Drama Christi Studio, Wellington

05/03/2015 - 08/03/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Ever wondered what it would be like to watch two part time criminals stumble their way through a heist and then experience the fall out of said heist? Well those sleepless nights are over, Stay Frosty is a comedy drama play that takes place in a nondescript place where you’re either in or out, there is no middle ground. 

Two part time criminals, Pelly and Hendrick, are set up on a score of their lifetime. Once the heist is done they get to share the spoils between themselves and their boss gets an insurance payout, pretty straight forward… but there is a catch. 

On the way back from the robbery they have to make a stop at rest home and pick someone up from there they must take him to a warehouse where he will nervously await his fate. Our two criminals have a decision to make how badly do they really want in… 

As an audience you will be taken on an emotional rollercoaster of emotions…  Highs lows, love, tears, animal analogies, there is something for everyone. 

The play is written by me, James Atkinson, a first time writer. I am English but have been living in Wellington for a few years now. I had thought about putting a show on at Fringe for a couple of years now and I decided to take the plunge this year.

I had this story in my head for a while now and it has evolved into something completely different. Hopefully everyone will enjoy watching it as much as i have enjoyed writing it (that might be a lie, it’s been mental to write so far, is it too late to pull out…) 

Drama Christi Studio
5th March – 8th March
Tickets $12 (Concession $10)
Tickets are available through Event Finder

Theatre ,


Total lack of dramatic tension

Review by John Smythe 06th Mar 2015

Every now and then a production turns up that makes us realise how much we take basic theatre skills for granted in Wellington. My ‘when in doubt consider the title’ strategy doesn’t help with Stay Frosty. I have no idea what the title signifies from watching the play. (Later, Urban Dictionary tells me it is “a valediction which has come to mean ‘be cool’, but which more properly understood is an admonishment to stay alert and on one’s toes.”  

The publicity suggests it’s a thriller involving two incompetent part-time crims and a botched heist. Anticipating flawed characters whose all-too-human failings produce either broad comedy or an ever-intensifying drama (like Al Pacinos’ breakthrough film Dog Day Afternoon), I arrive feeling warmly disposed to this first play by James Atkinson.

Atkinson also plays his central character, Pelly, an English pub quiz writer who wants a better life, especially when he gets into a relationship with Brooke (Elle Wooton), who seems to equate love with the provision of material wealth. Their opening scene is intriguing and engaging despite, or rather because of, her tantalising game-playing and his insular introversion. Where will they go from here?

Leap to one year later and we’re in an old people’s home where English Jerry (Bill Robinson) is being visited by American Mac (George Klingbeil) in an old people’s home, under the eye of Nurse K (director Suzy Cain replacing the original actor). There is clearly something dodgy about these guys. And Mac has a clearly visible handgun tucked into his belt, which no-one comments on, not even the nurse. So different questions begin to arise …

A scene between Mac and Pelly brings the two scenarios together. There is a murky back-story that materially affects the status of one over the other. And back at what is now the home of Pelly and Brooke, where Pelly and his ‘partner in wannabe crime’ Hendrick (Alexander Garside) meet to plan the heist, Brooke eventually turns out to have a moral compass the others lack.

Given Elle Wooton inhabits her role fully and so draws us into her dilemma, I am left wondering if all the other roles are under-written or whether it is the actors who are responsible for their being two-dimensional and unconvincing.

But what lets the production down most is the total lack of dramatic tension. The heist scene is laughable for all the wrong reasons. Likewise the Retirement Home Scene where Pelly and Hendrick come to get Jerry.

The circumstances are there in the premise and the structure to produce a good play. There are quite a few good lines of dialogue – but it is as if most of the cast and their director think their primary job is to deliver the dialogue and not bump into the furniture. Apart from Wooton, and sometimes Atkinson, they look and sound like actors acting.

Projecting interior location slides on to the backdrop, high enough not to catch shadows and therefore too high to blend into the scene, is a fairly lazy design solution for a multi-scene play. Even so, the flow of the story is impeded by shifting furniture in the semi-gloom; and exercise which could well have been minimised and speeded up with the sort of creative ingenuity we’ve come to take for granted (check out Pupil Zero, for example).

To write it off as hum-drum am-dram would be unfair to many excellent amateur groups. It is reviewed here because it is part of the Fringe and competing with umpteen other shows for your time, attention and money. An opening night audience of friends whooped and applauded, as is the standard, it has to be said, but Stay Frosty just left me cold. 


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