Queens Wharf Square, Wellington

16/03/2016 - 19/03/2016

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2016

Production Details

“Turns the notion of theatre and the everyday inside out … a pure, open-hearted, complex and breathtaking production” – The Sydney Morning Herald

This ingenious theatrical gem unfolds amid the pedestrian traffic of the city. On a raised seating bank with individual sets of headphones, the audience is wired in to an intensely personal drama being played out somewhere in the crowd. One of Australia’s most original theatre companies brings you the story of a drug deal and an existential crisis. 

Under the Sails, outside TSB Bank Arena Queens Wharf, Wellington
Wednesday 16 Mar – Saturday 19 Mar
GA $49.00
Buy tickets
Ticket collection and door sales from Shed 6 

Developed with support from Creative Victoria and Assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council. Initiated through the Victoria Commissions, supported by the Victorian Government, through the Community Support Fund.

Partnered by Springload
With Support From Australian High Commission | CQ Hotels Wellington  

Theatre , Street theatre ,

50 min

Stirring, powerful and transformative

Review by Lena Fransham 18th Mar 2016

The four actors in small metal objects, with director Bruce Gladwin, devised and first performed this show in Melbourne in 2005 and it has since been performed in public places – railway stations, foyers, busy intersections – across the globe. It is now in its 36th season, this being the first time it has come to New Zealand, and it is also the first time all the co-devisors have performed it together.  

Having just taken our tiered seats on Queen’s Wharf, we look out at docks and sheds, a parked helicopter, a stack of kayaks for hire, and everyday Wellington life going on. No actors are visible yet: just the waterfront and passers-by. Headphones on, we observe strolling backpackers, fluoro-clad runners, coffee drinkers al fresco.

A slow, serene melody plays in our ears, a soundtrack that gives these random scenes a sudden, emotive significance (sound design Hugh Covill). Tiny details in the crowd come into focus. Something is very important to the couple talking in the distance. The mother giving her children a ride around the docks in the pedal car is a strangely moving sight. A few walkers give us puzzled glances as they pass, or make a silly gesture for us. This, too, is a fascinating exchange, a kind of illuminating dialogue.

Then we hear a conversation going on. We eventually spot Steve and Gary (excellent performances by Simon Laherty and Sonia Teuben). They slowly move closer as Gary talks in a gravelly voice about how he would lay down his life for his wife and kids. Steve is talking about how he wants a girlfriend, but maybe he’s gay.

Steve’s life is about holding onto things that are valuable for as long as he can, he says. “Everything has a fucking value,” they agree. There are strange, big spaces between lines, lending a weighty gravity to even the most innocuous statement.

Gary receives a call from businessman Alan (Jim Russell), who wants to do a shady deal. Turning up to meet him, Alan really needs Gary to sell him something in a hurry. He is exasperated when Steve holds up the proceedings. Alan’s desperate manoeuvres and the eventual entrance of ‘Change Management’ psychologist Carolyn (Genevieve Morris) are a nicely executed shift in which communication becomes a weapon, subtly packed with paranoid ambiguity and agenda-driven manipulation.

The incongruity of a seated theatre audience plonked in a public thoroughfare establishes the initial intrigue that makes this experience compelling from the beginning. Incongruities continue to generate mystery and tension throughout. The sense of profundity in the slow notes of the musical soundtrack throws everything we see around us into fresh perspective.

The pacing of Gary and Steve’s dialogue is at odds with our expectations, and with the crowd activity on the waterfront. Their intimacy and openness with each other is also somehow startling in the context of gender expectations and the public environment. This contrasts again with the murky motivations of Alan and Carolyn. And all this tension finally reveals its significance with a beautiful, chiming clarity.

Witnessing the interaction of this deeply human, intimate drama with the public life and space around it is like opening a new pair of eyes; stirring, powerful and transformative. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council