02/06/2007 - 30/06/2007
By David Geary
Directed by Jeff Kingsford-Brown
Centrepoint Theatre is embarking on re-creating history as it stages the tenth anniversary production of David Geary’s The Farm. The original production was commissioned by Centrepoint with the aim of encouraging playwright David Geary to capture the comedic essence of his native environment, rural New Zealand. The play was a huge success for the theatre and became a firm favourite for audiences.
After re-reading the play Centrepoint Theatre Artistic Director Simon Ferry saw that the play remained fresh and relevant even after ten years. “It’s a great laugh with strong characters and I thought this would be great to put back in front of our audience, and if it does as good as the first time business wise…hey that’s great too.” comments Ferry.
The Farm has always been a jewel in Geary’s repertoire along with many other favourites including Pack of Girls, The Learner’s Stand, and Lovelock’s Dream Run. More recently A Shaggy Dog Story and The Underarm have kept New Zealand audiences laughing while the author resides overseas.
The Farm follows the fortune of a local Manawatu farming couple, Jim and Maggie Greene. Jim has tried everything in the farming industry from possum farming to goat farming. He even tried wind farming but a strong easterly saw his dreams sail over the ranges. Nothing seems to fit with Jim but he always sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Now the farm is on its last legs and it looks like this year they may have to sell more than the odd block of land to get by. Not even Jim’s creative accounting can save them.
Just in time two Russian tourists arrive on an adventure holiday but in desperate need of rest and recreation, and Jim’s latest scheme is born – the farm stay. But it’s not as easy as it seems. Both couples have to deal with a new culture, and besides, the Russians seem to have a dark secret.
Casting The Farm was easy. Malcolm Murray who was in the original production as a young Russian tourist now returns to play farmer Jim. Malcolm comes back to Centrepoint every few years and was last seen here in The Merchant Of Venice. Donogh Rees is playing Maggie, Jim’s long-suffering wife. Donogh was at Centrepoint last year in Doubt and as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate after a lengthy run on Shortland St.
Jen Cowan makes a welcome return to the stage after being UCOL’s Performing Arts Programme Leader. Jen has appeared in several productions at Centrepoint including Netballers and Girl’s Weekend Escape. Richard Knowles debuted at Centrepoint Theatre last Christmas in Weighing In and now has the part Malcolm Murray played in the 1997 production.
Jeff Kingsford- Brown directs this production and after his recent success with The one after the Last Goon Show we know he’ll squeeze every ounce of comedy out of the script.
The Farm is a warm funny snapshot of rural New Zealand and is set to continue to delight audiences. Hurry and get your mates together for a great night’s entertainment, but move quick the season is limited and with a cast this strong seats are going to fill fast.
The Farm opens at Centrepoint Theatre on Saturday 2 June and runs till 30 June. Performances are every Wednesday at 6.30 pm, with 8pm shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A special 5pm performance is held every Sunday. For bookings and other enquiries contact Centrepoint Theatre Box Office on (06) 354 5740, or visit http://www.centrepoint.co.nz/
Malcolm Murray as Jim Greene
Donogh Rees as Maggie Greene
Richard Knowles as Kostya Popov
Jen Cowan as Tanya Popov
Set Design: Shelley Irwin/Harvey Taylor
Lighting Design: Laurie Dean
Costume Design: Ian Harman
Stage Manager: John Lepper
Production Manager: Shelley Irwin
Funny Farm is rollicking rural yarn
Review by Richard Mays 12th Jun 2007
Surrogate insemination, swinging sex, shonky book-keeping and stag poetry contribute to the merriment that is David Geary’s The Farm. This rollicking rural mirth-maker first proved itself at Centrepoint in 1997, and that’s the era where a slightly refurbished version of the play remains for this anniversary production.
Jim and Maggie Greene’s depressed Manawatu backcountry holding isn’t coping with a rural downturn, let alone Jim’s knee jerk attempts to diversify. Maggie describes Jim as having "the foresight to get out of dairying before it really took off". The head of Baxter, a mohair goat, mounted above the fireplace is testament to one of many failed farming schemes.
It’s doubtful their fraying marriage will survive either. And then there’s a miracle – of sorts. Two Russian cycle tourists, Tatyana and husband Konstantin get clobbered at their gate by a wayward steer.
Adding to the standard back blocks agri-comedy, The Farm combines foreign language and cultural clashes, while teasing out sexual frisson between the two couples, until Jim, dubbed a stag poet by the childless Russians, is offered unreal money to be a sire.
Malcolm Murray, who played Konstantin in the original production, becomes a world-weary partner to Donogh Rees’ wry take on wine-drinking Maggie, effectively exposing the pair’s unravelling relationship. Richard Knowles conveys the essence of a thrill-seeking but brooding Russian alpha male, with an effervescent Jen Cowan managing the transition from playful, to pregnant and demanding.
