Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton
06/07/2018 - 06/07/2018
4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth
27/07/2018 - 27/07/2018
Isaac Theatre Royal, The Gloucester Room, Christchurch
15/07/2018 - 15/07/2018
BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
31/07/2018 - 04/08/2018
16th Avenue Theatre, 174 16th Ave, Tauranga
07/07/2018 - 07/07/2018
Seed of contentment or chaos?
Winning play tours with AOTNZ 4 July – 4 Aug 2018
IVF isn’t fool proof and IUDs aren’t failsafe. iPhones come with ovulation apps and being married doesn’t mean you have to breed. Seed follows four women as they try to get pregnant, stay pregnant or become un-pregnant – the dilemmas of modern reproduction.
Seed is about the horror some woman experience to learn they’re pregnant, even while in loving relationships, and about fancy fertility clinics that prey on people’s primal urge to replicate, in the hope of cementing the bond with their partner in a way a ring, a house or a promise just don’t.
A truly contemporary, hilarious and smart look at modern reproduction and female friendship, Seedis a drama that’ll make you laugh, or it’s a comedy that’ll make you cry.
Seed, by Elisabeth Easther, won the 2014 Adam New Zealand play of the year award.
“Moments of side splitting hilarity coupled with those of heart wrenching poignancy” – Ewen Coleman, Dominion Post
“[A] sophisticated, witty and very contemporary meditation on the timeless processes of procreation.” – NZ Herald
How far would you go to get a life?
Wednesday 4 July 7pm Onewhero
Book: www.ospa.org.nz or The Goodness Grocer Pukekohe
Thursday 5 July 7pm Whitianga
Adults $30, Youth under 18 $15
Book: Whitianga Paper Plus
Friday 6 July 7.30pm Hamilton
The Meteor Theatre
GA $25, Concession $20
Saturday 7 July 7.30pm Tauranga
16th Avenue Theatre
Adult $24.90, Concession $22
Book: www.ticketek.co.nz or Baycourt Box Office
Thursday 12 July 8pm Upper Hutt
Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre
Friday 13 July 7.30pm Picton
Book: Take Note Picton and Alyssums Blenheim
Sunday 15 July 8pm Christchurch
Gloucester Room, Isaac Theatre Royal
Adults $35, Concessions/Subscribers $30
Booking fees apply
Tuesday 17 July Roxburgh
$25 Book: i-Site and Door sales
Thursday 19 July 7pm Arrowtown
Friday 20 July 7.30pm Lake Hawea
$25 Adult, $10 Child
Book: Sailz Café, OCD Café, Wanaka Medical Centre (cash)
Saturday 21 July 7.30pm Twizel
Adult $20, Student $10
Book: Twizel Information Centre
Sunday 22 July 7.30pm Ashburton
Ashburton Trust Event Centre
Thursday 26 July 7pm Opunake
Book: South Taranaki i-Site Or Opunake Library
Friday 27 July 7.30pm New Plymouth
4th Wall Theatre
Adult $28, Senior $22, Student $15
Saturday 28 July 8pm Mellons Bay, Auckland
Uxbridge Arts and Culture
General admission $29, table seating $32
Book: www.uxbridge.org.nz or 09 535 6467
Sunday 29 July, Waiheke Island
GA $25, Concession $20
Wednesday 31 July – Saturday 4 Aug, Wellington
Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand as well as support from Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Interislander, Otago Community Trust, Rata Foundation and the Southern Trust. AOTNZ liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse.
Cast – Hannah Banks, Carrie Green, Sophie Hambleton, Tom Knowles, Emily Regtien
2hrs incl. interval
Faultlessly funny with well-landed pathos
Review by Barnaby Olson 01st Aug 2018
There is an underlying political force working gently away in the foyer before BATS theatre’s opening night of SEED, written by Elisabeth Easther, and directed by Kerryn Palmer. Upon arrival, I immediately overhear one local practitioner remark that “anything written and directed by women is fine by me”.
As we trundle into the theatre I catch a younger man confessing to his friend that he “doesn’t really understand how pregnancy works”. He may as well be me. I’m immediately aware that, as a twenty six year old male, I’m most likely woefully underqualified to speak to anything other than the theatre of this work. Its existence is inarguably the result of a confluence of strong and clever female voices speaking to content that is not covered often enough. Palmer, in her director’s note, hints that this is kind of the point.
Easther’s and Palmer’s combined efforts – it’s difficult for me to say with any certainty where one stops and the other begins, such is the playfulness of the live event – result in a couple of hours that, first and foremost, are hugely entertaining. The writing is subtle – it never feels preachy or labours the point, but it also never shies away from confrontation. The production switches up and down gears effortlessly: sometimes farcical, sometimes naturalistic, sometimes verging on stand-up comedy; but always enthralling.
Underneath all this, sit a couple of big ethical questions – maybe more, maybe less, depending on one’s personal politics – that, personally, I don’t have answers for. And underneath those questions, sit four women’s incredibly complicated realities of trying to become, or avoid becoming, pregnant at different stages in their lives.
