Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

09/03/2012 - 31/03/2012

Production Details

In a small shabby boarding house at a coastal resort lives a man, his wayward wife and their boarder who has been with them for a year, he is a strange chap, unkempt and in flight from we know not what.

Enter an even stranger sleekLondon/Jewish man and his muscle bound Irish henchman. The wife accommodates them with a room and then they decide that it is time for their boarder to have a birthday party.

At the party she arranges, the new guests play cruel games with the boarder, break his glasses, make a buffoon of him, and push him over the psychotic precipice. The next morning he is reduced to a gibbering idiot and meekly leaves with them.

“Fascinating capacity to be menacing, ominous and evocative of some dark and threatening doom.” – The New York Post

“The most interesting play to be seen on Broadway” – The New York Times

“Comedy of menace” – The Times

“Masterly work of drama” – The London Theatre

at the Musgrove Studio, University of Auckland, Alfred Street, Auckland Central.
Opening: Friday the 9th of March 2012
Ending: Saturday 31st of March 2012
Shows: Tuesday – Saturday @ 7:30pm, Sundays @ 4pm

Tickets: $30 – $25
Bookings on 09 308 2383 or @  

Starring Darien Takle, Kevin Wilson, Joseph Rye, Jonathan Allen, Michael Lawrence, Fern Sutherland 

design by John Parker
lighting design by Michael Craven

2hrs 40mins, incl. 2 intervals

Pinter’s Party a refreshing outing

Review by Janet McAllister 12th Mar 2012

At first glance, the John Parker set for this excellent (potent pause) production looks merely 1950s realist. However – fittingly for a Harold Pinter play – not all is as it seems: the lamps suspended over the action are shaped like hand grenades. What we call “conventional” is shown to lead to dangerous, humorous and strange places.

An older, “simple” couple host a younger, sneering boarder (Joseph Rye) – surrogate son, object of desire or both? – who seems extremely worried when two mysterious strangers ride into town. [More


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Solid instability

Review by Nik Smythe 10th Mar 2012

(potent pause) Productions’ latest offering is Pinter’s 1958 classic, over half a century old but somehow still as bewilderingly relevant as ever.

John Parker’s set design dutifully recreates a cosy fifties coastal English boarding house: wooden dining table by the kitchen area with sliding hatch, window on the rear wall looking onto something resembling tree shadows, sideboard and coat rack stage right by the front door, armchair and lampshade stage left in front on the stairs leading up to the bedrooms.  Rich green wallpaper surrounds them on every wall (even the stairs!), beset with various framed artworks, the largest of course being young Queen Elizabeth.

Darien Takle plays Meg Bowles, your quintessential British working class dear-old-thing, maddeningly gregarious and dotty as a currant bun.  Her deckchair attendant husband Petey (Kevin Wilson) has a gruff demeanour, but is essentially gentle and long-suffering, in contrast to the more superficially friendly but short-wicked chaps soon to appear.

Actually, Joseph Rye’s tortured concert pianist – or is he? – Stanley Webber, the only lodger in the house, is certainly short-wicked, but with very little in the way of pretensions to friendliness.  With a nut-cracking jaw and a tightly-wound nervous system, Stan spins on a bottle-cap from grumpy non-morning person to effusive sweet-talker to explosions of bitter rage, and that’s only in the first act. 

Fern Sutherland’s saucy modern young girl-next-door, Lulu, is the fifties equivalent of a chav, flaunting her desirable attributes albeit with a mildly cynical air; until she’s had a couple that is. 

Rounding off the dramatis personae are Michael Lawrence as the menacingly affable Goldberg, and Jonathan Allen as poker-faced Irish tough, with a curious OCD habit, McCann, in town for the night on business and looking for a room – or is it actually Mr Webber they’re really after?

The title refers to Meg deciding its Stan’s birthday and buying him a present to celebrate.  She takes very little convincing from McCann and Goldberg to throw a party in honour of the special occasion, despite the shell-shocked Stan’s defeated protests that it’s not his birthday at all.  Tensions come to a head with a power failure during a spirited game of blind-man’s buff, leading us into the third act with a pervasive, spooky air of mystery…

Auckland’s theatre patriarch Raymond Hawthorne directs his accomplished cast over three solidly unstable acts of increasing uncertainty in which the more each character explains themselves, the less sense they make. 

One could write pages (indeed, people have), analysing the ambiguities and meanings behind the numerous contradictions and inconsistencies that occur in the course of the The Birthday Party.  How has Meg run out of cornflakes in act three, when she’d bought a new packet only the day before?  Goldberg’s name is allegedly Nat, so why was he called Simon by his late wife, and Billy by his father?  Et cetera.

Compared to the plays of Beckett or Ionesco, for instance, Pinter’s work has – ostensibly at least – more of a grounding in reality.  In a way having this basis that we can relate to more closely than with a more pure example of absurdism, serves to actually increase the sense of twisted eccentricity. 

My own personal position on the recent hotly-debated issue of Kiwi-scripted theatre is essentially on the proudly patriotic side, whereby our unique voice ought to be thriving force, these days more than ever.  I’m not the least bit anti-global theatre, but I agree we need to be mindful in continuing to promote and nurture our own world-class playwrights both established and up-and-coming.

However, such issues don’t tend to enter my head at the time when witnessing such an engaging, by the book rendition of a proven (though controversial in its heyday) classic from the late Mr Pinter, still to all intents and purposes my personal favourite playwright.  


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