THE BOOK ADDICT
BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
30/08/2022 - 03/09/2022
The Dark Room, Cnr Pitt and Church Street, Palmerston North
10/03/2023 - 11/03/2023
By Annie Ruth
Directed by Robin Payne
The Book Addict is a dip into the life of Annie Ruth – the life she lives in between books of course! Reading books saves lives. Well – it has certainly saved hers – many times.
For Annie the leaves of her life only begin to make sense when she looks back at them – choices and detours, discoveries and transformations. From family to lovers, jobs to travel, from her New Zealand childhood to finding a second home in Greece, it’s been and still is one hell of a ride!
In telling her stories, Annie’s hope is that you will see fragments of yourselves. Covid seems to have made us all more reflective. Is that happening for you? It certainly is for Annie, weighing up what is important and where her choices have led. What’s next? Where does she stand in this uncertainty?
Annie wants to share this with you. In the words of Kazu Ishiguro: ‘This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand? Does it feel this way to you?’
Join us for the BATS season of ‘The Book Addict by Annie Ruth’.
“A triumph of truth and language. The writing is sublimely beautiful. The imagery is shimmering at times.” Ralph McAllister (Director and Theatre Reviewer)
“An extraordinary life story told with joy, compassion and panache,” Rachel McAlpine (Poet)
BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Terrace, Mount Victoria, Wellington
30th August – 3rd September 2022
1st & 3rd September matinee at 2pm
“As good as a book only better because we get to share the experience together.” John Smythe, (Theatreview)
The Dark Room
283 Church Street, Palmerston North 4410
Friday 10th & Saturday 11 March 2023 • 7.30PM
Saturday 11th March • 2.30PM
Opening Night • Friday 10th March
Annie Ruth: Writer, Actor
Robin Payne: Director<
Georgia Kellett: Production Manager
Helen Todd: Designer
Solo , Theatre ,
1 hr 15 min
Genuine, intimate and honest with many real, raw moments
Review by Alexandra Bellad-Ellis 11th Mar 2023
Written and performed by Annie Ruth, The Book Addict is partly a memoir, partly a love letter to Greece and a deep dive into the human experience. Our host takes us on a journey from Dunedin, to Greece, then back again to Wellington and Palmerston North. She takes the audience through the highs and lows of her life, using the books that she loves as a foil for her experiences. From love, marriage and children, to heart break, death and danger this show has it all.
Annie Ruth is an excellent storyteller, able to hold an audience with only her words. She comes across as genuine, and as interested in her audience as we are of her. Creating an intimate feel to the piece, The Book Addict is more like a conversation with a friend than a show. It is difficult to hold an audience with only one person and she does this magnificently.
The set, designed by Helen Todd, is simple. Our leading lady is perched on a bar stool, sipping on a cocktail, surrounded by the books that inspired her. A simple white net curtain behind her. Throughout the performance Annie will pick up one book or another to read a line or tell us about it; spinning the table top to find the one she wants. Occasionally she will take a walk across the stage, making sure to connect to all corners of the audience. No matter the number of people, Annie is able to connect with everyone in the room, making everyone feel seen.
The direction by Robin Payne is subtle, barely noticeable. This is a production that has strived for honesty in all aspects. And it has achieved this, in spade loads, with many real, raw moments. Not just life’s good bits, but the deep dark moments as well. All are laid out for the audience to hear. And many of the audience will find their own memories and feelings reflected back at them.
The production and technical side of the show has been done by Georgia Kellett. No area of this production has been neglected, even the program is printed with a book list for audience members to continue their adventure at home. The Book Addict is on for two shows only at the Darkroom in Palmerston North (Friday the 10th and Saturday the 11th of March). The shows runs for about 75 minutes. Tickets available from the Centrepoint box office or online.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
A dynamic world of re-lived human experience
Review by John Smythe 31st Aug 2022
You might have thought a book addict who wanted to relate their life story to their love of books would write a book about it. Or that if it was to be a largely sedentary talk, she’d record it as a podcast. But Annie Ruth’s professional vocation is live theatre, and there is a special chemistry that happens in a space where the performer and audience are all life sized, breathe the same air (albeit through masks) and share the experience kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face).
Annie’s face is full of life and well worth witnessing – we can read it like a book. And to ensure she is truly engaging with her audience, she and director Robin Payne have chosen to leave the houselights up which, despite its obvious benefit, is rare. Annie and Robin (as dramaturg) have also chosen to relate the experiences in the present tense which makes them more immediate for all of us and helps to move the performance from telling to showing and sharing.
Designer Helen Todd’s setting of a classy high bar stoor and table, bedecked with stacks of books, in front of a semi-reflective backdrop, speaks volumes. And Annie’s life to date has certainly been voluminous; one could say she has lived many lives. One’s seventies is a classic age in which to ‘take stock’ and, as Annie observes, “Covid has made us all more reflective.”
Despite describing her taste in book genres as omnivorous, Annie says it’s relationship stories that attract her and it’s the stories of her relationships that hold our attention for 75 minutes, inevitably inspiring us to compare and contrast her lived experiences with ours. As with books, her stories can resonate with our own lives, give them context or offer escape into places we may never go.
Chapter headings, and sips from her Blood & Sand cocktail, denote the stages of Annie’s lives and the roles she plays within them. “Every word is true,” she promises, and it has to be said of the most extraordinary, painful and confessional stories she shares, why would she make them up?
A vaudevillian grandfather, glamourous mother and father who reads to her every night, including Greek legends when she’s a preschooler, plus being a Catholic, sow the seeds for the lives she grows into. Formative moments are vividly recalled.
At 18 Annie is a ‘Blue Stocking’ student in Wellington, entranced by T E Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the Greek poet Kavafis and All Quiet on the Western Front – a German account of WWI that influences her participation in anti-war marches. She also embraces the ‘make love’ zeitgeist of the 60s and basks in Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet, further feeding her passion for Greece.
‘The Mourner’ finds her immersed in grief, guilt and misery. The power of words is brutally confirmed. In the 70s she is ‘The Bride’, ‘The Drama Student’ then ‘The Hostess’ in Japan where the life lessons continue. ‘The Greek’ finds her making a reality of her fantasy with unforeseen developments. Becoming ‘The Mother’ is a major turning point, of course. And the next is ‘Falling in love with a Woman’, enhanced by such texts as Our Bodies, Ourselves (by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective).
The recounting is not strictly linear, which keeps us on our toes. Back in Wellington at Teacher’s College, Annie name-checks an impressive list of creative arts mentors whose legacies live on into this 21st century. Her acting work with Town and Country Players, Downstage and Centrepoint Theatre is briefly traversed. 1989 sees Annie and her partner Jo dubbed Palmerston North’s ‘Romance of the Year’ and a series of three Celtic rituals culminates in their Civil Union.
At 49 Annie is appointed Director of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School and becomes aware of toxic hostility as she faces the challenges of keeping it housed and solvent. Her commitment to making Toi Whakaari truly bi-cultural in practice also gets push-back from all sides – and I can feel the audience collectively noting nothing has changed in that regard.
‘The Grandmother’ is another phase that allows Annie to give back and re-experience what enlivened her as a child, not least the love of books. As for her dedication to exploring momentum and hitting walls – you need to see the show to know what that’s about!
It takes courage to share one’s truth to this extent. There is also courage in Annie and Robin’s choice to avoid arbitrary physicality. By sitting in one spot most of the time, Annie forms the nucleus of a dynamic world of re-lived human experience that becomes highly active in our imaginations. It’s as good as a book only better because we get to share the experience together.
- Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
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