Sex Drive

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

15/10/2011 - 12/11/2011

Production Details

Three women win $10,000 from the Goddess of Lotto 

Workmates Chrissy, Dawn and Sylvia are overjoyed when their Lucky Clucky Chicken Plucking Syndicate wins a Lotto prize of $10,000. When theyrealise it’s not enough for any of them to improve their lot in life they decide to pool their winnings to start a small business. And so, Sex Drive is born.  A mobile sex shop created by women, for women. Sexy, not sleazy. Glamorous for the amorous. And most of all, fun. 

They find they have skills they had never imagined – but the Sex Drive truck runs out of luck when it rolls up against Christian sensibilities on one side and City Council bylaws on the other.

The tension builds in a battle of wits. Love is won and lost and all is revealed in a rollicking grand finale. 

A tip top team of actors bring their talent to this highly entertaining comedy. 

Geraldine Brophy, Lyndee-Jane Rutherford and Emma Kinane play the three lucky Lotto winners and they are joined by Nikki MacDonnell, Tim Spite and the indomitable Kate Harcourt. 

Sex Drive is co-written by two iconic Wellington women – Lorae Parry and Pinky Agnew. This is their third collaboration (The Truth about Love, The Candidates).

Jane Waddell is thrilled to be directing the world premiere of this fast-paced, heartwarming comedy about Love, Lust and Lotto 

CIRCA THEATRE, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
SEASON: 15 October – 12 November
Performance Times:
Tues & Wed 6.30pm,
Thurs to Sat 8pm,
Saturday 5th November 6.30pm (Guy Fawkes Night) 
Sunday 4pm 

Adults $46, Concessions $38 
Friends of Circa (to 27th October) $33 
Groups (6+) $39 (20+) $36 
Under 25’s $25 
Specials: Friday 14 Oct & Sunday 16 Oct $25 
Bookings: Circa 801 7992

Pre-show dinner available at Wharfside – phone 801 7996    

In order of appearance: 
Sylvie: Geraldine Brophy  
Chrissy: Emma Kinane 
Dawn: Lyndee-Jane Rutherford  
Gordy/Lance: Tim Spite  
Lynette: Kate Harcourt  
Faye: Nikki MacDonnell 

Set Designer: Andrew Foster 
Lighting Designer: Ulli Briese 
Costume Designer:  Nic Smillie 
Sound Designer: John McKay 
Musical Composition: Michael Nicholas Williams 

Production Team 
Stage Manager: Gabrielle Rhodes 
Technical Operator: Deb McGuire
Set construction and crew:  Iain Cooper, Phil Halasz, John Hodgkins, Robert Larsen, Marcus McShane, Joe Newman, Simon Raynor, Miriam Sobey, Adam Walker, Joe Dekkers-Reihana, Blair Ryan
Scenic Painter: Eileen McCann 
Publicity: Colleen McColl
Graphic Design: Rose Miller – Kraftwork
Photography: Stephen A’Court
House Manager: Suzanne Blackburn 
Box Office: Linda Wilson   

2hrs 20mins, incl. interval

Intimacy lacking in play about intimate matters

Review by John Smythe 17th Oct 2011

Our reward for forgoing the France v Wales clash last Saturday is a d.vice gift bag, denoting the buzz of anticipation the full house has brought to the impending comedy. We may also expect the core message massaged through Sex Drive to translate into a sudden rush of business for ‘the toy shop for grownups’. Fair enough too.

The programme note tells us the play “began life as a serious play about women, and how important decisions about sex, money and life, are all too often made for them, denying them the power to shape their lives.” Pre-show publicity has also revealed this approach stalled, so Parry (now domiciled in London) asked Pinky Agnew (her mate since Hen’s Teeth days, and Jenny Shipley to Parry’s Helen Clark in many a bygone political skit) to collaborate on a more comical treatment. This was achieved via Skype and remote access to a shared hard drive.  

