Hawkes Bay Opera House, Hastings

11/04/2012 - 12/04/2012

Production Details

Theatrecomrades are presenting their third SHORTS production in the Assembly Room at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House on the 11 & 12 April. 

This season the performance space will again involve the re-shaping of an existing space.  For SHORTS one, the supper room became a studio space, for SHORTS two, the stage of the opera house become a black box theatre encompassing the audience and the performer and for the third instalment the Assembly Room will be transformed into a studio space. 

This year the SHORTS plays are:

The Siren Song of Stephen Jay Gould by Benjamin Bettenbender.

The story is of a man that lands on a woman after trying to throw himself off a bridge in a botched suicide attempt. On the quiet riverbank, as he attends to her minor injury, he learns that she too was planning to end her life over a broken heart. An argument ensues over the relative seriousness of their respective losses, the nature of existence, and the harmful effects of the essays of biologist Stephen Jay Gould. Will this unexpected collision lead each of them back to the dark place where they started, or will they start anew? 

This play is directed by Megan Peacock and starring Wesley Dowdell who starred in Outrageous Fortune as Aaron Spiller the lovable ginger haired bogan and a local talent Edina McFarlane. 

The second short play is Falling In Like by Neil Labute, directed by Sally Richards and starring another local talent Andy Brigden.

A woman waits “Wondering what I’m doing here. I’m waiting.”  Labute pushes the boundaries of love, exploring the extent of what society will accept as opposed to what the heart will desire.

The final piece for this production is a 10 mins short film titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer, written and directed by Sally Richards.

Theatrecomrades fulfils its philosophy of employing professional actors to work along side established local actors to provide a challenging theatre experience. “We are very excited to have Wesley Dowdell come to Hawke’s Bay to work with us, he is an accomplished actor with a stream of films, TV and theatre productions behind him.” 

SHORTS is bite sized theatre of the unexpected.  All performances will be followed by a Question & Answer session with the actors and directors.

Hawke’s Bay Opera House
Wed 11 April @ 6pm & 8pm
& Thurs 12 April @ 7pm

The Siren Song of Stephen Jay Gould by Benjamin Bettenbender.
Directed by Megan Peacock.
Starring Wesley Dowdell and Edina McFarlane

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer.
Short film written and directed by Sally Richards. 
Audio engineering by Gil Eva Craig.
Featuring the voices of Patrick Davies, Sam Sneddon, Andrew McKenzie and Laurel Collins

Falling in Like by Neil Labute.
Directed by Sally Richards.
Featuring Andy Brigden

Interesting, challenging, engaging and entertaining

Review by Kirsty van Rijk 12th Apr 2012

Theatre in the provinces is often a mixed bag – we get well financed shows (ballet; comedians; tribute acts) but see less of the ‘art’ of theatre or the experimental theatre than larger centres because of our small populations. Fortunately for Hawke’s Bay, Theatre Comrades produces Shorts, an annual presentation of three short plays that has, in the past, included Brecht, Pinter LaBute et al. A little taste of higher forms of theatre than our usual fare.

This year’s Shorts presents The Siren Song of Stephen Jay Gould by Benjamin Bettenbender, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer by Sally Richards, and Falling in Like by Neil LaBute.

Megan Peacock directs Wesley Dowdell (last seen on Outrageous Fortune) and Edina McFarland in The Siren Song of Stephen Jay Gould. Peacock’s direction is confident but light-handed and suits the intelligent yet playful piece perfectly.

Dowdell plays his American character with unspoiled attention to timing and detail, his accent and timing faultless. He leaves us with no doubt that his implausible suicidal character is, in fact, a real person, convincing us to support him in his bid for death, falling in love with his hapless fumbling philosophies. He is a delight.

In a short play we need to believe in the characters quickly and McFarland, in her first straight drama role, shows promise, but does not quite convince in her role, although her vocal ability is very good. I look forward to seeing her grow in confidence.

The second play, or piece, is an experimental play penned and directed by Sally Richards, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer. Voice-overs provide the actors’ parts and the visual is a large screen showing various shots of water (and a seagull). The play is about the rise and fall of the first man to swim the English channel in 1875, Captain Matthew Webb. Webb was successful in swimming the channel but his later life lead him to become an exhibit in a carnival of freaks, the ‘half fish-half man’. 

The play is uneven, with repetitive sections of dialogue that could be comedic but the underlying sadness of the story humour an uncomfortable fit. The characters are underdeveloped and it is difficult to feel any empathy for Webb as he is a disembodied voice with few lines.  

The third ‘Short’ is Falling in Like by Neil LaBute and here Richards is playing to her obvious strengths as a director. Andy Brigden is wonderful as the lonely woman waiting for her ‘friend’ – the man she is, she professes, “in like with”, although we begin to doubt the true feelings of both her and her friend.

Brigden engages us completely with a generous, simple, warm and completely convincing character. The play is funny, sweet, poignant – Richards and Brigden are working from an excellent script and fulfil its potential. This is a truly entertaining and emotive performance.

So, at least in this province, we have interesting, challenging, engaging and entertaining theatre to look forward from our comrades Richards and Peacock. I don’t believe it has to be perfect, and, although the middle play was not to my liking, I do like that something new was put there for me to try.  


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