Truby King House, 21 Manchester Tce, Melrose, Wellington

26/02/2015 - 03/03/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Who gets what and who gives a shit? Maybe we all do.

Postmortem is an hour long one woman site-specific, multi-media show. Weaving interviews with live performance and incorporating pre recorded and live music. Set at the historic Truby King House this will be an intimate performance blurring the lines between past and present.

Postmortem is a black comedy exploring the questions about what is left after someone dies. In this case we are taking it from the perspective of three generations of women following the death of the matriarch. Through the actual packing up of the ‘stuff’ we unravel the humorous stories, traits, regrets and revelations that are passed on to those who are left behind.

Acted by Vanessa Stacey and Directed by Anna Shaw.

Venue:  Truby King House, 21 Manchester Tce, Melrose, Wellington 
26-28 Feb, 1-3 Mar 2015
at 7.30pm
A$22.50 | C/Stu$15.00 | FA$10.00

Theatre , Solo , Site-specific/site-sympathetic ,

Simple, affecting story with great songs

Review by Patrick Davies 27th Feb 2015

Truby King House is an ideal setting for this intimate journey into death. While more site-sympathetic than site-specific[1] (as stated in the programme), the austere yet comfortable room feels halfway between your grandmother’s best room and a funeral chapel. We are post-funeral as Vanessa Stacey plays daughters of the late Patricia – the matriarch of the family.

Patricia is a fearsome mother who brooks no foolery, having returned from touring as a singer to bring up the family on the death of her husband. Stacey brings a cool iron to Patricia and, as information seeps out, allows us to feel her choices made in a different NZ to now.

Stacey also brings to life two of the three daughters: Patsy, the late (in a different sense) on-the-road singer, a bumptiously raucous good-time girl who has inherited her mother’s pragmatism and voice; and Loretta, a marvelous study in nerves.

As the story of hidden family secrets unfolds the story is punctuated by Patsy Cline songs, wonderfully rendered by Stacey. She has an amazing voice, full of emotion but never over-bearing; in an intimate space she plays her space and audience well. She is also supported by Hannah Fraser on violin and a Roland electronic keyboard – portable for the show and so indicative of burial chapel organs. The arrangements are cleverly simple and effecting. 

Opening night does feel a little rushed at times but the very appreciative audience has a blast laughing at the quibbles and idiosyncrasies we know in all families. As we enter there’s the sight of edge-curled dry sandwiches that tell us this isn’t all gloom – for a postmortem.

The story is very NZild, so the revelation is not that earth shattering and I leave wanting some more closure or investigation of the repercussions. The director’s note refers to “the things left unsaid” and I feel there is quite a lot still under the still waters that could be brought to the surface.

Director Anna Shaw and Stacey use the space extremely well to support the narrative and though it takes a moment to catch up we flow along easily with the changes in location and time.  A stronger difference in the physical transitions (sometimes it feels like bleeding from one to the other; a little bit rushed) would help in recognising the differing sisters each time they appear. 

A simple, affecting story and an enjoyable night out, it’s the songs that really sell it for me.

[1] Site specific work can only be performed in that particular location and deals directly with it’s particular history and architecture whereas site sympathetic takes on the vibes of the location but the work could be sited in another location with similar vibes.


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