BATS Theatre, Wellington

31/07/2012 - 11/08/2012

Production Details

When Petra meets Celeste she’s strangely curious and excited about this new friendship. What Petra doesn’t know, is that the ground she is balanced on is about to shift. Celeste knows Petra: Petra knows Paul: Paul knows Celeste: Petra has been used.

A play about obsession, betrayal and the fault-lines they create.

Presented by FOMO, with thanks to SmackBang Theatre Co. and Auckland Theatre Company, Quiver opens at BATS on 31 July and runs till 11 August.

There are only three actors in Quiver. Alex Greig will be playing Paul, an advertising executive who has been caught with his pants down at least once. You will have seen Alex Greig many times over the years in various roles at Bats. “Such is his talent that we wanted a piece of the Alex Greig phenomenon too,” says Gina. “Paul is a cock. But he’s a nice cock. Alex plays his subtleties very well.”

Gina Vanessi will take on the role of Celeste. When it comes to this character, Gina is a bit coy about saying too much. “I don’t want to give too much away about Celeste. But I hope that other women can relate to that need to know and need to feel that is so deeply ingrained in her. It’s heightened reality. It’s super-reality! But I don’t think she’s so over the top that no one will recognise her.”

Jaya Robertson will play Petra, a yoga-posing vegetarian who unwittingly lets herself be drawn into Celeste and Paul’s world. Jaya brings out Petra’s youthful innocence in a way that is at the same time both beautiful and sad. “I keep getting more surprises from Jaya that are developing the character of Petra even more.” (from Gina, with a smile) 

“I wanted to do more acting” said Gina. And so she wrote a play.  Little did she know that it would take two years of writing and re-writing and workshops before she could finally be in it!!  

But it was a fun process and now Gina is looking forward to bringing Celeste, one of the characters she created, to life. Is there a similarity between Celeste and the woman who created her? “I think there are similarities, but I hope I’m not as mental!” says Gina. “There are definitely elements of Celeste in me – but she’s clearly quite out of control.” Gina relates to the other woman in the play, Petra equally. “I’m as much Petra as I am Celeste” she says, “(even though they’re very different!) I go to yoga, I like to meditate. And I’ve experienced what it’s like to be very lonely from time to time.”

Partner Gavin Rutherford is directing – will this actress/director partnership bring some friction into their home life? “As long as Gina behaves herself and doesn’t give me too much sh**, I think we’ll be ok,” says Gavin.

Quiver has had two workshops. The first with SmackBang Theatre Co. The workshop was over two days and the sun was shining in Auckland as Donogh Rees directed. “It was the first time I watched other people play with my words,” says Gina. “I was nervous, but I loved seeing the play start to take shape, and Donogh had such a great understanding of what the play was essentially about.” 

The second workshop was for SmackBang again but was hosted this time by Auckland Theatre Company – an opportunity Gina as a relatively inexperienced playwright was very grateful for. This time she worked with director Hera Dunleavy and dramaturg Thomas Sainsbury. “The play was pulled to pieces a bit more in this second workshop and I think it’s definitely better because of it,” says Gina. The non-linear nature of how time plays out in the script was discussed at length, and how it might not be understood. As a result, many changes were made. The play still does not run in linear time however. “It’s a choice I had to make,” explains Gina, “but I’d like to make the audience work a little. It shouldn’t be too easy. They should have to think.” 

There is indeed a lot to think about in Quiver. With underlying themes and metaphors to do with the end of the world, the set is going to be very contemporary.

Designed by Ulli Briese, there will be a “faultline” with lights for effect. Ulli is a very talented set and lighting designer that many will recognise from his work at Circa Theatre. “In the end, all that I want is for the audience to come away with a sense of hope.” 

Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
31 July – 11 August, 8pm

Featuring: Alex Greig, Jaya Robertson, Gina Vanessi

Designed by Ulli Briese 


Review by Lynn Freeman 10th Aug 2012

I left Quiver feeling grubby. This is a nasty story about three horrible, people doing unspeakable things, with earthquakes as a clunky metaphor for their behaviour. Theatre is a powerful way to unsettle audiences, after all we are trapped in a small space with characters who would terrify us if we met them in an alley.

The trouble comes when all of the characters on stage are ghastly. Gina Vanessi’s script (she’s also in the cast) may be an insightful view into human psychology where jealousy and emotional manipulation are skilfully explored. On stage it’s just an unpleasant 60 minutes when you can’t empathise with or care about anyone.

Celeste (Gina Vanessi) and her partner Paul (Alex Greig) have a tempestuous relationship, and we find out Celeste’s crazy behaviour comes from finding out about a past infidelity of Paul’s. Given she is obsessive, he was rather foolish to leave his phone with its old messages lying around. Anyway she tracks down Petra (Jaya Robertson) and seduces her, in a sense. When the three of them end up together, Celeste is in full Glenn Close bunny killing mode.

We find out about her and Paul’s unconventional courtship right at the end, but it comes far too late to us to have any sympathy. They made their beds and deserve what they get.

