Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

08/09/2016 - 09/09/2016

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

15/03/2017 - 18/03/2017

Dunedin Fringe 2017

Production Details

homosexual, adjective, (of a person) sexually attracted to people of one’s own sex. Involving or characterized by sexual attraction between people of the same sex: homosexual desire. noun, a person who is sexually attracted to people of their own sex.  That’s all being gay is. According to the dictionary.”

The opening lines of Auckland-based playwright Sam Brooks’ award-winning play seem to sum up the gay experience so neatly, but the remaining 40 pages seek to challenge what it is to be gay in 2016. Consisting of 13 monologues, performed by 6 of Dunedin’s most talented young male actors, QUEEN presents 13 different perspectives on the ‘gay experience’.

Director Jordan Dickson is proud to be presenting a “theatrical feast, that challenges all of us to rethink the connotations that come along with the word ‘gay’. As one of the characters says, it’s a ‘definition that seems so… inadequate to describe a life’. QUEEN is cry into the void that says we are here, we are unique and we will not be ignored or marginalised or silenced”.

QUEEN will be performed with the generous support of the University of Otago Theatre Studies Programme, as part of the Allen Hall Lunchtime Theatre Programme. “Allen Hall has a long history of producing radical, exciting work and I am thrilled that QUEEN will become a part of that legacy” Dickson said. 

Playwright Sam Brooks is a hot commodity on the New Zealand theatre scene, receiving a highly commended in the Adam NZ Playwriting Award 2014, as well as winning Playmarket’s Playwrights b4 25 competition two years running, with QUEEN earning him the top spot in 2013. Brooks also writes for a number of publications including The Wireless and The Pantograph Punch, and was named Auckland’s Most Exciting Playwright by Metro Magazine. 

“Really, it is whatever you want to make of it. Queen asks the questions, and relates some of the experiences, which are important in the brave new world that New Zealand has woken up to find today.” – James Wenley, Theatre Scenes

Allen Hall Theatre
September 8th and 9th September 2016 at 1pm
8th September 2017 at 7:30pm.

Supported by the University of Otago Theatre Studies Department.  

Dunedin Fringe 2017

FORTUNE THEATRE, 231 Stuart St, Dunedin
WED 15 MAR – SAT 18 MAR 2017
$13.00 – $16.00
Get tickets »


Luke Major
Mac Veitch
Nick Tipa
Orion Carey-Clark
Shaun Swain
Zac Nicholls

Designed by George Wallace
Sound and A/V Operation: Sarah Latta 
Lighting Operation: Ben Duff

Theatre ,

1 hr

A triumph

Review by Alison Embleton 17th Mar 2017

Queen is a show that aims to unpack the complexity of the homosexual experience, and it masters so much more than that. The structure is a series of monologues. We meet the neophyte gay, the reluctantly closeted gay, the “boring coming out experience” gay, the old gay, the baby gay, the femme “but not a girl” gay… just to name a few.

So many different flavours of homosexual experience are represented and unpacked that there is a risk of overwhelming the audience. However the additional scenes of dance numbers (fun, salacious choreography from Katherine Kennedy), some almost fourth-wall breaking moments and the generally well plotted emotional progression and development throughout mean that Queen never suffers this fate.

Reprising last year’s Allen Hall Theatre season, now at Fortune Theatre, the cast is six young actors all expertly flex their theatrical muscles. Each has embraced his monologues and while it is evident that they have been well cast, they have all clearly worked hard under director Jordan Dickson’s guidance to tap into the nuances of their characters.

Luke Major has a soft, agile quality that makes his pieces very endearing. Zac Nicholls’ comedic delivery is deftly structured and balanced with brilliantly apathetic honesty. Shaun Swain is so heart-breakingly compelling in one monologue that you could have heard a pin drop in the audience.

Orion Carey-Clark’s character dexterity is exceptional, distracting the audience with laughter before delivering sucker punch of cruelty that we somehow still sympathise with. Mac Veitch’s affable demeanour and deep understanding of his character pulls in the audience and winds them into a complex breakdown of wanting to be recognised in a genuine way. And lastly, Nick Tipa, whose technical skill level is quite remarkable.

One of the strongest moments of the show is centred around him: a monologue delivered by Major about the impact homophobic comments have is chillingly partnered with laughter from the other actors on stage. Through this we watch Tipa’s silent build-up of frustration and then see it crack, unleashing an articulate but bile-ridden retaliation delivered to the unhearing (but no longer laughing) actors on stage. Tipa hits every beat with knife like precision and delivers a brilliant monologue that could so easily be overwrought and the undoing of the whole casts’ collectively skilled build up to that moment. 

The fact that none of their characters have names that are presented to the audience reinforces the label of “queen” that they have been burdened with, and makes the culmination of events in the final scene that much more rewarding and poignant.

When the whole cast is on stage the entire run of the performance, they need to be doing something. Or they need to be invisible. Dickson’s directorial choice to embrace both of these rules is actually one of my favourite things about this production. The actors fill the background of scenes where a little ambiance is needed, often facing away from the audience, or interacting with each other to reinforce context. They are placed as silent, but physically interactive characters who are the subject of various monologues and occasionally throw a comment or movement into the mix in a seemingly casual, but evidentially perfectly structured way.

The physical beat that accompanies a comment about “straight guys” is comedy gold. On occasion the actors do pull focus a little during the more physical moments, and in some of the longer scenes the background action could benefit from being reworked, but overall the choice works well with the cast sometimes managing to appear to melt away from view even though they’re still very much present on stage.

