Ruben Guthrie

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

18/09/2009 - 17/10/2009

Production Details


Fame, fortune and vodka cocktails make for a hilarious outing that even the booze won’t let you forget. Oliver Driver returns to the stage as Ruben Guthrie in Silo Theatre’s black comedy with a big drunken heart, playing at the Herald Theatre, THE EDGE® from September 18.

Ruben Guthrie is on fire. At 29, he is Creative Director at a cutting edge advertising agency, he is hot to trot in the local bar scene and lives with his Czech, supermodel girlfriend. Ruben seems invincible until one fateful awards night when he takes a spectacular leap off a hotel roof…into a baby pool. Ruben wakes up to find his arm in plaster, his girlfriend moving back to Prague and his mother driving him to an A.A. meeting.

Oliver Driver takes to the stage as the titular character, reuniting with director Shane Bosher for this production; best friends, no longer enfants terribles and now icons of Auckland’s theatre industry. This will be their first collaboration as actor and director since their production of Neil Labute’s Bash in 2004 – which won Driver the "Best Actor of the Year" award in the NZ Listener.  

Joining Driver on stage are Silo Theatre regulars Peter Elliott, Dean O’Gorman and Toni Potter, who returns to the company she debuted with to play one of her most challenging roles to date – a spiky, recovering alcoholic and drug addict.

Ruben Guthrie also features Ellie Smith (End Of The Rainbow), Andrew Grainger (featuring in the upcoming Peter Jackson movie The Lovely Bones) and Chelsie Preston Crayford – daughter of Laureate Gaylene Preston and viewed as one of the most promising actresses to watch this year.

Having had two sold out runs in Sydney courtesy of Company B, Silo Theatre once again shows they have their finger on the pulse, as at present the show is only the second ever production of the show in the world, following the trend that Holding The Man set in August with its NZ premiere.

Brendan Cowell is viewed as the Oliver Driver of his generation in Australia – the both share the same acerbic and razor sharp wit as their trademarks. Having directed Rabbit  for Cate Blanchett’s Sydney Theatre Company (much like Driver previously did for Silo Theatre), and performing in the core cast of Love My Way, Cowell wrote Ruben Guthrie as part of the Phillip Parsons’ Young Playwright Award commission and has become a cornerstone in Australia’s television and film industry.

Silo Theatre are also once more opening up a dialogue with their audience, provoking their social conscience – Ruben Guthrie drinks to excess yet is hugely successful; is it still acceptable in a culture these days worried about binge drinking to turn a blind eye in situations as this? Or is it all the more concerning?

"…Richly entertaining, provocative and extremely topical theatre…"   The Sunday Telegraph

Ruben Guthrie plays
September 18th – October 17th
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE®
Tickets: $20.00 – $39.00 (service fees will apply)
Book now through THE EDGE® – or 09 357 3355

Shane Bosher

Ruben Guthrie:  OLIVER DRIVER
Peter Guthrie:  PETER ELLIOTT
Virginia:  TONI POTTER
Susan Guthrie:  ELLIE SMITH

set design:  JOHN VERRYT
costume design:  PETRA VERWEIJ
lighting design            :  JANE HAKARAIA

production management:  JOSH HYMAN
stage management:  JOSH HYMAN, LAURYN WATI
properties management:  BECS EHLERS
technical operation:  STUART PHILLIPS
set construction:  2 CONSTRUCT
production assistance:  SEAN LYNCH

graphic design:  CONCRETE
production photography:  AARON K, ANDREW MALMO

Smart, entertaining production generates committed performances

Review by Janet McAllister 21st Sep 2009

This is the One About the Alcoholic – but it’s less predictable or painfully emotional and far more entertaining than such a description promises.