It’s remarkable how apparent our audience’s desire to ‘solve’ these conundrums is. On two separate occasions I hear serious variations on the solution that “she should just give her baby to her”. It seems that I’m not the only audience member who has been caught ill-equipped for the conversation that SEED is having with us.
The performances are basically top-notch across the board. The logline is that each of the four lead characters are women whose relationship to the reality of pregnancy is reflective of their own life situation. In lieu of describing each of these relationships here and risk robbing you of the chance to watch them unfold, I’ll say only that each of the four lead performances – given respectively by Sophie Hambleton, Emily Regtien, Carrie Green, and Hannah Banks – are earnest, convincing and in possession of wicked comic timing.
They’re so funny. Like really funny. Remarkably, consistently, out-of-the-park funny. Once we are all onside, each actor gets at least one moment to land some pathos. One by one they do so faultlessly, using their collective qualities and skillsets to cover a huge range of performative ground. There is so much heart to all of their work. It’s just really good, instinctive, ensemble work, and on opening night the audience at BATS is in awe of it.
Around these four compelling storylines and characters dances Tom Knowles, giving us one of the most enjoyable versions of the ‘look-how-many-characters-I-can play’ game that I’ve seen in ages. His work is drastically different: to portray a swathe of representatives from the world of men; some caricatures, some kind-hearted but misguided, some cruel and some just plain mental. It seems clear though, that as the only man in a play that is so clearly fuelled by such strong female voices, he has license to be ridiculous, and he uses that license with versatility and skill.
Any quibbles I have with SEED are truly minor: at times I find myself wishing that the writing allocated a little more stage-time for the four leads to interact with each other as opposed to the various men; the set is perhaps a little too transparently designed with at least half an eye on squeezing it into a touring van; and if I’m honest with myself, I’ve probably had my fill of watching Tom Knowles’s ejaculation face. Every aspect of the work though is solid and seems designed to create a platform for the voices of the performers to speak unencumbered.
This feels like really important work, and a really important tour. In some ways the premise is simple: take a seismic event like pregnancy and smash it up against the variations in people’s lives to see what it feels like.
Palmer tells us in her director’s note that her favourite thing about SEED is that it “brings the discussion around fertility into the open”. If that is indeed SEED’s mission statement, then it has got to be judged as a resounding success. And because SEED is written by a woman, directed by a woman and performed by an eighty percent female cast, it’s given weight. It feels authentic to see theatre unpacking the incredible social complexities of procreation – especially when that theatre is made by representatives from the social group that we systematically ask to deal with those complexities.
My hope is that the national tour of this work has elicited a similar result around the country as it does for me: primarily providing opportunities for those who don’t think about this content regularly to begin to, guiding them towards empathy, and beginning the conversation that Palmer is so keen to see eventuate. With the skill and heart on show tonight, I can see no reason why it wouldn’t. A must see.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
The comedic and poignant cleverly balanced
Review by Lindsay Clark 16th Jul 2018
A clutch of projected images dealing with teeming life of one sort or another neatly suggests that all is effortless fecundity, at least in the natural world. Human kind, it seems, or at least the quartet we meet in the course of two hours, predictably wants either more or less than nature is lining up for them. The consequences for four middle class women, each encountering pregnancy from an intensely personal position, are what sends this engaging play scooting along.
Contemporary attitudes and the mixed blessings of technical advances in the baby making business generate a whole lot of material and multiplied by four – five counting a multi-roled male – the play explores exhaustively the emotional territory of conception and pregnancy. For the onlookers (us) obsessions and practical outcomes are mostly very funny, but there are many moments too where disappointment, dismay and despair come into play.
We are directly addressed by each of the four as an introduction to their situation. Hillary, is relying on technology to help out and enable a child to cement her relationship; Maggie is relishing her freedom and relies on her IUD to maintain it. In the course of the play, their friendship will be sorely tested as the circumstances shift and technology proves no match for the Seed.
For Shelley, rebuilding a flourishing career in advertising, and with a ‘perfect’ family already, more babies are unthinkable. Her midwife pal Virginia, deliverer of so many, suddenly finds herself wanting one of her own. More strained friendship is in store for them.
There is then, a complex mosaic of experience built up for us, complete with a male perspective, and the intimate Gloucester Room audience relishes every particle. Kerryn Palmer’s direction neatly manipulates the comedic and poignant so that a strong cast delivers the goods effortlessly and we are thoroughly absorbed in the realism created.
As Hillary, Sophie Hambleton has a turbulent trajectory, never overplayed and consequently totally convincing. Best buddy Maggie is convincingly furnished by Emily Regtien and the testing development of their relationship is a highlight of the play for me.
Hannah Banks handles the conflicted Shelley with truthful assurance and as midwife Virginia, Carrie Green brings hilarious spontaneity as well as an appealing down to earth philosophy to the whole.
As the male partner, potential partner, ex-partner and occasional female supporting role, Tom Knowles is as enjoyable as he is versatile. He provides an important and often surprising perspective on pregnancy, so that we are reminded again and again of what a baby can mean to those who merely stand and wait.
That is significant for me because the focus of the play on urban folk with choice and means could otherwise seem quite narrow. As it is, a happy balance between serious matters and cheerful comedy is cleverly nailed.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Editor July 31st, 2018
SEED has just opened its end-of-tour season at BATS - here is a link to Lin Clark's RNZ chat with Jesse Mulligan following the Christchurch showing.
Prepare to laugh a lot and maybe cry a little too
Review by Vivienne Quinn 08th Jul 2018
I’m here. I exist. But I, quite easily, could not have. As the child of a 17 year old un-married mother in the early 70s, one decision would have been the end of me. I see a version of my story here on stage tonight. And a version of my birth mother’s story, and my adoptive mother’s story, and the story of my mate from when I was 25, and the story of my friend now at the age of 43.
Here in Seed, this really quite remarkable play by Elisabeth Easther, we see stories of births, or non-births, the bonds of relationships and the severing of such, sex for love, sex for necessity, sex on demand, sex on your own, love from all angles, anger, frustration, and guilt guilt guilt. Somewhere in here, we see ourselves.
I have to say, I am loving Arts on Tour. Seed is a play I wanted to see back in 2014 when it had its debut, and I thought I’d missed my chance. Its regeneration and regional tour of NZ is a wonderful thing.
The clever thing here is that Elisabeth Easter has taken a serious, emotional, fundamentally essential story and made it funny. And it’s really funny in parts, thanks also to some eloquent direction by Kerryn Palmer and extremely fine actors.
Each of the four female leads – Hannah Banks, Carrie Green, Sophie Hambleton and Emily Regtien – are deeply convincing, evoking from the audience sympathy, empathy and antipathy in equal parts. But it’s really Tom Knowles who steals the show. This man is a multi-dimensional wonder, a comic of subtle and not so subtle delights.
If Seed is coming to your town, go and book your ticket. Prepare to laugh a lot and maybe cry a little too.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Funny, touching and relatable
Review by Ross MacLeod 07th Jul 2018
As developed as our society and technology becomes, the challenges of our own biology and personalities are inescapable, with reproduction being one of the areas that can be at once too simple and too complicated. Seed follows four women and their trials in seeking or avoiding conception.
It’s mostly light hearted, playing up the absurdities for great comedic effect, but it treats its characters with respect and there are plenty of moments of pathos as the plots unfold. Credit has to go to the writer, Elisabeth Easther, for keeping things up in the air as to where things are headed, satisfying the sense of realism rather than comfortable narrative tropes.
As Hillary, Sophie Hambleton gives us a contained character, focused on her goals, aware of the growing absurdity but undercut with a sadness and frustration that she keeps understated for maximum effect. For Hillary fertility treatment is both a source of hope but also a trap that pulls her and her husband further in.
Midwife Virginia, played by Carrie Green, is also on a desperate mission to become pregnant, though without a partner. Her story takes her down different avenues than Hillary’s. Green is joyous in the role, revelling in her character’s over-the-top efforts and managing some touching moments of desperation. It’s a testament to her comedic energy that she remains engaging and likable despite some pretty bad behaviour throughout.
Hannah Banks as Shelley is a more sombre character: a career woman returning to her profession now that her kids are old enough, and facing unexpected challenges. Banks manages to hit some heart-breaking moments with spot on emotional fragility and, almost like a mirror to Green’s Virginia, connects with us sympathetically even when her actions are questionable.
As the fourth woman, Maggie, Emily Regtien has a light confidence which settles into an airy comfort as the play progresses. While her road is not without bumps, Maggie seems the most at ease with herself and Regtien works this well, even getting to dig into some more fraught moments when confronting her strained relationship with friend Hillary.
Huge props have to go to Tom Knowles for taking on every male role in the play (and a couple of female ones). Knowles moves between them with simple costume changes but a vocal and physicality spectrum ranging from extreme to very subtle. Some of characters are wild stereotypes, some are perfectly believable but no matter the part he commits to them with passion and precision. As husbands Matt and George he brings differing strengths and frailties, and as the socially awkward Kevin he elicits both humour and sympathy from the crowd.
There are a couple of points that do strike me as a little off-putting, one minor, one more serious. The minor issue is the mix of anachronism in setting. The flip up phones and Facebook pokes made it feel like the play is set about 5 to 10 years ago but phone aps and magazine references feel more contemporary. As I say, it’s a minor thing, and the magazine element is clearly a recent and well placed addition, but they do jar a little for me.
The second thing that make me a little uncomfortable is that because of the central theme of the play there are some more serious undercurrents that get a little glossed over. Drinking culture among middle class women, bordering on alcoholism in some cases, is on clear display here but generally normalised if not played for laughs. And one scene, again played up for humour, would certainly be defined as sexual assault if the genders of the characters were reversed.
These are only a couple of moments in show which is very aware of more sensitive and serious elements elsewhere in the story and the blind spots jar for me.
Seed is a well written and directed, strongly performed comedy that isn’t afraid to dig into more serious topics and drive the narrative in unexpected ways. The quibbles mentioned above don’t detract from my overall enjoyment and the emotional connection to more sentimental moments of the play. Funny, touching and relatable.
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