Earlier this year Agnew collaborated with Geraldine Brophy and Lyndee-Jane Rutherford to devise and deliver Party Girls, an “election year stir-up” which toured one-night stands throughout NZ, in the wake of last year’s “menopausal hen’s party” Grumpy Old Women, in which the trio also starred. The style and tone of these populist shows is very apparent in Sex Drive, and Brophy and Rutherford head up the cast of six.

Directed by Jane Waddell, it is fun in parts and reveals some home truths about women’s lives in others while clearly expounding its message that women are entitled to sexual pleasure, be it achieved with a partner or by their own hands. While few would dispute that and most would embrace it, in the real world it is easier said than done, especially for women ‘of a certain age’ whose upbringing has not been so liberal.    

Prematurely widowed Sylvie (Geraldine Brophy), unhappily married English immigrant Chrissy (Emma Kinane) and unlucky-in-love Dawn (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford) work together on a chicken processing production line under the thumb of sleazy Gordy (Tim Spite), while God-fearing Lynette (Kate Harcourt) and her faithful shadow Faye (Nikki MacDonnell) work in the office. They all share the same staff room.

The mundane predictability of their factory-focused lives change when the Cluck Luck Syndicate (Sylvie, Chrissie and Dawn) win $10,000 in a Lotto draw. The women tend to be frivolous in their ideas of how to spend it, but Sylvie’s timid son Lance (Tim Spite), who works for the city council, counsels them to invest it wisely, in a small business enterprise, for example.

The play has started with Sylvie, Chrissie and Dawn confiding – to the audience – their deepest desires regarding romance, love and lust. We have heard about Dawn’s disastrous dating escapades, seen that she fancies Lance, learned that Chrissie’s Terry is a “sexual flop” (and we’re about to discover she had a mistaken ‘moment’ with Gordy which he wants more of) but it is Sylvie who comes up with the idea of a sex shop for women …

They all instantly agree and fall to discussing how best to achieve it with such modest capital. This strikes me as a lost opportunity to canvas a range of responses to such an idea.  Wouldn’t someone being in denial about the importance of sex at all in their lives be representative of quite a few women and allow for some humour of insight beyond the standard puns and sight gags of mainstream sex comedies?

As for Lance being totally at ease with his mother’s plan, even to the extent of being involved … Free thinking on matters of sex is one thing, but when it’s your own mother contemplating something so public …! Again, there is always dramatic and comic potential in putting barriers in the way of a given goal and I am surprised such opportunities to tease out the core theme have been wasted.

Of course there is obvious conflict garnered from Lynette’s megaphone campaign against the suburbs-touring Sex Drive van (which gets somewhat repetitive). While it is also obvious where things are going to progress with the deeply suppressed Faye, Nikki MacDonnell makes her journey to ‘enlightenment’ a high point of the show. And without giving anything away, the final image of Kate Harcourt’s Lynette offers a quantum plot leap that leaves us to imagine how she got there.  

The planting of plot points is often as clunky as the noises off for the clapped-out van (sound designer: John McKay) – a pantomime style solution to why the van never comes on stage (except when it does). Very little arises organically out of the unfolding drama; it feels more like a list of events that’s being ticked off. Gordy, of course, is the baddie who gets his come-uppance.

The underlying problem which Sylvie is hiding, from her son and her colleagues, is compelling if awkwardly placed and the drama does build to a strong point where all seems totally lost. But the means by which Gordy is vanquished comes out of left field – and that whole plot line bears little relevance to the central story and its intentions.

I am tempted to say the problem lies in the hybrid style; with attempting to marry Parry’s dramatic intentions with Agnew’s preferred comic style. But strong emotional truth serves comedy very well – in fact it’s essential – and there is no reason for non-naturalistic theatrical conventions to erode basic credibility; it just places a greater burden on the director and actors to find – and share – those moments of truth effectively. Then there is the question of whether it’s best to throw it at the audience like a custard pie or draw them in by way of internalised emotions and well-wrought subtext.

