The Pumphouse Theatre, Takapuna, Auckland

25/02/2017 - 04/03/2017

Production Details

NZ Playwright’s Newest Script Illuminates a Provoking Post-Apocalyptic World

Click-Clack Productions presents
Written by Stephen Sinclair
Directed by Elena Stejko

Gripping, lyrical, and strikingly bold, Remain in Light, penned by acclaimed New Zealand playwright Stephen Sinclair, will make its theatrical premiere from 25 February – 4 March at Takapuna’s Pumphouse Theatre. Exploring the visual and spiritual qualities of light in a world of darkness, Remain in Light brings together a 17-strong cast with sound and lighting technology, to create a uniquely immersive experience.

One morning the sun fails to rise. People are puzzled, then frightened, then panicked. In the endless darkness, small groups of survivors hunt for food, warmth and, above all, light. When one man finds a magical source of light his power becomes limitless. For people will give everything, do anything, in order to see…

Stephen Sinclair’s illustrious career has seen him writing for major cinematic productions as well as boundary-pushing theatre work. As a screenwriter, Sinclair has worked with director Peter Jackson on Meet the Feebles, Braindead and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. His award-winning play Ladies Night (co-written with Anthony McCarten), which premiered in Auckland in 1987, continues to be performed throughout the world. Sinclair’s works The Bellbird and The Bach have both been mounted in main-bill productions by Auckland Theatre Company. His directorial debut on the comedy-drama feature film, Russian Snark, saw him working with actress Elena Stejko in 2010.

The multi-talented Elena Stejko (Russian Snark, A Shortcut to Happiness) will be directing a sizeable cast through this post-apocalyptic fairy-tale, delving into human nature and the desperate desire to survive. Comedian and actor Paul Roukchan (NZ International Comedy Festival, Shortland Street, Radar’s Chequered Past) takes the lead role, alongside emerging actress Emma-Mae Eglinton (Sit On It, It Ends With The Sea).

A beautifully poetic and impressionistic play, Remain in Light exposes mankind’s true nature in grappling with a dark reality.
“… highly amusing … wonderfully unsettling … confirms Sinclair’s reputation for provocative writing that is finely attuned to the quirkiness of the Kiwi psyche”
– New Zealand Herald on Intimacies.

Remain in Light plays
25 Feb – 4 March
The Pumphouse Theatre
Manurere Ave, Takapuna, Auckland
Tickets: Adult $30, Concession $25
Book at

Theatre ,

90 mins

Raises relevant questions about power and its abuse

Review by Leigh Sykes 26th Feb 2017

A new play is a cause for celebration, and a new play by someone with the pedigree of Stephen Sinclair is doubly so. The programme tells us that Sinclair has created a play “set predominantly in a world without light” that is also about “the possibility of redemption.” This is as much of any of us knows as we wait for the play to begin, and there is a sense of expectation among the packed audience.

It is always exciting to enter a new theatrical world with no knowledge of what the journey will be like, and in this case we are given some clear visual clues about the world as soon as we enter the auditorium. There is nothing between us and the walls of the space, so that we see exposed brickwork with areas filled with chalked messages (‘Trump 4 Prez’ catches my eye) and the stage covered in a large, light-coloured cloth.

At first glance, the cloth appears to form an undulating landscape, with the dim lighting making me think of a beach in moonlight. I quickly realise that the cloth is actually covering a number of prone bodies, arranged symmetrically on the floor of the stage. As we continue to wait for the show to begin, I can’t help wondering what it’s like for the performers to listen to the conversations among the audience as they wait for the show to begin.

When it does begin, figures underneath the cloth begin to move and the fabric is manipulated with great energy and precision by the cast to create a sense of chaos and conflict before finally revealing The Narrator (Christopher Auva’a) to us. The lighting (designed by Duncan Milne) during this narration is warm and bright, with a perfect circular sun on the back wall. The Narrator tells us that this story has either already happened or is a warning of what may happen. Both possibilities are made credible as the narrative unfolds.

The action of the play begins very effectively with the ‘feral children’ pouring out from under the cloth, under the stage and through both entrances into the performance space. A number of parallel narratives then play out separately, beginning with Dave (Lincoln Hasler) and Sarah (Emma-Mae Eglinton) who cling together in the pitch black until Dave decides that he wants to leave Sarah and go it alone. Each set of characters we meet from here on has slightly different resources, concerns and relationships.

Radar (Dylan Underwood) and Dawn (Grace Coulter) are very much a team, but are terrified by their encounter with Beara (Saale Ilaua). Nan (Vanya Essin) controls the ‘feral children’, making them continually name themselves in an imitation of the military practice of ‘sounding off’ to make sure everyone is accounted for (poor Nowhere’s plaintive responses always gaining a sympathetic laugh from the audience).

Sarah meets an Artist (Paul Roukchan) and is enthralled by his description of a painting he was creating, demanding that he describes it over and over again. Beara meets Carlotta (Melissa Cameron at this performance) and now the narratives begin to unfold in earnest.

We move rapidly between each of the stories, focusing on each one in turn, then seeing the different strands start to weave together. There are only three ways to enter or exit the stage, and the necessity for the characters to exit and enter comes close to making the action repetitive, until all of the characters are brought together just in time to give the narrative new energy.

The stage (including the space immediately in front of the first row of the audience) is used inventively once all of the characters share it together and the action becomes more focused on Dave and Carlotta, their sudden assumption of power due to the resource that they control and the effect this has on the other characters.

Throughout the play, the cast creates a movement vocabulary that makes the absence of light entirely credible. Shuffling movement and fixed eyes convey the sense of moving in darkness very effectively, and we soon accept the fact that although we can see these characters, they cannot see each other or the world around them. The physical energy of the cast is impressive and the contrast between frenetic scenes filled with anxiety and fear, and the calmer, more lyrical scenes where the Artist and Sarah use their imagination to feed their eyes shows that Director Elena Stejko has a firm grasp on the narrative flow of the play and the deeper meanings of it.

The visual imagery of the play is engaging and inventive, combining Milne’s lighting with the physicality of the actors. The use of the fabric is constantly varied throughout the play, and is most effective towards the end when used in combination with light to evoke the return of hope.

The cast works hard to engage us with their characters, although the play is more narrative-driven and symbolic than character-driven. Paul Roukchan’s often drunken and wryly comic Artist generates plenty of laughs from the audience, and Emma-Mae Eglinton’s yearning for things to see is convincing.

It does strike me that there are only two non-white actors in the cast: one is the narrator whose appearance implies a sense of connection to an older (pre-colonial/mythological? time); the other one is implied to be a savage. The character of Bear attacks Dawn, speaks differently to everyone else and is chained up, literally like a dog, at one point. This bothers me, although I assume that this response is intentionally pursued. Although I don’t know for sure if the is character written to be played as ‘other’ and whether that ‘otherness’ has to be linked to ethnicity, I do know that seeing the character of Beara (played with stoic tolerance by Ilaua) chained up is disconcerting and can only be acceptable if it is used to provoke questions about the way that we perceive others, particularly at this moment in time when race and ethnicity have been used to identify some people as undesirable in some parts of the world. I’m not sure that there is quite enough space for those questions in the play at the moment.

Overall, this is a well-crafted production of an interesting and thought-provoking play. The play explores a world where light becomes a symbol of power and those who try to abuse that power by trying to subjugate others ultimately find that power turned on them.

Stejko has drawn engaging performances from her mainly young cast (many of whom I recognise from recent UNITEC productions), and the questions that the play provokes about power and the abuse of it are very relevant at this particular moment in time.


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