The all white set is empty of props or set in order to enhance the projections that feature throughout the show, with the drop sheet at the back of the stage occasionally back-lit to highlight a silhouette: the most memorable of which is Beyoncé (kudos to Rhiannon Cooper for her ability to embody Queen Bey so deliciously). The sound and video recordings of the cast that are integrated into the performance are also a highlight.

Overall, most of the technical aspects work flawlessly (lighting and AV design by George Wallace). Sound cues, projected visual effects and lighting merge with the actors’ performances in complementary but not distracting ways. Occasionally, however, they fall a little flat. From the opening dance number onwards the tight precision of the interaction between actors and tech sets a formidable standard to adhere to.  A sound cue of The Spice Girls ‘Stop Right Now’ falls a little flat, and for a moment the actors all seem out of step with each other. It’s a rare moment of fumbling from all sides amid what is definitely one of the tightest-structured performances I’ve seen in quite some time. 

The script writing seems young, possibly a touch underdeveloped at times which, when you know it was Sam Brooks’ first full length script, makes a lot of sense. The ‘letter’ monologue in particular feels a little clumsy and not just because it’s representing an awkward experience for the character. However, for the most part the writing comes across as very considered, articulate, and most importantly it consistently feels fresh.

The range/limit of experience is definitely evident across the cast; there are some very green performances as well as a peek inside the workings of on-stage recovery when a line or two is fumbled. But there is no weak link. The way these actors move together with such fluidity, and on occasion reach into each other’s solo performances to provide another level of complexity and collaboration, is masterful. This type of fluidity and support doesn’t just happen: the technical skill required from the director and cast is extraordinary.

There really is no other way to say it: Queen is a triumph. The standing ovation from the audience is not just because of the strong messages of diversity and acceptance that the script is promoting. The visionary, thoughtful direction from Dickson in combination with the extremely slick design, and a cast of actors who share an almost unreasonable amount of talent and skill between them, has resulted in a piece of theatre that is not to be missed. And I predict it will hold quite a legacy in the Dunedin, and possibly New Zealand, theatre scene.


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Relatable, funny, heart-breaking, hopeful

Review by Tayla Curline 09th Sep 2016

As a young LGBT person living in a very heteronormative society, walking into any kind of situation or production where anything to do with being gay is the main narrative can be daunting to say the least. I had many prejudices before walking into Allen Hall Theatre to see Queen, worrying it would exploit and horribly misjudge the LGBT community, or even worse, come from a heterosexual perspective. 

The performance begins with a bang, and I fear my worries have rung true. Before me six men dance (wonderfully) to ‘It’s Raining Men’, wearing high-heeled shoes and red lipstick. After their beautifully choreographed dance number, the dictionary definition of homosexual is projected onto the white sheets that frame the stage. It is then that I realise this might not be as heteronormative as I had feared. 

The performance takes many turns, and overall is truly amazing. All I knew about Queen before seeing it myself was that it was a set of monologues written by Sam Brooks for gay male characters, but under the lively and experienced direction of Jordan Dickson, it is so much more than that.

Through their stories of the first time kissing a boy, another dance number (this time, the Spice Girls), and the occasional rant, Queen explores aspects of what it is really like to be gay in the 21st century. The actors – Orion Carey-Clark, Luke Major, Zac Nicholls, Shaun Swain, Nick Tipa, and Mac Vietch – perform with vibrant commitment, individually and as an ensemble. 

This play is like a safe haven for people of the LGBT community – it is relatable, funny, at times heart-breaking, but hopeful.

One particular monologue asks, “When will it be my turn to be happy?” after so long of living a ‘half-life’, and I am struck by the line “[the quote] ‘it gets better’ is only great when it works.” This is a heartfelt piece that I think many LGBT people could really identify with, in terms of going through a hard time accepting who they are, or being treated differently because of it.

Another important monologue focuses on the hate aimed at LGBT people, featuring a barrage of homophobic slurs that the character identifies as “not a slur, it’s an assault.”  Emotions run high with the repetition of, “When will hate stop? It has to.” The audience is forced to think, and this is the defining moment of the performance for me, making it a very universal play in terms of audience. 

It is a wonderful play for LGBT people to see because there is so little positive and accurate representation in today’s society.

There is also good reason for heterosexual people to see this play, as it deals with aspects of being gay that heterosexual people are often so ignorant about. For example, one monologue deals with how the character’s coming out is so uneventful and boring, that he struggles to empathise with those who have had a more eventful, even negative, coming out experience. This could be incredibly insightful for heterosexual people because, as the script puts it, you don’t have to come out as straight, so how is it possible for a straight person to empathise with a LGBT person? 

The technical conventions of Queen are stellar also. The lighting throughout really sets the mood for each monologue, including fantastic colourful strobe-like lights, while one character has a wonderful time dancing around the stage as he shows his “baby gay” phase. In contrast, there are scenes where the spotlight follows an individual and really gives the scene a sense of sincerity.

Overall, fabulous actors, charismatic monologues and a brilliant use of lighting and occasional music come together to portray not only what it is like to be gay, but to share important messages that are so often overlooked. It should leave the audience, hopefully, with an understanding that being gay doesn’t just mean Beyoncé and the Spice Girls, or high heels and lipstick. Being gay is who you are. Thanks, Counterpoint, for giving us the treatment we deserve.  


Marty Roberts September 13th, 2016

Thank you for a wonderful review for Jordan Dickson's production of "Queen". I just need to point out a small error on the part of the reviewer. "Queen" is not a Counterpoint production; it is a production from the 400-level Advanced Directing course at the University of Otago's Theatre Studies programme, in which Jordan is a student.

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