Sunday Roast

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

22/03/2011 - 24/03/2011

Dunedin Fringe 2011

Production Details

Dunedin audiences will find a lot to laugh about in an upcoming comedy about a dysfunctional farming family who take in a teenage foster son a few short weeks before their (traditionally fraught) annual family dinner.

Written by Thomas Sainsbury, the show is a laugh-a-minute window into a family’s quirks and foibles – with a dark undercurrent. The script was first premiered in Wellington in 2009 where it impressed audiences and critics alike. 

Thomas Sainsbury is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and exciting playwrights, and is also a co-creator of the current TV3 sitcom, starting 10pm on February 11th. Super City showcases Sainsbury’s talent for writing zingy one liners and inventing memorable characters. It also showcases the talents of chameleonic actress Madeline Sami, who plays the six zany main characters, who are all inhabitants of New Zealand’s diverse supercity Auckland.

Actors playing multiple roles is a trademark of Sainsbury’s work, and it is exploited to full comedic effect in Sunday Roast, the eight roles are divided between just two actors, who are required to transition seamlessly between their characters – sometimes in the same scene! 

The two actors, both still students, met while performing in Otago University’s popular annual Capping Show, and relished the opportunity to band together to portray the bizarre cast of archetypal kiwis who feature in the world of Sunday Roast

Caitlin McNaughton, who plays three generations of women in the same family says, “I have a lot of affection for these characters even though the first time I read the script I was shocked! Playing multiple characters is a workout, but a real blast!” 

Alex Wilson plays five characters, including the brand new foster son of the family, and could relate a lot to the situations the characters were in. He says, “Rupert, the foster son, is a lot like me at that age. I feel sorry for him, ending up at the Giles’ Farm! At first the characters seem normal, dysfunctional people, but the longer you spend with them, the more you realise the truth – this family is totally crazy!” 

Director Paul Rothwell describes Sunday Roast as a “very funny, very dark satire on middle-class New Zealand family values.” Despite being tinged with horror, he thinks audiences will find a lot to like about the “madcap romp through two busy weeks in the life of an unusual, yet somehow archetypal, family.” 

Sunday Roast
Tuesday 22nd – Thursday 24th March at 7pm 
Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin.
Bookings can be made by phone on 03 477 8597 or 0800 4TICKET
or online at
Door Sales Available
Tickets cost $13 full and $10 concession and groups 6+.  

Horror-flavoured comedy a matter of taste

Review by Sharon Matthews 23rd Mar 2011

Sunday Roast first premiered in Wellington in 2009, written by Thomas Sainsbury, one of New Zealand’s most prolific and exciting playwrights. This production, which is directed by Paul Rothwell, is a reprise of a successful season at Otago University’s Allen Hall.

Having impressed both audiences and critics in 2010, the newly formed Dunedin based collective, The Alpacas, decided to take a chance and present this play to a wider audience as part of Dunedin’s Fringe Fest.

Sunday Roast is best described as a very black comedy; a twisted satire on middle-class New Zealand family values. It is a fast-paced and funny farce about a rural family, sibling rivalry, and meat. The feather-light plot follows the members of a dysfunctional farming family who take in a teenage foster son a few short weeks before the family gathers for their traditional monthly roast dinner. 

I have to confess, I don’t like the play. The rich prey on the poor? Really? Money doesn’t make functional families? Gosh. Who would have guessed?!

So for me, the success of this production is solely dependant upon the energy and enthusiasm of the performers involved. Actors Caitlin McNaughton and Alex Wilson – using just two plain chairs in a blank space between them play eight characters and three generations in the same family. Actors playing multiple roles are a trademark of Sainsbury’s work, and it is exploited to full comedic effect here, as McNaughton and Wilson jump seamlessly between their characters, sometimes in the same scene.

Without the support of costumes or props the actors are entirely dependant on voice and body posture to capture the individuality of their characters. McNaughton plays Giles family matriarch Leanne, who assuages her guilt at the family wealth by taking underprivileged boys into their homestead; daughter Courtenay, who has some very very scary anger issues; and 13 year-old granddaughter Tamsin, whose compassionate side is balanced by an equally frightening precocious sexual neediness. 

Wilson nicely balances McNaughton’s vigorous characterisation, by channelling wide-eyed innocent 14 year-old Rupert, the fostered underprivileged boy at the centre of the story, and the ageing and ailing patriarch, Phillip. Wilson also portrays the other daughter, Diane “criane Diane” with her huge self-esteem issues rooted in ancient sibling rivalry; the molly-coddled Giles son, Anthony aged 31, still living at home and claiming to be a cyberspace businessman; and narcissistic son-in-law Francois, a wannabe model and proud ‘beauty-mobile’ proprietor. 

Working in the Globe Theatre has, ironically, strengthened these performances, as the depth of the stage and lack of space in the wings gives the performers no down time, and no place to hide from the audience. The second time around the ending still packs a punch, although I won’t spoil it for you by describing it. However, I was fascinated by the response of the audience, in which laughter and enthusiastic clapping was mixed with shudders.

It seems that given the opportunity to re-rehearse and re-present this piece, McNaughton and Wilson have risen to the challenge, mixing in a larger handful of horror into this strongly flavoured comedy. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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