SPIRIT HOUSE - A Ghost Story

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

16/02/2017 - 05/03/2017

Production Details


Nightsong Productions and Theatre Stampede with Auckland Live present:

SPIRIT HOUSE – A Ghost Story

Written by Carl Bland. Directed by Ben Crowder and Carl Bland

 Iconic NZ actor and screen legend Ian Mune returns to the stage to star in one of the most anticipated theatrical events of the summer. From award-winning theatre makers Carl Bland and Ben Crowder comes the premiere of SPIRIT HOUSE playing at the Herald Theatre from 16 February – 5 March.

Two artists occupy the same studio in Nong Khai: one in 1932, the other in 2017. Yet both are visited by the same woman. Who is she? What does she want? And how can she exist in two times at once? Both men will be forced to come to terms with what they have been trying oh-so-hard to forget.

Although a regular on stage and screen it’s been 17 years since Mune has taken on the leading role in such an intimate yet epic NZ story. Alongside the mighty Mune, in this haunting and startling theatrical event are acting heavyweights Mia Blake (The Book of Everything, Angels in America), Tim Carlsen (One Day Moko, Dirty Laundry) and a giant 6-foot cat called Claude.

SPIRIT HOUSE takes audiences on a journey to Thailand where ghosts are a normal part of life. Most homes have a Spirit House in the garden where past inhabitants of the land are given a daily gift of food and drink.  It is in this world that this thrilling new take on a ghost story takes place. Backed by the company’s trademark visual storytelling, expect bodies to emerge from water, cobras to haunt their victims, housecats to attack. SPIRIT HOUSE will be vivid, wild, entertaining, dramatic, beautiful, funny, provocative and will see this visionary company yet again attempt to stage the impossible.

Writer and director Carl Bland along with collaborator and director Ben Crowder have been working together on some remarkable work over the last decade. Their March 2016 NZ Festival and the sell-out Auckland Arts Festival Season of Te Pō (based on the work and life of Bruce Mason) received outstanding reviews and had audiences spellbound.

“…I want to rack up as many reasons as possible why you should see this show, because it’s a masterpiece.” – METRO MAGAZINE

Prior to this presentation, alongside the late Peta Rutter, the pair delivered an extraordinary experience with the much-lauded 360: a theatre of recollections. Completely sold out in Auckland and Wellington, this outstanding production enclosed the audience inside a proverbial bullring as action including pyrotechnics and giant puppets unfolded around them. It was for this work and their first production of Head in 2005 that earned the collaborators a Chapman Tripp Award, Auckland Theatre Excellence Award and the Hackman Cup People’s Choice Award for Most Original Production. 

“…When you hear gasps of astonishment around you in a theatre, then realise one of them was your own, you know that what you are seeing is something remarkable.” – CAPITAL TIMES


Carl Bland’s SPIRIT HOUSE plays at the Herald Theatre Thursday 16 February – Sunday 5 March as part of Auckland Fringe 21st February – 12th March 2017.  Book at www.ticketmaster.co.nz

Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm. Tuesday and Wednesday at 7pm. Sundays at 4pm.


Cast: Ian Mune, Mia Blake & Tim Carlsen 

Designers: John Verryt, Elizabeth Whiting, Rachel Marlow & John Gibson

Theatre ,

Ghost in the Shell

Review by Nathan Joe 23rd Feb 2017

Frequent collaborators Carl Bland and Ben Crowder join forces once again, co-directing Bland’s latest play Spirit House. Not unlike their previous work Te Pō, a mystery drives the narrative. But, where in that play the stakes and plot hinged on the metatheatrical, Spirit House centers on the metaphysical. Two men, situated in the same art studio in Thailand, are connected by their shared space and, perhaps, the same woman, yet separated by the sands of time.

Typical of Bland and Crowder, the play toys with an absurdist sense of humour, often using levity to undercut the potentially dark or violent subject matter. [More


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Mune back in theatrical delight

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 20th Feb 2017

The component parts of Carl Bland’s surreal mystery play present a cornucopia of theatrical delights: There is a return to the boards by stage and screen legend Ian Mune; an enchanting display of puppetry and special effects; exquisite live music on an array of traditional Thai instruments; the haunting presence of a masked cat and a time-bending storyline that boldly skips across the boundary separating the seen and the unseen.

Holding it all together is a riddle that hinges on the identity of a woman who visits a remote Thai studio occupied by a famous New Zealand painter during the 1930s and in the present day by a conceptual artist who is developing a project on the legacy of the earlier occupant. [More


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A magical evening of invigorating and spiritual beauty

Review by Alistair Browning 18th Feb 2017

I’ve just seen one of the most richly complex, multi-layered, deeply challenging and fully satisfying pieces of theatre I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.  Oh, and funny, let me not forget to mention that it is very funny.  

A spirit house is a shrine to the protective spirit of a place that is found in the Southeast Asian countries of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.

Karl Bland’s wonder-full script for Spirit House transcends conventional theatre modes while incorporating many – naturalism, fantasy, melodrama, absurdism, mime, puppetry and slapstick – to provide a magical evening of invigorating and spiritual beauty that is all too rare in New Zealand theatre.

I thank the gods for his writing and for the courage of Auckland Live, Fringe, Theatre Stampede, Nightsong Productions, producer Shane Bosher, as well as directors Ben Crowder and Karl Bland, that we are gifted this extraordinary work. I am challenged to do justice to it in this review. 

“Look at me. Keep looking at me.  Keep me in your sight.  Because nothing remains of what we see.”  

Two artists occupy the same studio in Nong Kai, Thailand. Ian Mune is extraordinary as Charles, a mature painter in the early twentieth century, trying to capture moments in time, in his memory, in his mind, on canvas with oil and pigment.  I heard Karl talking to Kim Hill on RNZ, saying he likes to see older actors on stage because “they bring history”.  Ian also brings endurance (he works bloody hard), decades of stage experience and great technique.

In the twenty-first century, we see Steven, played by Tim Carlsen, less an artist than a brand, trying to produce commercially viable work in a more philistine world, while suffering crises of confidence, of conscience, of sanity.  Tim is an actor of physical presence and intelligence and is always a pleasure to watch.

Mia Blake is translucent as Sonia, a facilitator in both their worlds; a muse, if you like; a provocateur, an inspiration. And expiration. Mia deals exquisitely well with the abrupt time switches and the magical appearances and disappearances,  and is a perfect conduit between us and the world of the the room in Thailand.

And then there is Claude the cat, furry friend to all. Or is that purry foe? Don’t be clawed by Claude!  Min Kim realises him superbly with great physicality and a tremendous mask from Main Reactor. 

But whose world are we in?  Charles’s mind and memories, Steven’s desperate strategies or Sonia’s other-world of light and shadow? Or are they all a figment of feline imagination? 

With a welter of words and images, we explore fantasy and reality, memory and desire. What is real? What is wishful thinking, what is projection?  Where does self-examination become self regard, reflection become narcissism? There is so much to absorb, it’s impossible to intellectualise; best just to let the effect accumulate and move you.

This richness becomes further enhanced by a beautiful set, designed by John Verryt, Rachel Marlow’s subtle and effective lighting, John Gibson’s music and sound design and, most evocatively, live music played on stage by Pongsaporn Upani, using traditional Thai instruments, vocal effects and a theremin.

This is a heartily reccomended production, richly rewarding and quite unlike anything else you’re likely to see on stage anywhere else at the moment.


Editor February 23rd, 2017

Here is the RNZ link to Alistair Browning’s chat with Jesse Mulligan about Spirit House

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