Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

06/03/2011 - 08/03/2011

Auckland Fringe 2011

Production Details

Thousands of years ago a Chinese Empress made a magical discovery: SILK. Generations later a woman suffering from unrequited love believes if she can harness its power she will be free. SILK lifts them from their ordinary lives and allows them to grasp for something that’s just out of reach…

This one-woman show – performed by Emma Newborn; directed by Danielle Cormack – combines vibrant storytelling and a multilayered soundscape to show the journey for the perfect man, and the perfect dress… 

We’re a London-based company and have come all the way to Auckland for SILK’s world premiere. We’re also very privileged to have our music provided by star of the Melbourne music scene beatrice. Check out her myspace:

VENUE: The Basement, Lower Greys Ave
DATES & TIMES: Sunday 6thMarch / 4pm | Monday 7thMarch / 7pm | Tuesday 8th March / 5.30pm   

Danielle Cormack
/ Director
Keziah Warner / Writer
Emma Newborn/ Actress 
Beatrice / Musician  

Lyrical, witty, ironic

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 07th Mar 2011

The iridescent quality of silk comes from the prism-like structure of fibres which refract light at different angles and British writer Keziah Warner has produced a shimmering homage to the fabric by approaching her subject from a number of sharply differing viewpoints. 

A mythical story about the origins and history of silk is deftly inter-woven with a wry and humorous tale of a contemporary dress maker who faces redundancy and a broken romance, but hopes to repair her fractured life by constructing a perfectly stitched silk garment.

At times the storytelling is breathtakingly lyrical with sparkling descriptions a lowly seamstress who accidentally discovers the extrusions of the silk worm and goes on to become the Empress of China. Richly poetic writing evokes the intoxicating properties of the fabric with an illuminating digression into the magical properties of Cinderella’s ball gown. [More

This review kindly supported by The James Wallace Arts Trust

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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Elusive metaphor of delicate fabric

Review by Richard Howard 07th Mar 2011

This is one of those plays that might leave you questioning whether or not you truly understood what was going on – perhaps you do and perhaps you don’t.

Emma Newborn performs this solo piece of approximately one hour with guts and confidence, which certainly has to be admired for a relatively young and emerging actor. She serves the script to the best of her current abilities but is not yet fully grounded in the character of the piece and her story.

The story is told overtly by Newborn but it does not flow as it should (like Silk) from a person who actually lives an experience and the consequences. Our sense of disbelief that she is actually this woman in the story she’s telling is not sufficiently suspended. Insufficient character is exposed for the audience to know who she is or to sympathise with her story.

The result is a slight sense of acting by numbers, with transitions from one sequence to another showing the seams of the actor’s process. 

But this play would significantly challenge any actor, with so little character referencing and so much story-telling to do. Danielle Comack as director might valuably have made a stronger demand of Newborn to create and expose the inner life of the characters presented in the piece – which is where the truly interesting story exists, if it exists at all – in this new writing by Keziah Warner. 

What is played in an outer sense, in a story-theatre kind of style, is obvious enough. A youngish woman of uncertain age and character sits in a dimly lit cellar room completing the very last 20 stitches of what is supposedly the finest silk gown with a ten metre train no less, swathed across the work bench and the workroom floor. 

Moving in and out of obsession with the luxuriant quality of the cloth, the origins and miracle of the thread from a lowly worm, and the need to complete the gown perfectly, the woman of no particular place and culture breaks down into her underlying distress of fear and uncertainty; of lost love and her hopes of reconciliation and a happy future, once she has completed the gown to perfection. In fact the gown is a bit of a tatty disjointed old thing that could never be completed perfectly. 

Intertwined through this theme is the story of the Chinese peasant girl who discovered Silk and who, by making and presenting the most beautiful gown ever made to the Emperor of the period, became his wife and Empress of China. 

In both stories the promise of the great value and magical qualities embodied in the Silk fails to deliver the kind of future the two women of different eras had hoped for; nor does it banish them from their increasing sense of isolation and unhappiness.

The music and sound that could easily have enhanced the sense and emotion of the story at times almost drowned out the dialogue and often broke the mood simply because it was intrusive. And a low frequency buzzing could be heard intermittently, to one side of the stage, punctuating the gaps between sound cues. Greater technical subtlety would certainly serve the development of the piece. 

By the end, if not long before, the audience is left to interpret the nuances of the woman’s situation, her psyche and her relationship to working the Silk, and ultimately what the metaphor of the Silk truly means. 

The play itself is very possibly light-weight but nevertheless material with such fine, almost invisible threads needs the most delicate hand to weave a readable pattern and to reveal the subtlety and the full value within. Certain elements of ‘the cloth’ are strong and revealed but ultimately ‘the gown’ is not yet fully stitched and nor does it yet make good wearing.

This review kindly supported by The James Wallace Arts Trust

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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