The Immortals

BATS Theatre, Pit Bar, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

11/02/2010 - 27/02/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

He was here before the beginning and he’ll still be here after the end. 

Especially for the 2010 Wellington Fringe, Wellington identity Dan Slevin will perform Martin Amis’ The Immortals for a limited season in The Pit Bar, at the front of Wellington’s BATS Theatre.

It is 2045. Following a nuclear war, the human race faces extinction. The only survivor will be a man with a very interesting story to tell: a story involving the dawn of man; the demise of the dinosaurs; the battle of Agincourt; an elephant named Babalaya and lots of booze.

He swears he is immortal, and that only he knows the truth, but can he really be what he says he is?


In 1988, acclaimed English author Martin Amis published a book of short stories called Einstein’s Monsters. He was very worried about the threat of nuclear war and feared that the increasing Cold War tension would result in the destruction of the entire planet due to unchecked technological development and ideological intransigence.

One of the stories in the book was called “The Immortals” and was a first-person narrative from the point of view of the world’s only Immortal–a character who found himself stranded on planet Earth at the dawn of time, watched interested as intelligent life slowly developed and then watched helplessly as the human population did everything it could to wreck the world it had been given. And he is grumpy about it, quite frankly.

In 1992, Wellington theatrician and Amis-fan, Dan Slevin borrowed Einstein’s Monsters from Wellington Public Library. He immediately (and to be honest, uniquely) saw the potential in the story as a dramatic monologue and pitched the idea to friends and colleagues.

Two years later, for the princely sum of £100, the rights were secured from Mr. Amis’ agent at the time and Dan produced and directed The Immortals for the 1994 Wellington Fringe Festival. Donald Holder played The Immortal and the show was received well-enough to be awarded a Pick of the Fringe prize and an extended season.

While the show has faded from memory, the publicity photograph for that production is still recalled fondly. Taken by Jonathan Brough in the back bar of the Cambridge Tavern, it formed the basis for a publicity flyer that graced a thousand fridges all over Wellington.

Dan has never quite managed to get The Immortals off his mind and always believed that he would revisit it one day. That day is now.

The show is directed by the lovely Geoff Pinfield who also directed the smash-hit monologue On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover in 2008. So he has a track record with one-man shows.

Details, details
The show will be performed by Dan Slevin
every Thursday, Friday & Saturday of the 2010 Fringe
until the 20th February (unless demand clearly exceeds supply, in which case we’ll peel a few more off for you all).

The Pit Bar
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
The capacity of the wee snug is only 22 so, obviously the availability for the whole season is limited.
The first show (11 Feb) is a Preview,
official Opening Night (and Press Night) is Friday 12 Feb.
All shows start at 7.00pm
and the duration (we anticipate) will be something between 30 and 35 minutes
so you’ll be able to do something else afterwards.

Advanced bookings are available only via the BATS box office. Door sales (where available) will be at The Pit Bar itself.

Ticket prices are between $15 and $12 and include a glass of house wine or a beer (or a soft drink for the wowsers).

50 mins

Slevin passes with flying colours

Review by Lynn Freeman 18th Feb 2010

Whether or not he is what he claims to be, immortal, Martin Amis’ character is far seeing and his pessimism well founded, based on human history.

Theatre doesn’t get more in your face than this production, given you can only squeeze a handful (22) of people into the performance space and the actor moves around a lot.

People passing by look in, puzzled. They mirror the expression on the audience’s faces at times, as this man skips around history and takes us into a future that seems all too likely. Amis’ book on which this 40 minute soliloquy came out in the late 1980s, but given all the current talk about climate change, it could have been written yesterday.

The Pit Bar is tricky space, the actor has no choice but to eyeball his audience, even climb over them. It’s a test and one he passes with flying colours. Other than a few nerves resulting in a very few stumbles, you wouldn’t know it’s been 20 years since he last trod the boards.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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A wonderfully understated performance

Review by Uther Dean 15th Feb 2010

The Immortals, a short story by Martin Amis, is performed, presumably largely verbatim (presumably because I must admit that I haven’t read it in years) in BATS’ intimate pit bar by Daniel Slevin.

It is the winding and informal monologue of a man who has lived forever. His episodic, staccato retelling of his life and attitudes acts very much as an overview of the whole of human history. He was here before us and now, trapped with the fallout of nuclear war in the body of a second rate secondary school teacher he can only ponder on the knowledge that he will be here after us.

