Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

10/10/2015 - 24/10/2015

Young & Hungry Festival of New Theatre 2015

Production Details

The presentation of findings from my scientific survey of THE FIRST 7500 DAYS OF MY LIFE done in the interest of showing you how to live better lives

Some people collect stamps, some people play sports, and some people undertake in-depth scientific surveys for each day of their entire lives. Let’s just say that Max Addison doesn’t collect stamps or play sports.

The presentation of the findings from Max’s survey, findings that could indeed be literally considered their life’s work, will be a momentous occasion. To not attend such a momentous occasion could easily be construed as oafish or unthinking. Max is certain that you will wish to avoid this pitfall.

Saturday 10th October, 8.30pm
The Basement Theatre
Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD

Saraid Cameron, Arlo Gibson (Step Dave), Anthony Crum, Ravi Gurunathan, Andrew Gunn and Doug Grant.

Set Design: Christine Urquhart w/ Sarah Kirk, Shiloh Dobie, Lizzie Morris
Sound Design: Thomas Press w/ Oswell Didsbury
Lighting Design: Rachel Marlow w/ Jack Dryden & Liam McDonald-Lurch
Costume Design: Fraser Mildon w/ Tori Manley, Melissa Peacock & Francesca Wilson
AV Design: Stephen Bain
Stage Managers: Natasha Hoyland, Harriett Maire, Katharine Bowden & Jesse Hilford
Production Managers: Jamie Johnstone w/ Peter May & Ronnie Livingstone
Marketing & Publicity: Elise Sterback & Lydia Zanetti w/ Kelsey-Rae Taylor, Micaela Cole, Alex Plumb, Monica Wang, Sara Shirazi & Sophie Todd

Youth , Theatre ,

1 hr

A quite exceptional experience

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 12th Oct 2015

The Presentation of Findings from the Scientific Survey of the First 7500 Days of My Life Done in the Interest of Showing You How to Live Better Lives is – like The 21st Narcissus – a product of the Young and Hungry process. They play, one after another, at the Basement until 24 October, 2015. 

Playwright Uther Dean tells us that “some people collect stamps, some people play sports, and some people undertake in-depth scientific surveys for each day of their entire lives.”

Yes, some people do, and if there’s a better example of why this isn’t necessarily a great idea it’s Deans’ own remarkable creation, Max Casey Addison (Saraid Cameron). There are astonishing examples in this production of the myriad ways in which playwrights can make life problematic for their actors – and their creatives – and it’s almost as though Dean has calculatedly gone out, found them all and crammed the whole kit and caboodle into one 80 minute (or so) script. The challenges for all concerned are immense and it gives me tremendous pleasure to say that this stellar cast is equal to all of them.

Cameron’s performance is, in fact, by far and away the most complete piece of work I’ve seen this year – and possibly any other year – and that’s saying a lot. It’s probably easier to say what she doesn’t get to do in this inspired Nisha Madhan-directed madhouse than to list what she does do, so let’s just say she’s absolutely stunning and leave it at that. 

It’s essentially Max’s story but Max has the considerable advantage – and it’s an important one – of being surrounded and supported by six of the very best: the best at slapstick comedy, best at silences, best at playing farce, best at heart-rending emotion and, did I mention it before, the best at comedy. One is so sublimely good that she doesn’t even need a place in the programme.  

Max’s brother Ash (Ravi Gurunathan) is unsibling-like in his seeming sycophancy; Rory Robin Rankin (Anthony Crum) is Max’s lifelong friend, the friend everyone wishes they had. Relationships come and go but when you’re in a relationship with Elliot Hempel (Arlo Gibson) you know you’re in it for better or for worse and so it is for Max.

Everyone needs to have their life’s work accompanied by electronic keyboards, a siren and a song, and who better to provide this than the well-respected and seriously in-demand Jay Thornby (Doug Grant). Max’s production – I’m sorry, Presentation – needs technology and Bill Hyde (Andrew Gunn) is the seemingly savvy digital servant appointed to fulfil this somewhat thankless task. 

We enter after the interval (the two plays are stand-alone but most of the audience on opening night has chosen to partake of both) to find a major change has occurred. There’s a gently sloping, rough-hewn rostrum centre stage with three chairs, a lighting console to the left and a vision of loveliness to the right in the form of two keyboards some percussion, and all in the hands of the ubiquitous Jay Thornby. In the hands of Doug Grant, Thornby is a riot. He’s a whizz on his instruments and his brand of comedy is perfect for this virtuoso role. He’s also wearing flashing rainbow goggles which helps.

