackers. It should also be noted that in 1966 an even younger group put on their own late night review at Downstage, directed by Dick Johnstone: My Vote Belongs To Daddy by Jane Hewland with Ginette McDonald, Sarah Delahunty, Cathy O’Shea, Stephen McKenzie and Helen Hewland – all teenagers and still at school. Dare I say that show offered ten times more insight into being young and feeling disenfranchised, in half the time.

Whilst applauding Downstage for partnering up with Long Cloud Youth Theatre and acknowledging the immense commitment involved in everyone’s researching, developing, producing and performing of this show, I can only conclude it amounts to a perfectly wasted opportunity. 


John Smythe February 4th, 2013

Emma, my review acknowledges most of the values you refer to. I appreciate that is enough for you but it would have been dishonest for me to say it was for me. 

As for 'listening to an audience' Gene, I most certainly did, and I observed them too. Everyone I've spoken to since, who was there, liked the energy, commitment and ensemble work they observed but felt the second half fell way short of its potential. I was fascinated, inquisitive, positive and optimistic throughout the first half but after interval I became bored. So I asked myself why.  

It is patently obvious that these creators have a great deal more going on in their lives than those they depict in this work. I’m sure that’s also so for most of those they interviewed in their research. So one thought is that if we got a glimpse of the other dimensions of their being and got some insight into why they revert to the tribal behaviours depicted time after time, something of greater value might have arisen from the project. 

I’ve been careful to acknowledge the many positives about this production but I would be negligent if I simply patronised young people, as one might at a high school show, when they are clearly dedicated to theatre and can get much more from challenge and provocation – even if all they do is consolidate a view that is different from mine.  

Of course I could make like the troll King in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, say “to thyself be enough!” and just keep dancing … 

Leo Gene Peters February 4th, 2013

John, i really wish you would learn how to listen to an audience.

Emma White February 4th, 2013

Wow, I have to respectfully disagree. The show is flawed in moments, definitely, but overall I found it an excellent musing on what it means to be young and I thought the way it played with form (both in terms of its beautiful staging, and its scrambled narrative) were thoughtful and rewarding.

The premise of Perfectly Wasted is a clear indicator that exploring tone and experience are going to be much more important to this show than presenting any easy-to-digest ‘message’ or linear narrative. I think its normal for some of the audience to reach for something more comment-y when a show explores young people, partying, drugs, drink, sex etc. But in terms of representing and exploring young people’s real experiences, the show nailed it - how ‘open to interpretation’ many of these sequences were was a real strength, not a weakness at all. In that way, the show was more of an insight and an invitation than a play, and that’s what I thought made it really strong.

For instance, (semi-spoiler ahead) consider the sequence where the young woman was swept away by a predatory hooded crowd and has to talk herself into fleeing an unsafe situation out a window – I thought this was hugely powerful. The way it was staged didn’t make any statements about her behaviour or choices, nor did it show us everything that happened in between those two scenes or afterwards. That would’ve been too easy. It simply showed us one small slice of a young person’s reality and let it hang in there in the air – no message, no fall-out, just honest and real representation.

I was thrilled by this show. The talent and passion of the performers/devisors was palpable, and the work they had crafted showed this off and let it run wild in an awesome way, rather than strapping it into a play-like structure. Lastly, as an audience member I thought Perfectly Wasted sat quite neatly alongside Tom Keeper Passes – I can see what Long Cloud is trying to do and encourage them to stick at it. Its not 'perfect', but its not perfectly wasted at all.

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