THE BUTLER DRESSES AGAIN
10/01/2018 - 28/01/2018
Written by Joe Bennett
Directed by Mike Friend
A revamp of a classic
In January 2018 Lyttelton Arts Factory is bringing back a popular piece of its history with The Butler Dresses Again, a remake of its critically acclaimed show The Butler.
Written by author and columnist Joe Bennett and directed by Mike Friend, The Butler was originally staged by The Loons Circus Theatre Company. Between 2006 and 2011, the cast performed 113 shows in 11 cities throughout New Zealand, and another 23 shows in London.
“I am excited to have revised this wonderful Loons show for 2018 and to be bringing it back to Lyttelton Arts Factory, Lyttelton and Christchurch,” Friend says.
Originally inspired by Peter Greenaway’s film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, the show takes the form of a dinner party like no other. The guests blow in on the wind, have no idea where they are, why they’re there or what the rules are, but go at it with a will, presided over by the aloof and long-suffering butler.
“The result is cruel, comic, sexy, anarchic and riotously entertaining,” Friend says.
“Fans of the original show will be surprised by The Butler Dresses Again. The show will stay true to its origins, but will have more character and less circus, and will be fitted to our new dynamic theatre space at Lyttelton Arts Factory.”
Several members of the original cast return, including Tom Trevella who plays the central character of the Butler. Alongside the Kiwis will be two talented performers from the UK, as part of Lyttelton Arts Factory’s developing collaboration with East Riding Theatre in Hull, England. One of those actors, Hester Arden, has toured with some of the UK’s foremost theatre companies and has appeared on screen with both the BBC and ITV.
The Butler originally grew out of Friend’s time working with Christchurch Polytechnic’s Circo Arts School (now Ara). Having created a showcase of the students’ talents, he went on to form The Loons Circus Theatre Company and its renowned Lyttelton venue (The Loons) at 16 Canterbury St.
When the venue was lost in the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, extensive fundraising efforts saw the life of The Loons revived through the Lyttelton Arts Factory, which opened its new theatre at the corner of Oxford St and Sumner Rd.
“The Butler Dresses Again links us to where we’ve come from and sets the stage for the next chapter of independent theatre in Lyttelton,” Friend says.
Lyttelton Arts Factory, 1 Sumner Rd, Lyttelton 8082
10-28 January, 2018
Tickets available online at: http://www.laf.co.nz/
- Lyttelton Arts Factory has close connections with the UK’s East Riding Theatre, a relationship born out of Mike’s professional work with its artistic director, Adrian Rawlins, who is known for his role as James Potter in the Harry Potter movie franchise.
- Lyttelton Arts Factory is a black-box theatre with flexible seating configuration. It is home to the Lyttelton Arts Factory Theatre Company. As the name suggests, the place exists to practise, promote and teach the performing arts in Lyttelton. It runs classes in drama, dance and music that cater to all ages and abilities. The space is also used by other theatre companies and hosts children’s shows, charity fundraisers and community events.
Mike Friend (Returning Director)
Mike has a background in technical theatre production, direction and education. He trained in England and was director of Performing Arts Hurtwood Theatre from 1987-2001. He immigrated to New Zealand in 2004 and collaborated with the Christchurch Polytechnic (now Ara) Circo Arts students and devised the beginnings of The Butler. He then created the Loons Circus Theatre Company in 2007 and ran it until the Christchurch earthquakes. Since then he opened the Lyttelton Arts Factory in July 2016 and continues to lead the company as its Creative Director.
Tom Trevella (Returning performer)
Tom worked with The Loons Theatre Company from its beginnings in 2007 and still works closely with the new company since its rebrand to Lyttelton Arts Factory. He has worked with The Court Theatre in Christchurch, The Fortune Theatre in Dunedin and the Circa Theatre in Wellington, establishing himself as an actor in high demand.
Pascal Ackerman (Returning performer)
An accomplished performer and acrobat, Pascal has many talents – trapeze, aerial acrobatics, fire eating, unicycling and axe throwing. Holding a previous world record for the number of torches extinguished in his mouth within one minute (89), he is dedicated to his craft. Pascal’s love of music initially led him to violin making, and he still enjoys playing the guitar, piano, accordion and musical saw. Pascal has been involved with The Loons and Lyttelton Arts Factory since their founding, and has been a frequent contributor to the World Buskers Festival in Christchurch since 2007.
Lizzie Tollemache (Performer)
An award-winning entertainer with a love for carnival traditions, Lizzie is an actor and a street performer. She has performed in events such as the Dubai International Comedy Festival, the World Buskers Festival, and performed for 6 years in NZs longest running comedy show, Scared Scriptless. Along with David Ladderman, she founded Rollicking Entertainment Ltd in 2014 and is the company’s creative director, which presents shows that blend theatre, illusion and cabaret. Lizzie and Dave write and perform their own shows and take them on tours around New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK.
David Ladderman (Returning Performer)
Winner of the 2014 World Buskers Festival Critics Choice Award, David has proven himself as a born entertainer. He has travelled around New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK performing in shows and street acts. He formed Rollicking Entertainment with Lizzie Tollemache in 2014. A founding member of The Loons Circus Theatre Companyand a cast member from the original The Butler, David is looking forward to being a part of the redress.
Graphic extravaganza achieves the common touch
Review by Grant Hindin Miller 13th Jan 2018
I like the Lyttelton Arts Factory: it’s community, it’s local, it does a great job of holding the flame against shifting sands, tectonic plates, and coastal gusts. The show will go on.
The Butler Dresses Again is a theatrical collaboration between local penwright, Joe Bennett, and LAF director, Mike Friend. I read that it began around 2006, was originally staged by the Loons Circus Theatre Company (directed by Friend), and up to 2011 the cast performed 113 shows in 11 cities throughout New Zealand, and another 23 in London.
Such a long and intimate provenance serves the production well. The set pieces and tableaux vivants are honed and admirably crafted. I like the relative quiet, almost sacred space, of the opening, the citing of a famous analogy by the Venerable Bede, and the unexpected and vibrant reveal of the players.
All the players are committed, cohesive, and complement each phase of a pretty seamless production; and there are a great many skills on offer, which require fitness and demanding physicality, including acrobatics, mime, song and dance.
In an early extended scene I feel like I am experiencing the stage equivalent of a music video. And that is the charm of the production: it’s a hybrid: part play, part circus, part musical, part pantomime.
Aristotle determined that there are six ingredients in a tragedy: the Fable or Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, and Melody. He deliberates on the significance of the Plot and Character and, as he saw it, gave weight to the Plot. But the strength of The Butler Dresses Again is in Spectacle; and perhaps Melody: a trad jazz band, Vivaldi, the Doors, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg, and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
One or two characters have more definition than others. Tom Trevella, as the eponymous Butler, with his consistent deadpan face and expression, stands out. He is after all the nucleus around which the ‘play’ revolves and is, in many ways, the focus of the piece. Hester Arden has charisma and her song is one of the highlights of the night. Pascal Ackermann and David Ladderman impress with their acrobatics and Ackermann with his accordion. All the players are working overtime and are worth their weight in this show.
The writing itself, more narration than dialogue, is minimalist, something of a feast from others’ plates, though the meals from which it draws are worthy offerings: a seventh century English monk, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot et al. The Butler Dresses Again is a glass Bede game, and the play’s the thing wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the simian.
An accomplished jazz ensemble can produce a marvel from an unsophisticated musical phrase, say ‘Three Blind Mice’, and expand it into something more impressive. The notion occurs that the production has more fat than its originating material. Certainly the players are working overtime and creating entertaining theatre – and the audience (a full house) is engaged and enthusiastic.
The production reminds me of German Expressionist painting and graphic novels (both of which I like), and also of the good old sixties – certainly many of the musical chords reference that period. Samuel Beckett, the Theatre of the Absurd, and the avant garde developments of that decade come to mind.
And the meaning, the gestalt of it all? We don’t know where we came from, we don’t know where we’re going, we may evolve, don different costumes and guises, play games, make up rules, develop arts, pay lip service to religion, but hey hey we’re the monkees and we’re never far from our simian roots and instincts.
The mixed age audience is beaming at the dimming of the lights – this is a graphic extravaganza which achieves the common touch. Vibrant Innovative theatre is alive and well and living in Lyttelton.
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