Well staged in a semi-finished homestead living room, The Farm is a burst of cleverly contrived situation and artful performance.
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Rapturous welcome home
Review by Peter Hawes 04th Jun 2007
Geary is back in his varied rustic manifestations – as the actively gynecological farmer in ASB’s Goldstein Show and as writer of one of Centrepoint’s most famous native plays, The Farm.
That grimly impassive face that Geary presents to Goldstein’s Brokeback Mountain-dressed boss in the latest ad, is the one he brings to the manufacture of comedy. Farmers don’t smile and Geary can reduce you to a gasping state of laughter without smiling. He writes tough comedy; comedy with balls – which he can ruthlessly castrate if the situation requires gravity.
The Farm has lost nothing of humour in the ten years since its Parmy premier – and just a little of the blackness, as reality has caught up with, and even surpassed, the madness of farmer Jim Greene’s anti-bankruptcy antics. After all, even Geary’s powers of invention can’t top Fonterra’s professed need of an 18 cent-a-litre price-rise for milk after a billion dollar bloody windfall profit.
On the other hand the play’s invention has in some areas caught up to and surpassed reality; ten Glaznostic years ago the cycling Russian couple’s mistaking a Picnic Spot road sign for a mushroom cloud was not as hair-raisingly hilarious as it is today as vulpine Mr Putin heralds in a nuke that will always get through. And that divinely withering line by Jim’s hard-drinking wife Maggie: "[he was] the only farmer with the foresight to get out of dairying before it took off," is exactly ten years ahead of its time.
However, Geary has decided to leave The Farm back in the years when ostriches were the chick magnets of the future – and cleverly so; boozy first-night patrons were telling after-show stories of eggs being bought for $40,000 each! I personally know someone who bought one for twenty grand. Sheesh!
And how sad it would have been to forgo the opportunity afforded by the then Min of Ag Lockwood Smith being a "prominent bull breeder" (I quote Geary in the $2 programme) ($2!) to make constant, stinging, much-needed anti-National bullshit jokes.
For this and similar reasons the plot stays rooted in 1997. Impecunious Jim has followed every trendy avenue of rustic wealth down to the last curve of its inevitable cul-de-sac; a spunky young couple of Russian cyclists arrive and are more-or-less captured by Jim and Maggie as a farm-stay source of revenue.
Spunky ("sponky" in Russian, as, presumably, in Spotnik) is proved to be a misnomer, there is an infertility crisis and overtures are made to "Stag poet" Jim …
Tanya: I give you thirty-five thousand dollars!
Maggie: I’ll get a jam jar!
As it happens, Jim can’t fill it.
Jim: …Arthritis; all those years pulling cow teats…
Then it is to be done the natural way; turkey basters are out.
Kostya: Anyway, ees more natural – child’s character formed at conception; I not want turkey.
So thoroughgoing rutting ensues – inspired perhaps by the spiritual zest of a surreally summoned stag. And continues through many more of the idyllic weeks of harvest than either the non-participating Maggie or Kostya would have assumed necessary.
Contentment increases in one new coupling while distress accumulates in the other – resulting in an inspired charge of "concubine harvesting" from a suspicious Kostya.
The b&b (birds and bees) scenes unfold in the B&B in a brilliantly conceived sort of ‘Theatre of Expectation’, in which more happens Off than in a Shakespearean History play. Then there is a birth, attended by Jim, Maggie and Tanya the mother, in the midst of a thunderstorm blackout. It is one of the great Torchlight Trilogies of NZ theatre.
Geary’s The Farm was welcomed home so rapturously that the usual sphincter-clenched 1st night Parmy audience sang along with the opening music to Act II – and with riotous good humour followed Malcolm Murray’s chortlingly furtive clean-up of a non-scripted glass breakage. It was great to be part of a well-rehearsed audience.
Murray ‘Jim’ was, as usual, lovely – bringing to bear that unique and effective ‘perfection-plus-one-second’ timing technique of his. As Maggie his wife, the splendid Donogh Rees wore the clothing of her Doubting nun over the body of Mrs Robinson (her two last roles at Centrepoint), perfectly creating the ambiguity of a wife whose next step is either into the bedroom or out the door.
Richard Knowles will be relieved to hear that his sulky pout is as artistically effective as his washboard abs and Jen Cowan, who I thought the star on the night, proved you can have the body of J-Lo, the face of Lohan – and still produce the chin of Mussolini.
I recognized the mounted head of Mary Shelley the ostrich from `97, but wasn’t sure about (JamesK) Baxter the angora goat – was he a stand-in? But man, did he rock during one of the volcanic Off bedroom scenes! He was placed centre-top-stage in the cleverly cluttered set by Shelley Irwin and Harvey Taylor and the whole shebang – lighter Laurie Dean, costumer Ian Harman, stage manager John Lepper, actors and reviewers like me – were all told exactly what to say and do by NZ’s best director with a bad haircut, Jeff Kingsford-Brown.
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