The Forge at The Court Theatre, Christchurch
03/04/2008 - 03/05/2008
"Tom’s hands were strong to the plough, Elizabeth’s lips were red…"
Charged with intensity and desire, two lovers recount a life amongst the rustic South Canterbury plains. Be taken on a journey through triumph, loss, pleasure and pain.
Inspired by Denis Glover’s poem The Magpies, Gary Henderson’s stirring opus of yearning and memory won a Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, and tours the South Island as part of The Court on Tour before its season in The Forge.
This masterpiece of New Zealand theatre is humorous, poignant and stirring: an experience rich with sensuality and emotion. Share in a timelessly passionate – and powerful – love story.
3 April – 3 May 2008
Monday to Saturday 8pm
Starring Sia Trokenheim and Matt Hudson
1hr, no interval
Accomplished with rare distinction
Review by Lindsay Clark 05th Apr 2008
More than a decade after its acclaimed appearance here and in the wide world, this little gem is all the more welcome and its understated account of love for wife, for husband, for land, for country, is all the more rare an encounter.
No glitzy stuff here, nor facile entertainment. Conveyed with the same simple poetry as its inspiration, Denis Glover’s much-loved poem The Magpies, the play relies on fearless commitment from the actors and sensitive treatment from the production team. Both are confidently delivered and the play emerges as a compelling experience.
In the first instance, we are privy to the remembered lives of Glover’s Tom and Elizabeth, the testing war years and their aftermath, the joy they find in each other. Constantly we are reminded of the landscape, where wide rivers roll. It is ‘a wide, sunlit country to set ghosts free’.
Without sentimentality, the intertwining of two small lives is faultlessly developed. Ross Gumbley ‘s direction keeps all clear and as unpretentious as the couple before us.
We are faced with Elizabeth’s dying hours, adding poignancy to the sense of loss the couple already face in their bitter experiences with the farm. This is not to imply melancholy or even wistfulness. Much teasing, laughter, provocation and retaliation flickers through the material and the physical expression of the relationship is quite extraordinary.
It is, in turn, playful, violent, sensual and beautiful, choreographed by Sandra Rasmussen to evocative music composed by Luke Di Somma.
Visually too, the play is true to its uncluttered narrative. Julian Southgate’s functional, spare design manages to be suggestive of the emotional as well as the literal territory of the play. Lit to Josh Major’s design, with his soundscapes confirming the natural world, the space can be everywhere and nowhere. It is South Canterbury but it is also an avenue to other realities.
The actors inhabit their roles as if they knew no other life. Sia Trokenheim is lithe and spontaneous as Elizabeth. Her total conviction is matched by a beautifully judged performance from Matt Hudson as Tom. Both have the ability and control to refine their roles with telling detail. In his walk- on fragment at the end of the play, Jim Hudson as the real time Tom endows its last moments with simple and very moving dignity.
One hour is not a long time to reflect the essentials of two lifetimes, with all the human and social implications they bring. This production accomplishes just that and with rare distinction.
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