Geraldine Brophy gets the balance of broadness and truth pretty well right and is the most successful at finding the pitch of the space. Emma Kinnane’s Chrissy is authentic and heart-felt where circumstances allow. Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, however, lays Dawn on with a trowel, treating us (as with Party Girls) as if we are too thick to get it any other way.

Some of the cornier gags might work if they seemed spontaneous from ‘real’ women engaged in a risqué enterprise, but when uttered by actors trying too hard to be funny, they fall very flat. The visual gags with the home-made ‘toys’ are mostly handled well.

Tim Spite contrasts Gordy and Lance with good acting rather than external accoutrements. Kate Harcourt does well with a Lynette who seems two-dimensional most of the time then reveals the humanity beneath. And Nikki MacDonnell puts in a subtly stylised comic performance as Faye that, in and of itself, is exemplary.  

Andrew Foster’s large off-white set design, lit by Ulli Briese, captures the sterile factory feel perfectly with its steel girder pillars complete with warning stripes (for fork-lift drivers, presumably), moveable stainless steel benches and small boss’s office at the rear. At its most cavernous it is acoustically unforgiving but the translucent white curtains, drawn across the whole space to denote we have moved to other locales around Wellington, alleviate the problem.

A song composed by Michael Nicholas Williams for the finale affirms the broad comic and celebratory style. It seems curmudgeonly, in the aftermath, to worry about it … but something’s not right. Am I picking nits or trying to identify an underlying fundamental problem? It’s hard to put my finger on it but I’m thinking it has something to do with the extraordinary lack of intimacy in a play that is essentially about very intimate matters.

On a final note, as we step into a mild Saturday night, I hear a tinkling and expect to see a tribe of Hare Krishnas appear from the nearby FanZone.  But no, the ever creative Gareth Farr has gathered a clutch of post-show revellers and is tuning up their champagne flutes with his d.vice gift, reinventing the Vibraphone.  


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Sex Drive cruises in fourth gear but finally hits turbo

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 17th Oct 2011

The funniest scene in Sex Drive is the finale when this rambling and not exactly subtle comedy suddenly explodes like a fizzing bottle of champagne. At times it seemed that the traditional cheeky sit-com jokes and situations and its one or two flaccid moments were unlikely to provide a satisfactory climax. The first night audience was ecstatic.

Though structured on a How to Succeed in Business manual as well as the problems in the private lives of the three female protagonists, the underlying thrust of the comedy is that women should be able to lead their lives, particularly their sex lives, for pleasure and free from any guilt, shame and embarrassment that society and male attitudes have traditionally imposed upon them.

The three women all work in a chicken processing factory and when their Lucky Clucky Chicken Plucking Syndicate wins Lotto they discover that their dreams will not come true because they won only $10,000. They eventually work up a scheme to make money by pooling their winnings and starting up a mobile sex shop with home-made sex toys. 

They have to overcome the machinations of the factory boss (Tim Spite) and the nosey, neighbouring bible-bashers (Kate Harcourt/Nikki MacDonnell) and the restrictions placed on local trading in the suburbs by the Wellington City Council. Fortuitously Sylvie (Geraldine Brophy), the power-house of the trio, has a son, Lance (Tim Spite), who works for the Council and he is also a dab hand at truck maintenance. 

The other two women, Chrissy (Emma Kinane) and Dawn (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford), as well as Sylvie, are good with their hands and soon they are making such intriguing items as Peek-a-Boo Panties, Bonking Butterflies and Post-Coital Lollipops as well as importing many mechanical devices and silicone dildos, one type of which is called Dick Whittington who loves his Pussy, which reminiscent of the level of humour from Are You Being Served

Andrew Foster has created an amazing streamlined and cavernous factory setting that easily allows for multiple locations, though by using the entire Circa stage the actors’ voices at times get lost as a great deal of the action takes place mid-stage. Jane Waddell’s production has some inspired moments such as Kate Harcourt and Nikki MacDonnell’s tandem walks across the stage. The cast of regular Circa actors are in fourth gear for the drive and get into fifth gear for the finale.   


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