As such, it fits nicely into Silo Theatre’s line-up of comic dramas about young urban scenesters for young urban audiences. And happily, for the most part, Australian playwright Brendan Cowell takes the advice of his own characters: if you want to be a writer, you can’t afford to be earnest. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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The pitfalls of a disaffected creative exec

Review by Nik Smythe 19th Sep 2009

"Hello, my name is Ruben Guthrie and I’m in advertising"; scene one line one has the title character introducing himself at his initial 12 steps support group meeting.  With all his nervous fidgeting and snappy talk, Ruben’s like someone we’ve all met – at the far end of youth, a success story in the vice-ridden world of promotional media, tried everything twice and beginning to show the strain. 

A particular wake-up call type incident has prompted this attempt to turn his self-destructive life around.  He doesn’t exactly embrace the idea wholeheartedly to begin with, not unpredictably thanks to that famous first stage of grieving, denial.  As his first session wraps up Ruben tells the other participants it’s been great to meet them and he’d really like to use them in something.  It takes a greater shock, his Czech starlet model fiancé Zoya running home to Prague, to get Ruben to take the warning signs more seriously. 

Once he commits to the therapy, almost half the play seems to consist of Ruben’s closest male colleagues (father, boss, gay best friend) continually nagging him to get off his high horse, stop living in some sort of reverse denial and have a goddamn drink.  Though he repeatedly declines, refuses, explains he doesn’t want to and says no every way he can think of, they don’t believe him let alone support or even respect his decision.

Australian playwright Brendan Cowell’s latest play has been liberally adapted to exploit local geographic and pop-cultural references, which is essential to getting the audience to relate directly to the dialogue and therefore the characters. Each nostalgic jingle is distinctively Kiwi (Chesdale cheese, Weetbix etc), and it’s not hard to transplant lines like Zoya’s description of this ‘alcoholic country’ from Aussie to here. 

Oliver Driver’s rollercoaster ride of a lead performance is something of a tour-de-force. This young, fairly normal character not terribly unlike himself is put through the emotional wringer and back again, as the harrowed look in his face at the curtain call will attest.

The able supporting cast is equally up to their not-quite-so-severe tasks, carrying the two hours plus with admirable energy, humour and heart.

Ruben’s boss Ray (Andrew Grainger) is your typical unscrupulous advertising bloke with all the class and decorum of a farmer at happy hour.  Defiantly anti-metrosexual, Ray actually believes the sauce is fundamental to Ruben’s success as the company’s head copywriter.  Dean O’Gorman plays gay workmate and best friend Damian, just as out of control but still indestructible – i.e. yet to experience enough loss to consider undertaking anything like Ruben’s personal journey.

Chelsie Preston Crayford as Zoya is equal measures of class, forthrightness and spoiled brat, with a solid Eastern Europe accent to boot.  Ruben’s rebound love interest Virginia (Toni Potter) is one of those reformed addicts often referred to as ‘the worst kind’, unrelentingly driven to spread the word of the programme above all else.  Her controlling agenda with Ruben’s affairs smacks of a co-dependent streak taking the place of her previous addiction.

Ellie Smith’s Susan, Ruben’s mother, is the classically winsome lost housewife with passive-aggressive undertones, having spent her adult life married to Peter (Peter Elliot), an equally opposite stereotype of the Kiwi dad who’s only known way of connecting with his son is completely pissed.  Witness his fatherly advice: ‘If you’re going to drink and drive, do it in rush hour.’

There are no real new insights for anyone familiar with the prevalent issue, and who doesn’t know a substance abuser or three here in Club New Zealand?  The relentlessness and repetitiveness of all the struggles surrounding Ruben dealing with his disease and its impact on his family and friends leaves the story’s intended message unclear, if there is one.  Each side of everyone’s point of view is examined, and there is no ultimate solution.

I detect a trend, unwitting or otherwise, in Silo’s work over the past year or so, favouring tales of disaffected, alienated middle class executives in the urbane world of media and entertainment struggling to establish their purpose for living in the prevailing decadent culture of self-interest.

One notable effect: at the post-opening function I didn’t feel in the least like drinking anything.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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