The Boy Who Caused 9/11

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

23/08/2023 - 26/08/2023

Production Details

Writer: Ken Mizsusawa
Director & Design: Cassandra Tse

Whitireia Stage & Screen

In a small town where nothing much ever happens, eleven-year-old Kevin believes he has uncovered the secrets of the universe, and that it is his responsibility to keep it in check.

When tragedy strikes, far away on the other side of the world, Kevin is certain that it is all his fault. The Boy Who Caused 9/11 is a moving and funny play about the vast, vast cosmos and finding our place in it.

Te Auaha, (65 Dixon Street, Wellington)
23 – 26 August 2023

By arrangement with Playmarket.

Year 2 Stage & Screen Acting Students
Sam Murphy: Kevin 1
Britney Herhily: Kevin 2
Liam Olsen: Kevin 3
Brock Oliver: Crumpled Old Man, Mrs. Peterson, Chorus, Newsreader
Sophie Badrick: Miss Finnegan, Bus Driver, Chorus, Newsreader
Bella Anderson: Mother, Girl in the Bright Yellow Dress, Chorus, Newsreader
Louie Nixon: Mr. Wilkinson, Father, Chorus, Newsreader

Year 1 Stage & Screen Acting Students
Stage Management: Georgia Woodrow-Cairns & Hayden Pringle
Set & Props: Otis Feasey & Knute Skagen
Costume: Esmeralda Jobbins & Piripi Amohau
Sound: Simon Ulm & Rory Grant
Lighting: Aroha Morrison & Justina Tua
AV: Zephi Saunders & Hayden Pringle (swing)
Production Technician: Michael Trigg

Director & Design: Cassandra Tse
Production Coordinator: Lauren Fergusson
Production Technicians: James Kearney & Trigg
Production Design Support: Paula van Beek

Theatre ,

90 minutes

Bound to relate to your own experiences, observations and existential musings

Review by John Smythe 24th Aug 2023

It’s certainly an intriguing and provocative title: The Boy Who Caused 9/11. What NZ Japanese playwright Ken Mizsusawa is exploring here is the 11 year-old mind which, in the case of Kevin, may evolve towards genius level, be diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or relax into a more rational view of the world and his place in it.

We may also view it as an enquiry into the roles of ego, guilt and responsibility within the human condition as a highly intelligent child tries to make sense of their world while growing up in a small rural settlement – called Yardley, in this case.

As directed and designed by Cassandra Tse – with an ensemble cast of Whitireia Stage & Screen Year 2 students and crew of Year 1 students – The Boy Who Caused 9/11 offers an absorbing insight into one boy’s view of himself in the universe while radiating outward to touch on such social phenomena as rural v city, homelessness and how conspiracy theories might evolve.  

And ever-present, thanks to Kevin’s opening declaration that it’s all his fault, for breaking the ordered pattern of the universe, and his knowing something terrible is going to happen, a sense of foreboding permeates the action.

Personifying Kevin through three very different personalities amplifies the pre-pubescent experience beautifully. Sam Murphy’s Kevin 1 is the deep thinker who has gradually become aware that there is a pattern in the way the universe is ordered and everyone is responsible for maintaining it. Britney Herhily’s Kevin 2 has to cope with the city and is especially memorable in her encounter with the Crumpled Old Man, enigmatically played by Brock Oliver.

Liam Olsen’s Kevin 3 is perhaps the most obsessed with time-based order, patiently accommodated by Louie Nixon’s school bus driver, Mr Wilkinson. He also has to deal with Bella Anderson’s Girl in the Bright Yellow Dress, who is deeply – and comically – pissed off at her family’s move to the middle of nowhere.

I think all three Kevins interact with their counsellor Miss Finnegan – empathetically portrayed by Sophie Badrick, in her flower garden – and with their Mother (Anderson) and Father (Nixon). The scenes involving their misinterpretation of Kevin’s troubled relationship with the Girl are deliciously humorous and poignant. Badrick’s cameo as the replacement Bus Driver is amusing and Oliver’s Mrs Peterson, who introduces the new Girl to the class, is authentically rendered.  

The ensemble work involving all seven actors is exemplary, whether they are evoking the periphery of Kevin’s world, flowers in Miss Finnegan’s garden, classmates, the turmoil of the city – or building stuff with Lego on an upstage table where a camera adds to the AV projections (designed by Zephi Saunders) that adorn the two calico drops that frame the stage. The drone footage of the Yardley countryside doesn’t look as if it’s in NZ, not least because a car seems to be on the right hand side of the road, but the stock footage of the ‘9/11’ attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre accompanied by the ‘breaking news’ announcements of Badrick, Oliver, Anderson and Nixon’s Newsreaders makes for a powerful climactic sequence.

Having taken us there, it’s a challenge for Mizsusawa to engineer a sense of dramatic resolution, although I guess the lack of neatness is valid given Kevin’s existential responsibility crisis. What fascinates me most is the way number 11 is interrogated and given a significance that offers us an insight into conspiracy thinking.

Whichever way you look at it, whatever your age and stage, you are bound to find The Boy Who Caused 9/11 relatable to your own experiences, observations and existential musings.


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