Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

12/07/2018 - 21/07/2018

Production Details

Red Scare’s latest musical: a dark rock fairytale 

The Bone Thief is the latest musical by the prolific Red Scare Theatre Company (nominated for Most Promising Newcomer, Wellington Theatre Awards 2017). After their hit comedy Movers, this new work is a complete change of pace: a rock fairytale with a streak of horror running through it. The Bone Thief takes place in an old ex-mining town where a monster preys on local children. Young Aletta (Kiya Basabas) lives a life of privilege, but a friendship with an orphan boy (Devon Neiman) and a love of stories leads her on a hunt for the monster.

The Bone Thief reunites the founders of Red Scare, Cassandra Tse and Bruno Shirley, who worked together on Red Scare’s first shows Right Dishonourable, Bloodlines and Battle Hymn. Artistic Director and writer Tse says, “When Bruno first pitched The Bone Thief to me, I was drawn to the timelessness of the story, which felt lived-in and ancient to the extent that I was surprised to learn that it was not a pre-existing piece of folklore.”

Tse’s interest in folklore and storytelling can be seen threaded throughout her works, from Long Ago, Long Ago’s Audrey’s obsession with using narrative tropes to pick apart the events of her own life, to Under’s use of unreliable narrator. “With The Bone Thief” says Tse “it’s given me the opportunity to create a folkloristic work of my own that feels like an authentic campire tale… as I explored the story further, I wanted to focus on how I could use this narrative to explore class tension and working class exploitation. It may be a fairytale but it’s grounded in real world problems”.

The music of The Bone Thief is something quite different from what Red Scare has done before, and they’ve secured microphones for performers to ensure the band can play as loud as possible. Shirley says, “After the workshop, one of our readers said ‘this is the show that Bruno’s always wanted to write.’ This really is the perfect combination of my twin loves.” The two founders of Red Scare have a huge affection for each other’s talent. Tse says Shirley’s “breadth of musical theatre knowledge as well as thrashier rock music makes him the ideal composer for a through-composed rock musical like this.”

“What I love most about working with Cassandra,” says Shirley, “is that her lyrics are just so economical, there’s not a single wasted syllable. It really encourages you to write music with similar purpose and really consider the purpose of every note and rest – is that what’s going to best serve the story?”

The production features an exciting mix of experienced veterans and rising stars including Kiya Basabas (Annie, Hairspray, Rock of Ages), Jo Hodgson (Evita, Les Miserables, Cats), Devon Neiman (The Addams Family, Seussical), Matthew Pike (Jesus Christ Superstar, Miss Saigon, Evita), Jesse Finn (Rock of Ages, Rent) and Imogen Prossor (Spring Awakening, Once On This Island) and is directed by Alick Draper, who recently directed the highly acclaimed performance of The 25th Annual Putnum Spelling Bee for Wellington Footlights. Matthew Pike, who plays Yannick, a street musician who acts as narrator for the story is “loving the work… it’s a highly emotive cautionary tale. And the music is also right up my alley, as it brilliantly blends the best aspects of blues, folk and rock.”

The Bone Thief is on at the Gryphon Theatre
from the 12-21 July,
7:30pm $25/$20
Tickets are available now at:

Aletta - Kiya Basabas
Dael - Devon Neiman
Hida - Jo Hodgson
Yannick - Matthew Pike
Josefa - Imogen Prossor
Marko - Jesse Finn

Set Designer - Rachel Hilliar
Lighting Designer - Aaron Blackledge
Costume Designer - Harriet Denby
Sound Engineer - Don Blackmore
Stage Manager - Madeleine Warren
Marketing Director - James Cain 

Theatre , Musical ,

An extraordinary achievement

Review by Michael Gilchrist 13th Jul 2018

Running at a little over an hour and a half without an interval, The Bone Thief is a compact, potent rock melodrama. It is set in a fictional mining community in a time that precedes modern communications but not the electric guitar – the 1970s perhaps. A small but very talented ensemble enact a moral fable that unfolds over a few days.

As the director Alick Draper puts it, this is a story about “the power found in a strong community and the misfortunes that await us if we abandon that.” A force for evil is unleashed in the town, presenting a familiar challenge to the courage and idealism of the early teenaged protagonists. 

