The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch
07/02/2015 - 28/02/2015
Immortality. All it costs is your life.
In the remote mists of Fiordland the Shepherd family run their flock, supplying a hungry world.
Constantly monitored and harassed by unseen aerial drones, Daniel Shepherd is a farmer with a contract to fulfil, a family to shelter, and a conscience which leads him to risk an unthinkable punishment.
Under the looming threat of extinction, the Shepherd family find the line between humanity and inhumanity becoming dangerously blurred.
Award winning New Zealand playwright Gary Henderson (Peninsula, Skin Tight and Home Land) brings us this provocative vision of a world just one step sideways from our own.
Show Sponsor: Hummingbird Coffee
At The Court Theatre
7 – 28 February 2015
6:30pm Mon & Thu;
7:30pm Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat;
2:00pm Matinée Saturday 21 February.
To Book phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz
Daniel Shepherd – Ross McKellar
Susan Shepherd – Donogh Rees
Ruth Shepherd – Irene Wood
Victoria Shepherd – Anoushka Klaus
Jeff Garrett – Jonathan Martin
Thomas Shepherd – Jordan Blaikie
Charlie Hawke – Kim Garrett
Director – Gary Henderson
Set Design – Andrew Foster
Costume Design – Tina Hutchison-Thomas
Lighting Design – Brendan Albrey
AV Design – Andrew Todd
Sound Design – Sean Hawkins
Properties – Anneke Bester
Stage Manager – Jo Bunce
Operator – Darren McKane
Production Manager – Mandy Perry
Manager – Sarah Douglas
Workshop Manager – Nigel Kerr.
Tantalises and startles
Review by Lindsay Clark 08th Feb 2015
A new and commissioned work from a respected New Zealand playwright (Skin Tight, Home Land and Peninsula would be recalled with pleasure by many), is bound to be received with eager attention. An experienced and successful manipulator of stage worlds, Henderson this time ventures into a bold and ‘alternate’ New Zealand where our human exploitation of the natural world and our reluctance to share it is his focus.
The Shepherd family runs a massive and remote station in Fiordland, but it is clear from the outset that this is not the stuff of Country Calendar. The flocks referred to are not your hardy four-footed beasties and the contract the family has to manage them is with a government authority. Even as characters make their initial rain-drenched entrances, the questions about what happens in this wild and isolated environment begin to tease. A sci-fi trail emerges in tantalising snippets of information, with very little let up. It feels at times as if there are too many puzzles to hang on to until the final exposition.
What really drives the play are the family relationships as the five Shepherds and one boyfriend work through a series of startling events which gather momentum and impact as the play develops. It would be unfair to detail them but safe to say that they will be recounted by many who see the production. The contrast between thoroughly naturalistic dialogue and the murky topics it reveals is a hallmark of the play.
It is critical to our acceptance of the fantasy, at least to the point of engaging with it, that we are given a solidly realistic set and technical effects. The production is well served. There are wonderfully effective sound and light combinations marking climactic moments in the plot when it seems all is over, only for a further round of impacts to be engendered. A step too far may have been the ending which, although it resolved an overall concern for humanity as a key idea in the play, for me undermined its unflinching treatment of earlier dilemmas.
Plaudits then to the design team for creating Henderson’s vision in compelling truthfulness. Andrew Foster is responsible for a brilliantly functional set, combining with splendidly evocative lighting and sound from Brendan Albrey and Sean Hawkins respectively. AV design from Andrew Todd provides an essential vehicle not only for the requirements of the script but to mark repeatedly the interruption of family matters with technology establishing not only the real threats of drone surveillance, but also our dependence on the electronic systems of communication /sharing which mark our ‘progress’. Tina Hutchison-Thomas is the clever costume designer, rounding out a talented team.
It rests with the cast to suspend our disbelief and coax us beyond provocation, to feel the weight of Henderson’s questions, if not the perhaps too tidy way the plot is resolved. All meet the challenge with sincerity and skill.
As Daniel, head of the family and the contractor in question, Ross McKellar is a strong presence at all times. His wife, Susan, is played by Donogh Rees with fine spirit and the matriarch Ruth comes briskly alive in the hands of Irene Wood.
Anoushka Klaus takes the demanding role of daughter, Victoria, in her stride, paired well with Jonathan Martin as boyfriend and fellow student, Jeff Garrett. Jordan Blaikie gives us a totally convincing Thomas, the son and technogeek of the family, while Kim Garrett’s entry late in the piece as Charlie Hawke, the operations face of authority, is a challenging one, again handled with authority.
This is serious stuff which, like all worthwhile fantasy, follows deeply human logic in the questions it poses.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer