Regent Theatre Clarkson Studio, Dunedin

28/07/2020 - 28/07/2020

Expressions Arts & Entertainment Centre - Upper Hutt, Wellington

07/08/2020 - 07/08/2020

Repertory House, 167 Esk Street, Invercargill

21/07/2020 - 21/07/2020


Production Details

An instant hit when it premiered, The Daylight Atheist by award-winning satirical cartoonist Tom Scott, stars Michael Hurst in a not-to-be-missed repertoire experience.

Ageing Irish raconteur Danny Moffat retreats from the harsh light of the world to his bedroom. There, under hoardings of old newspapers and beer bottles, he sorts through a lifetime of memories and regrets, from growing up as a boy in Ireland, to the hopes and disappointments of immigration to New Zealand.

Tom Scott’s wonderfully inventive and fiercely funny play is a stirring portrait of his father, a deeply flawed yet charismatic bloke.

Michael Hurst first played Danny Moffat in a 2019 Auckland Theatre Company production directed by Colin McColl. Here are excerpts from two reviews:

NZ Herald: “… a highly entertaining show … sparkles with wit … Michael Hurst nails the part with a bravado display of vividly animated story-telling.  His performance establishes a confessional tone that draws the audience into the harsh truths of a man who feels no need to conceal his nastiness.  It also succeeds in evoking the pathos of a profoundly tragic figure who wilfully rejects the sustenance which comes from normal human intimacy … superb production”.

Broadway World: “Michael Hurst is simply captivating as Danny Moffat.  Hurst didn’t show us the life of Danny Moffat, he took us with him, melding skills with charisma … The Daylight Atheist is a must-see”.

20 July – 25 August 2020 

Monday 20 July 7:30pm Stewart Island 
Stewart Island Community Centre 
$25 Book: Door Sales

Tuesday 21 July 7:30pm Invercargill
Repertory House 
$30 Pre-Purchased; $40 Door Sales 
Book: Eventfinda

Wednesday 22 July 7:00pm Roxburgh
Roxburgh Town Hall  
$20 Book: iSite

Thursday 23 July 7:30pm Alexandra
The Stadium Tavern, 143 Centennial Ave 
$25 Adults; $20 Gold Card; $10 Children 
Book: Central Stories and Cash Sales at the Door

Friday 24 July 7:30pm Cromwell 
Coronation Hall, Bannockburn 
Adults $25; Super Gold Card $20; Children $5 

Saturday 25 July 8:00pm Arrowtown 
Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall 
$25 Book:

Sunday 26 July 7:00pm Hawea 
Lake Hawea Community Centre 
$25 Adults; $10 Children 
Book: Hawea Store & Kitchen,

OCD Cafe at Wanaka Medical Centre & Door Sales

Tuesday 28 July 7:00pm Dunedin
The Clarkson Studio – Regent Theatre 
$25 (plus booking fees) 
Book: Regent Theatre Box Office 

Wednesday 29 July 7:30pm Oamaru
Oamaru Opera House
$25 (plus booking fee) Book: 
Includes complimentary nibbles – Cash/Eftpos bar available 

Thursday 30 July 7:30pm Twizel 
Twizel Events Centre
Adults $20; Students $10 
Book: Twizel Info Centre

Friday 31 July 7:30pm Fairlie
Mackenzie Community Theatre, Main Street 
$20 Book: Heartlands Fairlie Resource and Info Centre

Saturday 1 August 7:30pm Geraldine 
The Lodge Theatre, Talbot Street
$25 Book: Louk Clothing, Talbot Street, Geraldine;
Phone 03 693 9070 (NO EFTPOS) 

Sunday 2 August 2:00pm Ashburton
Ashburton Trust Event Centre 
Open Hat, No need to pre-book

Tuesday 4 August 7:30pm Hokitika 
Old Lodge Theatre, 11 Revell St 
$25 Book: Hokitika’s Regent Theatre

Wednesday 5 August 7:30pm Takaka
The Playhouse Theatre 
$25 Book: Pohutukawa Gallery

Thursday 6 August 7:30pm Picton
The Picton Little Theatre 
$25 (plus credit card charges)

