Poor Boy

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

19/03/2011 - 09/04/2011

Production Details

Star studded line up for New Zealand Premiere of POOR BOY

Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Rima Te Wiata, Sophia Hawthorne, Andrew Grainger and Roy Snow headline POOR BOY, a show inspired by the songs of the legendary Tim Finn and playing at Maidment Theatre from March 17.

Tim Finn needs little introduction. A prolific solo career, Split Enz, a brief stint in brother Neil’s band Crowded House and the Finn Brothers – he is, without doubt, one of New Zealand’s most highly acclaimed musicians. 

POOR BOY features some of Finn’s most popular songs including the titular ‘Poor Boy’, ‘I Hope I Never’ and ‘Persuasion’ as well as ‘Unsinkable’, ‘Into the Water’, ‘Ghost Girl’, ‘In a Minor Key’, ‘Not Even Close’, ‘Out of This World’ and ‘Astounding Moon’. 

“If you’re a fan of Finn’s songs, it’s a must-see.” The Age

The play focuses on two families – the Glasses and the Priors. It’s Jem Glass’ seventh birthday. The cake is made, the party is about to start and Jem is about to shock the rest of the family with a startling announcement. 

Across town, the Prior family grieves for Danny, their eldest son, killed in a hit and run seven years ago. All they have left are memories and regrets.

When Jem arrives at the Prior family home, the lives of these two fractured families are flung together and the gripping mystery begins to unravel. 

“Seductive… theatrical… breath-taking visual sumptuous-ness” The Australian

Director Raymond Hawthorne describes POOR BOY as a “complex and beautiful piece”, a story “about grief – how we deal with it, how we carry it about with us and how we get over it. Poor Boy is not just a must see for any lover of kiwi music; it’s a beautiful, often haunting, lyrical journey about what it is to be human,” he says.

“A poetic and gently entertaining piece” The Sunday Telegraph

POOR BOY is the product of a collaboration between Australian playwright, Matt Cameron and Finn “When Tim and I meet for the first time, I felt as though we have two story ideas that we simpatico,” says playwright Matt Cameron.

“He had an idea that was based on having read a book about children who claimed to have had past life experiences and I had the idea for a family story that perhaps involved memory because I was interested me in the past and present colliding and constantly informing each other, and impacting upon the character’s futures,”  says Cameron.

“I thought, based on a love of his music we needed a story that was about family because so much of his music and lyrics feed off deep and enduring bonds and which have a great history,” says Cameron. 

POOR BOY debuted at Melbourne Theatre Company in January 2009 directed by MTC’s Artistic Director Simon Phillips (a native New Zealander) and went on to a successful season at Sydney Theatre Company in July 2009. 

Tickets can be purchase at the Maidment Theatre on 308 2383 or at www.atc.co.nz 

Maidment Theatre, 8 Alfred St
Book: 308 2383 or www.atc.co.nz 

Previews: Thu 17 – Fri 18, 8pm
Opening Night: Sat 19, 8pm
Early Evening: Mon 21 – Wed 23, 6.30pm
Sun 27, 4pm
Tue 29 – Wed 30, 6.30pm
Sun 3 Apr, 4pm
Tue 5 – Wed 6, 6.30pm

Thu 24 – Sat 26, 8pm
Thu 31 – Sat 2 Apr, 8pm
Thu 7 – Sat 9, 8pm

Matinee: Sat 2 Apr, 2pm 

Prices: $37-$59  

Viv Glass:  Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Sol Glass:  Andrew Grainger
Sadie Glass:  Lauren Porteous
Boy:  Mitchell Hageman
Boy:  Finn McLachlan
Danny Prior:  Roy Snow
Ruth Prior:  Rima Te Wiata
Miles Prior:  Cameron Douglas
Clare Prior:  Sophia Hawthorne

Creative Team
Director:  Raymond Hawthorne
Playwright:  Matt Cameron
Composer:  Tim Finn
Musical Director:  John Gibson
Set Design:  Tracy Grant Lord
Costume Design:  Judith Crozier
Lighting Design:  Phillip Dexter 

Macabre gloom in a minor key

Review by Nik Smythe 22nd Mar 2011

The dark, brooding set by Tracy Grant Lord literally foreshadows the ghostly tale that ensues upon it. The main stage area serves as the set for the two homes in which the narrative takes place, comprising a large centre stairway beset with ornamental doves raised on poles and an astronomical telescope at the top landing; down stage, a dining table, stage right, a piano with an antique wireless radio upon it. 