The show is likely to appeal most to a younger audience who can identify with the struggles of their contemporaries against the moral neglect of the adult world – but it has a Tim Burton-like quality that will also engage an adult audience, especially those who would like to hear a rock musical again. And the concern with poverty and homelessness constantly evokes the streets right outside the theatre doors.  

The dialogue as well as the lyrics are in rhyming verse, mainly tetrameter – and the action almost observes the classical unities of time and space, unfolding over just a few days in the one location. The four-strong band, led by composer and musical director Bruno Shirley, create a satisfying rock texture which, given that much of the action is expounded in the songs, is admirably sustained. The set is sparse but effective and the lighting design very deft. The mics and sound quality were also very well managed. Combined, these generate a dark impoverished atmosphere, the better to allow the passion and commitment of the actors to shine.

And shine they do, with every member of the cast singing strongly, harmonising effortlessly and mastering the rock idiom with verve and accuracy. The signature songs of the two leads – Aletta played by Kia Basabas and Dael played by Devon Neiman – are both outstanding but all cast members have fine moments and work together in exemplary fashion.

The climactic moments are particularly well handled. There are some strong melodies that do ample justice to the composer’s sources of inspiration (Led Zeppelin is mentioned). Indeed, the score as a whole – fully charted for the band – is an extraordinary achievement when you consider that this is the work of a young man with a living to make and other fish to fry. It is good to see the audience on opening night recognising the all-round level of talent and professionalism on display.

Having said all that, there is a limit to what you can do on a shoe string – and not just in terms of production values. There is room for considerable development, in both the music and the book, in this show. The same is no doubt true of previous musicals by Cassandra Tse and Bruno Shirley, both still in their mid-twenties. That is the nature of musical theatre – it is big and complex.

This is a great show in its own right – and I see that it has had the benefit of a workshop phase. But you can’t help feeling that the legitimate aspirations of all involved in this production are running up against the limits of the financial and expert support they need to produce a breakthrough show that can foot it in any setting. With that support, these guys could really make it. 


Editor April 13th, 2020

The day has finally come:

Music by Bruno Shirley
Lyrics by Cassandra Tse

A rock fairytale with a streak of horror, The Bone Thief takes place in an old ex-mining town, where a monster is slaughtering local children and consuming their bones. Young Aletta (Kiya Basabas) lives a life of privilege, but a friendship with an orphan boy (Devon Neiman) and a love of stories leads her on a hunt for the monster.
Also featuring Matthew Pike, Jo Hodgson, Jesse Finn and Imogen Wizz Prossor.

Ever since we had our sold out season and added additional shows in 2018, we've been working on an original cast recording that reproduces the immersive rock feeling that had audiences banging their heads in the theatre.

We're so thrilled to unveil that today is the day.

The album has been a labour of love for everyone involved, with original cast and band reuniting to allow the tale of The Bone Thief to be known and heard all around the world. We're so indebted to Katie Morton for recording and mixing and to Patrick Barnes for mastering it. ❤️

The album is available for purchase on Bandcamp, with patrons invited to Pay What They Can from $5. This will help support Red Scare and the artists who worked on this at this difficult time.
A digital album booklet comes free with the purchase, featuring images of the production by Roc+ Photography.

If you loved the production, or just love musical theatre, please share this post so we can introduce as many people to this new bloodthirsty musical experience: a dark rock fairytale 🤘

Click here to purchase the album or listen for free:

John Smythe July 15th, 2018

What an excellent show! To the above may I add praise for the powerfully centred performances of Jo Hodgson as Hida and Matthew Pike as Yannik; Rachel Hilliar’s evocative flimsy-fence set; Harriet Denby’s basic sack-cloth costumes tellingly contrasted with comparatively rich Hida’s Edwardian frock and bustle; Arron Blackledge’s hazer-enhanced lighting and Don Blackmore’ sound.

I like its intimacy. Set among small lives in a small community, it is a strong allegory for the destructive power of greed. As such it distils a major issue confronting the survival of humanity itself.

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