Friday 7 August 8:00pm Upper Hutt
Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre
$20 Book:

Saturday 8 August 8:00pm Norsewood 
The Old Dairy Factory
$25 Tickets at the Door

Sunday 9 August 6:30pm Eltham
Eltham Town Hall 
$10 Book: South Taranaki i-SITE Visitor Centre

Tuesday 11 & Wednesday 12 August 8:00pm New Plymouth 
4th Wall Theatre 
Adults $30; Seniors $25; Students $15 

Thursday 13 August 7:30pm Te Awamutu
The Woolshed Theatre 
$25 Book: iTicket 
Presented by Backstage Pass and TALOS

Friday 14 August 7:30pm Matamata
Matamata Little Theatre, Short Street
$30 Book: 

Saturday 15 August 7:00pm Paeroa
Paeroa Little Theatre 
$30 Book: Arkwrights Antiques and Paeroa Information Hub

Sunday 16 August 3:30pm Gisborne
Lawson Field Theatre
$30 per ticket with Gold Card Concessions
Book: Ticketek
Brought to you by AOTNZ InCahoots with Lawson Field Theatre

Tuesday 18 August 7:30pm Taupo 
Playhouse Centre Stage, 2 Matai St
$30 Book: www.trybooking

Wednesday 19 August 7:30pm Whakatane
The Liberty Centre
$25 Adult; $20 Senior or groups of 10;
$5 for Drama Students from local high schools (no more than 30 per school) 
Book: The Good Life, The Strand, Whakatane

Thursday 20 August 7:00pm Whitianga 
Coghill Theatre 
$25 Book: Mercury Bay Pharmacy & Eventbrite

Friday 21 August 7:30pm Thames 
Thames Civic Centre 
$25 or $22 Pre-book 
Book: Txt: 021912993; Email:;
Shop: Lotus Realm, 714 Pollen St, Thames

Saturday 22 August 7:00pm Putaruru 
The Plaza 
Koha; Book: The Plaza

Sunday 23 August 7:00pm Hamilton
The Meteor Theatre 
General Admission $25; Concession $20

Tuesday 25 August 7:30pm Whangarei 
The Riverbank Centre, Reyburn House Lane
$25 Book: 

Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand as well as support from Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Interislander, Otago Community Trust, Rata Foundation and the Southern Trust. AOTNZ liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse.

Danny Moffat: Michael Hurst
Technical manager / operator: Jonathan James

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 40 min (incl. interval)

A rich and engrossing experience

Review by John Smythe 08th Aug 2020

Upper Hutt has packed out the theatre at its Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre to welcome and roundly applaud Michael Hurst in Tom Scott’s The Daylight Atheist: Arts on Tour New Zealand’s current offering. The production has polished off Te Waipounamu (the South Island) and is now hooking into Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island), working its way up to finish in Whangarei on 25 August. (Find the itinerary here.)

It is 18 years since Scott’s semi-fictionalised voyage under, over, around and through his father – riddled with pain yet somehow a paean of understanding, forgiveness and inevitable love – premiered in Wellington with Grant Tilly in the Danny Moffat role, directed by Danny Mulheron. Michael Hurst first played the role last year, directed by Colin McColl in an Auckland Theatre Company double-bill with Joan (the Circa production of Scott’s tribute to his mother) – but this Royale Productions iteration has no director credited.

Comparisons may be odious to some but are inevitable for those who saw the original. While Tilly fully embodied, throughout, an embittered and tormented soul trapped in existential stasis, Hurst’s Moffat is more simply bewildered at finding himself alienated from his wife and family. He is isolated in what I take to be a lean-to annexed to the family home, with a single bed, a jumble of discarded stuff and ubiquitous bottle of beer as his only companions. Plus his memories, of course.

He spins a good yarn, does Irish Danny, as he revisits how and why he came to be in this pickle. Scott writes the past in the present tense, which gives Danny a more lively place to stand in his recollections. Even so, it must be a challenge to make a misogynistic, self-justifying and miserable old fart consistently entertaining – and Hurst rises to it with consummate skill. We wince with shock, pain and/or dismay beneath many a laugh.

