11/07/2015 - 17/07/2015
Stealing Games steals attention in a captivating story for stage.
Capital E National Theatre for Children presents an action packed and high-paced production of Stealing Games written by Gary Henderson these July school holidays. From Monday 13 – Friday 17 July 2015 at Hannah Playhouse in Wellington, families with children aged 8 and over will experience a striking story about the price of friendship.
When an accident in a playground between four close friends leads to a media frenzy, unsupervised playing is outlawed. As they’re forced to play in private ‘Playparks’ the friends find themselves divided and facing moral and personal challenges for the first time. When Judd decides to take matters into his own hands, and confronts the person who is taking his friends away, he discovers a secret motivation.
Join four actors playing a series of striking roles as they unravel the drama in this highly physical and compelling play featuring slick choreography, punchy percussive composition and perfectly pitched humour for young audiences.
Gary Henderson’s plays have been professionally produced around New Zealand, in South Africa, Australia, Great Britain, Canada and the United States. His most well-travelled play is Skin Tight which won a coveted Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival during a sell-out season in 1998. Gary has also directed the work of other New Zealand playwrights, and has served many times as a director and mentor in the development of scripts by new writers. From 2006 to 2012 he taught playwriting at Unitec’s School of Performing and Screen Arts in Auckland. Gary was the 2013 recipient of the Playmarket Award, which recognises a playwright who has made a significant artistic contribution to theatre in New Zealand.
Creative Producer of Capital E National Theatre for Children, Marianne Taylor says, “Stealing Games encourages children to think politically and critically. They are encouraged to explore what motivates the characters’ choices and actions and ask important questions like, what are the values behind decisions that affect everybody?”
Stealing Games stars Jack Buchanan (Mr McGee & the Biting Flea, 2014), Angela Fouhy (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2014), Elle Wootton (The Road That Wasn’t There, 2014) and Joe Dekkers-Reihana (Sky Dancer, 2013). With original set and costume design by Brian King and lighting design by Phil Blackburn, the show is a visual feast.
Under the direction of award winning actor and director Jonathon Hendry, Stealing Games will be a must see production. Since graduating from Toi Whakaari:NZ Drama School in 1988, Jonathon now directs works at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School including leading productions of Sondheim’s Company and Assassins, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Love’s Labour’s Lost and his own adaptation of Buchner’s seminal work Woyzeck for the 2015 graduation season.
Theatre , Children’s ,
Stimulating at every level
Review by John Smythe 12th Jul 2015
Having premiered Gary Henderson’s superbly scripted Stealing Games in 2009, it is certainly time to bring it back for a new cohort of 8-12 year olds. And anyone who saw it at a young age would get heaps more out of seeing it again, no matter how old they are now. Because Henderson never talk down to his target audiences everyone will feel a connection with his plays.
My review from six years ago summarises the plot so no need to repeat it in detail here. Jonathon Hendry dynamically directs a whole new cast on the same Brian King set (King’s costume designs too) with Phil Blackburn’s lighting and Murray Hickman’s sound design and composition. Helen Winchester returns as choreographer, with dance coach Luke Hanna. And this time there is a flash new projection and animation design, by Charley Draper.
All four actors capture the nuances of prepubescent childhood behaviour perfectly, compelling our empathy every step of the way. With minimal costume changes they slip into a range of adult characters, sometimes quite highly caricatured but always to the point, and entertaining with it. Their physicality is fantastic throughout. And as an ensemble they paint an unnervingly recognisable picture of the media in full-on ‘beat up’ mode.
Angela Fouhy plays Abby, the girl who gets a bleeding nose and a cracked septum in the High Mountain phase of a game of Four Square. Her transition from being carefree to tormented by guilt is totally convincing and salutary. By contrast her hard-line Barbara, CEO of the financially troubled PlayTime Inc, insists we understand the need to turn the company’s fortunes around. Her stern Policewoman demands we have a good think about the way she thinks. And there is pragmatic compassion in her brief appearance as nurse to Celia (see below).
Joe Dekkers-Reihana has a winning charm as Judd, who becomes isolated from his friends because his family is not as well-off as the others. He can’t afford a pass even to the cheaper PlayPark they are obliged to patronise, let alone the flash one for the more privileged kids. Dekkers-Reihana is equally compelling as PlayTime’s marketing guy Frank, who saves the company and everyone’s jobs by inventing the PlayPark concept which becomes compulsory, in-effect, thanks to Barbara’s political manoeuvring. But Frank is in no way a two-dimensional capitalist.
Elle Wootton’s lively Nicole is one of the gang until the divisive nature of the PlayPark regime reveals her class-conscious conditioning. Her strict but kindly school teacher seems to be an octogenarian but her attempts to be fair in her dealings come over well. Wooton also plays PlayTime’s HR Manager Penelope, a PlayPark supervisor and investigative journalist Felicity Fiction with flair. As Celia, her appearance in a wheelchair is a sobering game-changer.
Jack Buchanan’s Brendan comes over as the most intelligent and articulate, as he thinks things through logically and questions those in authority. But when he takes justice into his own hands, things don’t turn out to be as clear-cut as he thought. Buchanan also brings delightful distinction to Abby’s Father and Simon, Finance Manager for PlayTime.
What makes Stealing Games gripping for young and old alike is the readily recognisable storyline, the ever-changing balance of who seems to be right or wrong, and the way this particular story resonates into a wider world. The plethora of follow-up topics for enquiring minds, encouraged by parents, teachers and care-givers, confirm its value as a stimulating play at every level.
Given it contributes enormously to the development of children, good citizens and a better society all round, Stealing Games is also highly recommended for local body and national politicians, police and community workers.
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