For a stage musical, the dream sequence opening is remarkably placid and quaintly amusing as a strange, mercurial being wafts thru the scene in a zebra mask. All is to be revealed.

On his seventh birthday, Jeremy ‘Jem’ Glass (Mitchell Hageman*) is found passed out on a zebra crossing. Upon awaking he has a completely new personality, calling himself ‘Danny’ and failing to acknowledge his own family. Throughout the play Jem is accompanied by the ghost of the real Danny (Roy Snow). At different times either Danny or Jem does the talking, and the surrounding players likewise alternate which one they look at when addressing him. 

In the midst of it all, Jem’s slight-to-middlingly neurotic mother Viv Glass (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) is showing clear signs of midlife crisis, obsessed as she is with looks and youth as she watches teenaged daughter burgeon into womanhood. For her part, irascible, cheeky vamp-in-the-making older sister Sadie (Lauren Porteous) is just glad she’s ‘an only child again!’ Meanwhile long-suffering dad Solomon (Andrew Grainger) is concealing a wholly deeper, terrible secret…

Across town Danny’s hypersensitive mother Ruth (Rima Te Wiata) is still grieving after seven years, while his bitterly jealous younger brother Miles (Cameron Douglas) is preparing to be wed to Danny’s reclusive, resigned widow Clare (Sophia Hawthorne). Naturally there are dark, twisted secrets and back-stories here also, which begin to unravel when a seven-year-old boy arrives claiming to be Danny, the returned embodiment of their son, brother and husband. 

The melodramatic delivery from the worthy cast of this clutch of well-written characters is of course underpinned, distinctively, by the musical score.  Musical director and band-leading pianist John Gibson presents ten powerfully arranged pieces, plus refrains and reprises, drawn from the canon of antipodean music legend Tim Finn (with the exception of Danny’s signature song Out Of This World, composed for the play). 

Indeed, in itself the four-piece band’s expertly crafted music is a highlight of the whole work, while the ‘Broadwayfication’ of Finn’s original numbers is made most obvious by the vocal arrangements. 

Some are close to cringe-worthy, not least the title song (a long-time favourite Split-Enz song for me) which, as sung by Danny, comes over pretentiously earnest, failing to elicit sympathy. This trait features to varying degrees throughout, the greater exceptions being Viv’s highly theatrical yet empathetic ‘I Hope I Never’, and Ruth’s hauntingly Piafesque rendition of ‘Astounding Moon’. 

Director Raymond Hawthorne has drawn a solid, if somewhat demonstrative, performance from his skilful cast. Given the inevitably morbid centre of the tale, I get the feeling that a deeper, more naturalistic style of drama could have a more engaging effect, and by extension make it easier to engage with the contrasting abstraction of the musical pieces. As is, though co-playwright Matt Cameron’s narrative has some considerable intrigue in itself, and the cast adequately fulfil their undertaking, there’s an aspect of cohesion inescapably lacking. 

Even though I have heard fewer than half the songs’ original recordings before, it’s hard to know, from my point of view, how this work might fly without the familiarity with Tim Finn’s music and lyrics. Do the story and the songs really stack up together? Perhaps they do, but there’s precious little humour to counterbalance the dampening maudlin energy, giving Poor Boy the typically Kiwi air of macabre gloom that we seem to enjoy in our modern folk tales. The play exists, as Solomon claims to in his personal lament, ‘In A Minor Key’.
– – – – – – – –
* Alternately played by Finn McLachlan.
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Great, but the fun’s missing

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 22nd Mar 2011

This sumptuously visual, boldly experiment production draws inspiration from the music of Tim Finn and features hauntingly beautiful arrangements of classic Split Enz hits as well as lesser-known songs from Finn’s solo albums.

The play is centred on a convoluted saga about a 7-year-old boy who faints on a zebra crossing and wakes to find his body has been taken over by the spirit of a young man who died seven years earlier. The possessed boy is subject to the kind of testing used to authenticate the reincarnation of lamas in Tibetan Buddhism and his two families become deeply entangled as they realise a transmigration of souls has taken place.

If you are wondering how this kind of intricately structured ghost story relates to Tim Finn’s breezy pop songs you would have to say the connection is fairly tenuous. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.   


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