Standard Insurance Building, 201 Princes Street, Dunedin

09/10/2012 - 13/10/2012

Otago Festival of the Arts

Production Details

In purgatory. Three Urns. From each, a head protrudes – a man, his wife and his mistress. 

A bitter love triangle. Each character embroiled. Each head provoked into speech by spotlight. 

“Adulterers, take warning, never admit.”

Fortune Theatre in collaboration with South Island designers – sculptor Hannah Kidd and sound engineer Stephen Kilroy – present PLAY by Samuel Beckett.

Directed by Lara Macgregor, this fusion of visual art, soundscapes and rapidly delivered dialogue creates a truly genre-defying live art installation not to be missed.

PLAY is 20 minutes in duration and will be performed in repetition during the view hours. Stay for 5 minutes or watch the whole thing over and over again.

Standard Insurance Building, 201 Princes Street
Tues 9 Oct – Sat 13 Oct
Viewing Hours:  5:30pm – 7pm
Duration 20 Minutes, In Repetition
Free Admission

CAST: Hilary Halba, Simon O’Connor and Barbara Power

Artistic Director Lara Macgregor
Sculptor Hannah Kidd
Lighting & Sound Stephen Kilroy
Stage Manager Jennifer Aiken
Construction Matt Best, Peter King
Technical Coordinator Lindsay Gordon 

Trapped, obsessive, perpetual torment

Review by Barbara Frame 10th Oct 2012

At 5.30 the door opens and the 20-odd people who’ve been shivering on Princes Street find their way into the Standard Insurance Building’s dim interior. It’s not until the lighting changes that we see the three urns: large, weathered and ancient, surrounded by rocks.  In accordance with playwright Samuel Beckett’s instructions a head protrudes from each of them – also weathered and ancient-looking, almost petrified.

A spotlight shines on each head in turn, and the heads, when lit, speak in rapid, unexpressive staccato. They do not acknowledge or speak to each other, or the audience, and respond only to the inquisitorial light. It becomes clear that a story is being told – a conventional love triangle with the common elements of deception, reconciliation, failure and regret. Perhaps all of this is taking place in an afterlife, and perhaps not, but the lasting impression is of trapped, obsessive, perpetual torment. 

Play, directed by Lara Macgregor, is the Fortune Theatre’s contribution to the Festival of the Arts. Its unusual, building-site setting is a little cramped and chilly, but works well. Entry is free. Each performance lasts for about 20 minutes and is repeated for almost an hour and a half, allowing audience members to come and go. As the title insists, this is indeed a play, but it has something in common with an art installation. 

The heads are those of Simon O’Connor, Hilary Halba and Barbara Power, and the lighting, of such importance that it almost qualifies as a character in its own right, has been designed by Stephen Kilroy. The pots, appearing heavy and ceramic, are in fact made of recycled corrugated iron and are the work of sculptor Hannah Kidd.

This memorable production of a Beckett classic should not be missed. 


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Starkly memorable

Review by Kimberley Buchan 09th Oct 2012

The oppressively grey drizzly day is the perfect weather for this play so the atmosphere mounts before you have even entered the building. The location of this performance is simply superb. Scaffolding holds up stone walls and missing staircases. The ornate ceiling decays above the piles of quarried rocks on which the three metal urns sit.

Simon O’Connor, Hilary Halba and Barbara Power play a man, his wife and his mistress trapped in their burial urns in purgatory. They tell the story of the bitterness, jealousy, revulsion and rage in their infidelity. They are forced to relive this over and over stuck in the bitterness of not being able to let go and not being able to move on. Any benefit from the reflection that reliving should allow is not permitted as they are mentally and physically held captive. Only their heads are visible, their bodies are confined. These human headed Canopic jars are grim faced with unflinching gaze. All they have are words.

The spotlight incites speech. It holds total control over the story and the pace. All the characters have are words and the light brutally slices them off mid word, mid breath. Purgatory is a powerless state. The rapid fire delivery of the script is hard to keep up with at first but clarity dawns with repetition. The pace is startling and builds tension. It is impressive that it is sustained for such an extended period of time. The stamina and discipline of all three actors is extraordinary.

This live installation is a collaborative piece. Hannah Kidd’s sculptures rise out of the amassed rubble and form the imposing visual art element of this fusion performance. Stephen Kilroy provides the industrial soundtrack that melds seamlessly with the setting that is as barren and crumbling with despair as Beckett’s script. Director Lara McGregor has created one of the more starkly memorable performances of this year’s Otago Festival of the Arts.

Samuel Beckett is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is well worth putting your coat on to experience the recycled play on the recycled set in the recycled building. 


Terry MacTavish October 10th, 2012

Thanks, Kimberley, great to have a vivid reminder of a quite extraordinary experience.  What a thrill to witness Beckett’s mind-blowing theatre in such an eerily atmospheric site, and how generous of the Fortune to make a gift of it to the Festival.  A enthralling collaboration by Dunedin’s finest artists, free, absolutely free! I plan to keep wandering in to see how the audiences react – and pray that spotlight won’t spin round to me...

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