Andrew Gunn’s technician is busy with cables, boxes, crates and other techie paraphernalia as he puts the finishing touches to a pre-show set up which never actually ends. He’s your standard theatre maven: over-long shorts, cap, plaid shirt and knee pads, the stereotype to end them all.

Cameron’s Max arrives and introduces herself. She’s well on top of her presentation material which seems to have a lot to do with Dr Who‘s The Doctor and the many iterations of this enigmatic character. It’s a way, she tells us, to get the production – sorry, Presentation – underway. She describes for us the need to have musical (and other) distractions and Thornby is, as always, equal to the occasion.

The song ‘General Guidelines’ is simply fantastic. We learn how unwise it is to wear sandals with socks, how we should battle our desire to kill our families and how vitally important it is to record everything that happens when you’re not in the room. Yes, all this obsessiveness borders on the paranoid but it stops just short of being totally weird.

There are great theatre gags – ‘I don’t like to be in the spotlight’; “That’s a wash, not a spotlight” – laced with some pretty profound stuff as well: “You should only say sorry if you mean to change.” The action skips along almost fast enough for us to see Max’s presentation as impeccably normal behaviour. Most of us, after all, record what happens to us every day of our lives. 

There are issues about running over time – a snappy altercation between Bill and Max which is covered by Ash telling a joke that is truly funny – and it’s clear that the Presentation has gone way off course. There are Chekhovian moments about trust and then Max jumps to the four categories of the Presentation which are ‘Friends’, ‘Family’, ‘Work’ and finally ‘Love’. The ‘How to have friends’ section is truly touching in places but it’s pretty obvious that Max is losing all of hers – and her family – and that work is awful and that there is simply no hope of love. 

I’m going to miss some stuff out here because it’s just too good to describe. Suffice to say that, despite a further Musical Distraction after which Jay eats a bowl of food with chopsticks, Max is wise to tell us that ‘everything is falling apart’. It is too and I have to say I’ve not seen so much chaos and carnage on a stage in a very long time. Anarchy rules to such an extent that even the appearance of an upstanding cartoon penis on the whiteboard doesn’t surprise us one little bit. The stage is trashed, there are cables everywhere, people fall over, friendship are ruined and it’s all incredibly, incredibly funny.

The writing is sublime, the direction likewise, and the acting is right out of the very top drawer. Max begins to recite an endless list of mistakes he’s made – a book full of them – and we’re reminded (as if we needed the reminder) that what Max is trying to do is very disturbing indeed. We’re reminded to simply “be”, that anything else is just “wasting time, wasting precious fucking time”, that we’re running out of time and suddenly the fragility of our collective mortality slaps us around the ears like a wet fish. “We’re all just cancers on our inner lives” we’re told just before Max disappears under the keyboard stand.

Rory leaves, and then Ash, whose parting shot is “I’ve kept you safe”. Much happens in the final ten minutes that I simply can’t tell you about. You really must see this for yourself. We find out about forgiveness (Max doesn’t want that) and the six-step process of falling in love.

Then there’s a countdown to the end.

There’s so much more to this show – sorry, Presentation – than I’ve told you. There’s the craft that makes the turmoil seem unrehearsed, the secret I alluded to that’s too good to give away, the music, the sweetest of ensemble playing, the madness and the message and, at the centre of it all is Saraid Cameron whose performance is supremely good. Whether she’s berating her technician, monitoring the game, or burrowing halfway down the trapdoor in the stage, she is in total control – which is sort of the point really. 

The slender beast of a programme gives little away but it does have some cogent quotes that illuminate the work, the key quote for me being from Dr Who Season 27, episode 6, ‘Dalek’: “This is not life. This is … sickness.” And so it is. And a sadness, and a wretched melancholy, but as with the plays of the great Anton Chekhov, through laughter we find our innate humanity – and so it is with this. So it is with this. 

So, there you go, it’s a quite exceptional experience. It has everything including the longest full name of any play I’ve ever come across. If it doesn’t have you yet, you might want to change that tout de suite because this one is very special indeed. It even has two assistant directors Ash Jones and the splendid Crystelle L’Amie but about her, the least said the better. 



Editor October 13th, 2015

Thank you so much, 'Max', for your admirable commitment to accuracy. Corrections have been duly made.

Max Addison October 12th, 2015


The character's name is The Doctor, the title of the programme is Doctor Who. Dr Who refers to the non-canonical incarnation of the character portayed by Peter Cushing in two cinema films of the 1960s.

The sixth episode of the twenty-seventh season of Doctor Who is titled 'Dalek' not 'The Dalek'.

"How to have friends" is a section within the "Friends" category, not a category of its own.

There are only two es in the word guidelines.

Yours etc,

Max Casey Addison

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