Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

16/02/2015 - 19/02/2015

Production Details


A chance encounter with a stranger was the genesis for ROBIN GOBLIN, a new play by Paul Rothwell, set to premiere at the Basement Theatre in the Auckland Fringe from 16-19 February. 

This unusual new theatre play is the story of a successful entrepreneur called Robin, and her experience of a common psychological phenomenon casually known as Impostor Syndrome, which convinces her that she is really a changeling, a goblin swapped with a human child at birth. 

Award-winning playwright Paul Rothwell drew inspiration from a chance encounter with a stranger, a depressed manager who confided her secret self-doubt and belief that despite her apparent success she was really a lucky fraud on the verge of being found out. The woman disappeared back into her own world without realising she had sowed the seed of an idea that would develop into a play based on her life – but with a twist. Rothwell’s childhood fascination with goblins and changelings transported her sad story from the world of business into the realm of the fantastical.

Impostor syndrome afflicts successful people such as Emma Watson and is characterised by a lack of belief in their own qualities. It is a very negative experience in the business world, which requires confidence and self-worth in order to get ahead. Goblins are mythical creatures from fairytales, such as Rumpelstiltskin. Goblins live in dark places, collect treasures and play tricks on unsuspecting humans.

Rothwell, the author of 15 plays, describes the show as a wacky blend of dark comedy and fantasy which touches on issues familiar to anyone who has struggled to reconcile their working life with their inner life. 

Robin Goblin is directed by Jackson Coe and is the Auckland debut of its entire cast, who all come to the city with success in one of New Zealand’s three other main centres. Frith Horan is a recent graduate of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand’s Drama School in Wellington. Hadley Taylor is a successful young performer who has relocated from Dunedin and Morgyn Cliff hails from Christchurch. 

Robin Goblin plays
Dates:  16 – 19 February, 8.30pm
Location:  Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland 
Tickets:  $18 full / $15 Concession / $10 with ten trip pass
Bookings: // 0508 iTICKET (484-253) 

Original usage of recognised tropes

Review by Nik Smythe 17th Feb 2015

The confined rusticism of The Basement’s brick wall, concrete floor and low hanging ceiling are an ideally Gothic (if that’s not an oxymoron?) canvas for Regan Taylor’s spooky set design.  A large comfortable bed (superking-sized for one, we are soon to learn) to our left, a functional screen patterned with twisty tree-like shapes to the right, while upstage centre, behind a hollow full-length standing mirror, a figure clad head-to-toe in a bridal veil lurks in still silence, for now. 

Scene one: meet Robin, a successful, confident business woman, power-dressed in a hound’s-tooth bolero jacket, regaling us with her inspiring life story of determination and sound business choices.  Scene two: meet Robin, self-loathing self-confessed fraud who built her fortune on other people’s work and dumb luck, and waits in terror for the day the whole sham is exposed to her largely exaggerated social network. 

Robin’s always had the classic nagging feeling like she doesn’t belong, so when she has a visit from a spooky man cloaked like a Jedi and saying he’s her father, she readily believes the fantastical notion that she was switched at birth for her own protection by her two-thousand year old goblin king father, returning now to bring her home. 

Director Jackson Coe balances the humour with the horror more in favour of the former, although a number of themes in Paul Rothwell’s convoluted script really are very disturbing if you give them any degree of thought.  Frith Horan brings a relatable, if somewhat bitter and maliciously cheeky quality to the character of Robin.  It seems as though the only person she does see with any regularity is her patient, long-suffering milquetoast ex-husband Alex, played with gentle fortitude by Hadley Taylor.

Felix Becroft’s inspired turn as Blodred is equally proud, well-spoken, crooked and snivelling as befits an alleged keeper of the Goblin throne.  Meanwhile Morgyn Cliff presents an appealing and amusing mercurial innocence to her character, called at different times ‘Real Robin’, ‘Bobbin’ and ‘Yester’, for reasons it would unnecessarily spoil the story to explain. 

I’d not experienced the works of Wellington playwright Rothwell before, but I’ve heard him compared to local script-machine Tom Sainsbury and I can see why. The casually typical introduction belies a tale that quickly turns quite weird, before descending into a deeply convoluted web of unlikely scenarios and continual twists upon twists: an original use of recognised tropes.  Then when you think it’s over, a whole other act ensues, so that when it is finally all done, it takes a while to believe it. 

James Risby provides the unobtrusively atmospheric soundtrack, but credits for both the fittingly shadow-centric lighting and the rather well-appointed costume design are conspicuously absent from the programme.


nik smythe February 21st, 2015

Thank you Jackson, I had suspected as much but the clarification is appreciated for mildly obsessive minds like mine, cheers. And well done to you all.

Jackson Coe February 20th, 2015

Hi Nik, thank-you for your review. In interest of posterity, our lighting and costume were designed collaboratively, which is why no credit was offered in our programme. The production team (Jackson, Paul and Serene Lorimer) worked with the wonderful Basement operators Rachel Marlow and Brad Gledhill on lighting, and similarly each cast member brought in their own ideas for costume which were then developed with the rest of the team.

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