Gavin Rutherford shows flair as the director and Ulli Breise’s set uses the earthquake metaphor effectively.

Vanessi may have written the role of Celeste for herself, but it’s not a perfect fit. She is a good actor and writer and I hope her next script will allow her the chance to really show us what she can do.  


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New take on lust and obsession

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 05th Aug 2012

The love triangle has been used countless times in plays and films over the years but probably not as intriguingly as Gina Vanessi does in her play Quiver opening this week at Bats.  

From the opening moments when Celeste (Gina Vanessi), unseen behind a white screen, phones Petra (Jaya Robertson) during her yoga class declaring she is watching her but that she is not a stalker we know there is something strange going on.

When we meet Celeste and her boyfriend Paul (Alex Greig) and encounter their fiery and tempestuous relationship, caused by the inevitable text messages on his phone, things really begin to heat up. Paul is a copywriter for an advertising agency and Celeste is unemployed and bored although she appears to have lots of money from a previous occupation.

At times erotically sexual, at other times violent, Celeste and Paul fight it out with great energy, even though their reactions often appear irrational and illogical.

And where Petra fits into all this can probably be guessed at but to explain how would spoil the intrigue. Suffice to say Celeste’s increasing obsession with Petra becomes bizarre to say the least.

The writing is tight, truncated and idiosyncratic with the title of the play Quiver having many metaphorical meanings with regard to Celeste and Paul’s relationship. It is also the name of the perfume that Petra, then Celeste wears. And the ground supposedly even quivers at one point when they are caught up in an earthquake.

These characters are hard to like because they generate little empathy for their situation through their actions, particularly Celeste, whose incessant talking becomes somewhat irritating.

But the three actors play with confidence and give totally assured and committed performance that has to be admired. Vanessi is a capricious Celeste, totally unpredictable and dangerous while Greig as Paul is an egotistical young upstart who arrogantly matches Celeste.

Robertson’s third member of the triangle Petra brings some sense of normality to the situation.

Under Gavin Rutherford’s direction and on Ulli Briese’s highly stylised set, the play moves seamlessly from scene to scene. Though not overly entertaining, it is nevertheless an interesting production to watch.


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Questions of fault intriguingly explored

Review by John Smythe 01st Aug 2012

It’s a good name for this play: Quiver. It’s all about that obsessive state of love or lust that makes you all aquiver. It’s also the name of a perfume. Then there are the earthquake tremors. And the metaphorical quiver of arrows – of desire and revenge; of cupidity and stupidity …

Gina Vanessi’s play opens with a very steady yoga-posing Petra (Jaya Robertson) getting yet another phone call from a woman who protests she is not a stalker but is clearly obsessed with her. Petra’s response is enigmatic.

Celeste (Vanessi) is the bored non-working partner of pepped-up advertising copywriter Paul (Alex Greig), who is given to calling all women “baby” – to which she takes violent exception. His cellphone may or may not betray him. Her suspicions may or may not be valid. It is a volatile relationship. The fault-lines are hidden.

Many questions arise around Celeste’s behaviour and the ways Petra and Paul react to her. Are we talking lust, revenge, a trap, a threesome, a quest for thrills, a disintegration into degradation or what? This is what maintains our interest as the action unfolds, twists and stretches our credulity in director Gavin Rutherford’s fluid production. To detail more would be to spoil.

Sometimes Celeste seems to over-explain herself, but then is she telling the truth? Even so, I find myself wanting her flood of words to stop or at least reduce to a trickle at times so that the subtext has room to breathe. I want the characters to be themselves more than speak themselves. I want to be more drawn into their world rather than left on the outside looking in, although the plays does suggest there can be participation in watching.

Hot yoga is referenced more than once but we don’t get the space to feel the heat as intensely as we might. (Given there is no 9.30pm show to share the space this time, there does not seem to be the usual time constraint.)

Robertson intrigues with a lithe-bodied and largely poker-faced performance that’s punctuated with odd manic moments. Greig nails the attractiveness of the dick you want to hate but cannot. And both are convincingly attracted to Celeste despite – or rather because of – her increasingly bizarre behaviour.

Not withstanding the odd outburst, Vanessi is beautifully centred in her volatile unpredictability, which makes her Celeste all the more interesting and dangerous. As the playwright, she astutely manages the reveal of where she is coming from and why she is as she is; does as she does.

Ulli Briese’s set and lighting – a rostrum with overlapping floor plates bisected by an under-lit strip, furnished with a polystyrene block and counter – plays with the earthquake / fault-line idea and allows for fluid transitions between the various locations.

In the end the question of fault pushes against the inevitability of the long-overdue ‘big one’ in Wellington, leaving us to ponder how much control we really have over ourselves and each other.

Quiver has been developed by SmackBang Theatre with the Auckland Theatre Company and its maturity as a script shows. F.O.M.O. stands for Fear Of Missing Out – and I wouldn’t if I were you. Take a break from the Film Festival and/or the Olympics and go. 


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