The first laugh comes before a word is spoken – I won’t say why. As a self-effacing fantasist, Danny’s desire to know who might have called for him has a bitter-sweet taste at first until its repetition becomes just sad. A boyhood spent feeling like “an orphan whose parents are still alive” informs the lack of self-esteem that he vainly tries to counterpoint for the rest of his life.

Danny’s youthful obsession with sex and his objectifying of women capture the time and place truthfully while suggesting he has never grown out of that immaturity. His wartime experiences, in the Air Force, bring him into first contact with Kiwi soldiers, who impress him with their violent response to Paddies who insult the Māori sergeant with a racist slur.  

And so to Danny’s first meeting with the woman he now calls ‘Dingbat’ – vividly contrasted, at the end of the play, with their reunion in Auckland, when she arrives as his wife and the mother of their firstborn, referred to only as ‘Egghead’ by his traumatised father. The genesis of this unplanned predicament is recalled in a carefree motorbike ride to the Munster coast. And conventions being what they were, the Moffats have been landlocked in the Manawatū ever since – some way short of the happy NZ lifestyles National Film Unit newsreels depicted.

‘Egghead’s Dream’ is seeded in the first half for a powerful payoff in the second. Likewise ‘the weeping bowl’. And in the first act, Danny’s compulsive lapses in fatherhood culminate in the story of a daughter’s first school dance – and a boy/man v man/boy stand-off in the absence of expressed paternal regret.

If Danny has been capable of love at all, it has been for his Māori workmate Jack Finlay and it’s his return from Jack’s funeral that gives the second half its foundation. Insights into regional New Zealand’s post-war social history radiate from the particulars of Danny’s blarney-enhanced yarns, not to mention the odd global echo. Hurst’s facility with accents enriches the telling beautifully.

Danny’s arms-length awareness of the horrors of Egghead’s schoolboy rugby experiences are contrasted with his sincere admiration of tikanga Māori at Jack’s tangi. And the literal and metaphorical intersection at which Danny becomes stranded brings one of the biggest laughs of the night. He moves on yet he doesn’t. His return home just digs him deeper into this hole of his own making.

While the original production was imbued with a powerful awareness of how personal the ‘Danny Moffat-and-family’ story was to Tom Scott, this production allows us to view its universality more objectively while privately interrogating our own values and behaviours. From wherever you approach it, The Daylight Atheist offers a rich and engrossing experience. 


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Beautifully crafted writing and performance

Review by Helen Watson White 29th Jul 2020

Last seen in Dunedin in an award-winning solo performance of An Iliad (Fortune, 2019, with music by Shayne Carter), Michael Hurst was tonight welcomed back by a sell-out audience for another solo performance, this time as Danny Moffat Sen. in Tom Scott’s The Daylight Atheist. Having already played for one-night-only in eight small southern towns– including on Stewart Island – Hurst has nearly thirty performances to go, right up the South Island then steadily through the North, until there’ll be few provincials who haven’t heard about this very good show doing the rounds. 

They may know of its author, too: Tom Scott was/is a peerless comedian in the art of cartooning, and a respected script-writer and author, particularly of Drawn Out: a Seriously Funny Memoir (2017) which covers some of the same ground as his semi-autobiographical play.

Hurst is, as he was in An Iliad, a powerhouse of energy, extracting from Scott’s lines every ounce of humour possible, but also every ounce of sweat and anguish, for there’s much torturing irony and even a tragic sadness about parts of this story. The figure of Danny Moffat Sen., while he seems a bluff, gruff Irish drunkard and total misogynist, is a devoted friend to Jack, a fellow freezing-worker, and is agonized by the cancer which brings his mate’s death.

The source of the bluffness, gruffness and familiarity with suffering, is the Second World War, where men (some becoming stammerers) were not able or learnt not to talk about what they had seen – although Danny says actually he “never met a single German who’s ever seen a Nazi, let alone been one.” While based in Munich with the postwar Occupation Forces, he met New Zealanders, including Māori, and decided to emigrate. Soon also he met his future wife (the one he calls Dingbat), a flame-haired Irish girl who straightaway fell pregnant and whom he therefore had to marry.

There are several layers here: to the story of a difficult first birth is added the horror of Dingbat’s having her teeth removed while she was delirious with septicaemia; the way he tells it, the worst thing for Danny Moffat Sen. is that that made her ugly.

Because the emigration journeys of the pair were two years apart, they hardly knew each other when reunited in New Zealand. That strangeness persists through all the story-telling, about further pregnancies and births (for this Mum, they said, could become pregnant watching docos on sperm-whales), and about Danny Moffat Jun. (aka Tom Scott Jun.) standing up to a bullying dad on behalf of the women in the house.

Danny Moffat Sen. only ever called his son Egghead, squashing his intellectual (or any) efforts with withering scorn. Yet, even accounting for the alienation inherent in all of them, his stories are weepingly funny. For instance we have described for us, in all its chlorine magnificence, the tale of a chubby Egghead (water-phobic) being forced to take part in school swimming-sports – the Width rather than the Length race – jumping right in …

Scott and Hurst in partnership reveal the hypocrisy of the elder Dan in his scorn for human weakness: from the start he is shown to be vulnerable – just a little bit, just sometimes. There’s the stammer for instance, “worse at night”; there’s the question, innocently asked, of what happens to the darkness when you turn on the light; and there’s that daytime atheism, which comes naturally, but also that night-time terror, which seeks a companion – even sometimes, if the truth be known, some sort of god.

An early picture of Dan being sent to live with his widowed Aunty Betty uncovers his need for his two brothers, who before that had shared his narrow bunk, and his mother’s cooking; now he sees them only once a week, at church. While he “just wants to come home”, all he has to live on through the week is his mother’s “sad, forced” Sunday smile.

The fact of a youthful Dan’s Indian motorbike and later his second-hand Humber at Foxton Beach, or Dingbat’s famous “artificial Formica” table and the rat’s nest in her nappy-cupboard: these things become real to us in the story-telling, while the physical facts of the set speak for themselves. The alienation is so complete that a singleted, unshaven Dan lives in one room away from everyone else in the house, his meals delivered on a tray, drinking beers and drowning sorrows in the company of an unmade bed. 

My admiration for this script has only increased, since I first heard it in 2004 at the Fortune, with Peter Hayden in the solo role. It is beautifully crafted, the rhetorical flights of Danny Moffat Sen. (“Did anyone ring for me? The Pope? Frank Sinatra?…”) naturally suited to the stage.

You couldn’t ask for a better re-interpreter than Hurst, with his aptitude for the whole range of emotions that animate Dan: one who is a selfish, persistent and theatrical scumbag, but who is nevertheless able to convince us he is human after all.


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Immensely enjoyable, confronting, sad, brutal, yet somehow wildly funny

Review by Sarah McCarthy 22nd Jul 2020

Tom Scott’s one-person play, an extended monologue based on the writer’s father, is a not-to-be-missed experience that teams exquisite writing with the immense talent that is Michael Hurst. 

Hurst is Danny Moffat, a walking, squalid nicotine stain with a twinkle in his eye that changes quickly to a cruel glint and then back again. He’s funny, he’s a card, he’s that guy at the pub with the best stories who, with the twist of a lip and a gesture brings his characters to life. The audience roars with laughter. But we’re not meeting Danny at the pub. We’re meeting him at home.

It’s a story that will be all-too familiar for a few generations of New Zealanders – an embittered Irish father who is determined to stand in his own way and always casting wildly around for someone to blame for his own actions. The difficult love for a difficult man many will recognise shines in this piece – it is aching and raw and empty and vast. It’s all here, yet not laid out bare – cycles of abuse and poverty, alcoholism, disappointment, a favourite story often told that turns into the broken record-ramblings of a mean drunk. Echoes of the past clatter around Danny’s room as we watch him disintegrate and build himself back up again into a version of himself that he can stomach.

I can’t remember ever feeling like this in the theatre. I disliked this character so much that I could barely clap at intermission, and while I applauded long and loud along with the rest of the audience at the end I had to make myself do it. Had I not been in the front row I don’t think I would have clapped at all.  

Immensely enjoyable, confronting, sad, brutal, yet somehow wildly funny – just like that guy at the pub – The Daylight Atheist is what happens when you put one of New Zealand’s best actors and best writers together. 


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