Much is made of the briefness of humanity’s interaction with the world, ‘YOU’RE ONLY HERE TEN MINUTES’ he yells out into the impassive world, and how disproportionate an effect we have had on the world around us. It deals with this with a delicacy and muted judgement, that allows it to quickly veer past simply being another mundane environmentalist tract.

The Immortals is all about shifting a sense of perspective. When human lives and loves and follies are viewed through the eyes of someone is used to watching mountains rise, they inherently become more comic than tragic. The Immortals exists to remind us of the inherent absurdities of our lives and self-centredness.

Slevin gives a wonderfully understated performance. He very much pitches it as a very strange man sharing a very strange yarn to whomever will listen over more than a few drinks. There are a few moments when this doesn’t really jive with the text, for instance, when he empathically states who he will tell no one ever of his condition. Those few moments serve to remind you of the text’s literary roots. Slevin reading the book as you enter helps too. The moments when the veracity of his account or even condition are brought slightly into question are thrilling in their perfectly pitched candidness.

Slevin is clearly a very talented and watchable performer. But there are a few mistimings, dries and misdirections that reveal him as being a little out of practice. It would be wonderful to see him do more work as a performer. 

One thing that strikes you as you enter the Pit for The Immortals is how apt and interesting, if unconventional, a performance space it is. It has a verticality and warmth missing from most venues.

Director/Outside Eye Geoff Pinfield has put it all to great use.

There is much opportunity in this work to grow and I certainly hope this is not the last we’ve seen of it as a slightly higher production value would really kick this work into high gear.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Thought-provoking tale well worth listening to

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 15th Feb 2010

The Pit Bar at BATS Theatre has seating for about 20 people and provides an intimacy between performer and audience rarely found in other conventional theatres. Dan Slevin, with his solo show The Immortal, uses it to great effect.

The 35 minute show is from Einstein’s Monsters by Martin Amis, a collection of five short stories about life before, during and after the supposed upcoming nuclear holocaust. The Immortal travels through time watching generation after generation move towards extinction, commenting, often humorously, on the demise of the human race – “Just as I was thinking that no century could possibly be dumber than the nineteenth, along comes the twentieth. I swear, the entire planet seemed to be staging some kind of stupidity contest.”

Slevin’s resonant and articulate voice works well in the tiny space, his confidence of his subject matter giving assured delivery of the lines which are well animated with gesture. He uses every inch of space to move about in as he weaves his increasingly cynical tale often interacting with the audience making this thought-provoking tale well worth listening to.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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A palpable hit from Amis

Review by John Smythe 14th Feb 2010

The world has changed significantly in the 23 years since Martin Amis wrote his story The Immortals (the last in his collection of five stories collectively entitled Einstein’s Monsters). And yet the fundamentals remain. Whereas he envisages a post-apocalyptic 2045, following a nuclear war that has included a bomb exploding over Tokyo, his narrator’s cry to all of humankind, “Look what you did!” may be equally applicable to the other ways we are making our planet uninhabitable by life as we know it.

It’s interesting that he has called it The Immortals when his central character – currently in the guise of a second-rate New Zealand school teacher, if we are to believe him, or if he is to believe his own delusion – is one of a kind: “Soon you will be gone,” he tells us in a recurring refrain, “and I will be alone forever. I am the Immortal.” The plural arises from his amusement at the religious belief some of us have that we, too, will “live forever”.

He came to Earth – as a dud god? from outer space? from the depths of his psychotic delusions? – long before the above-sea land masses took their present shape. He has seen through umpteen ice-ages (every 70,000 years on the dot) and watched the world start from scratch each time. He hoped to be obliterated by the nuclear explosion but only fainted. He’s been married 8 or 9… but I’ll say no more in deference to those who plan to see it.

Conceptually this is a massive expansion of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando: A Biography in that the life of its protagonist spans many historical ages. As a monologue played out by Dan Slevin, to 20 people at a time in the Bats Pit Bar, it offers an engaging half hour.

Articulating well, Slevin mostly achieves the fluency and intimate ease the ‘chat’ requires, punctuated with the odd bombastic note. Only occasionally (on the third night) does the challenge of recalling the lines in their correct order – betrayed by the odd faux-pregnant pause – inhibit his capacity to fully inhabit the role.

Given the chosen setting is of a confirmed whisky drinker regaling bar patrons with his story, I wouldn’t have minded a touch of the drunkard in his cups, both to account for the discursive chronology and explore the possibility he actually is a deluded NZ school teacher. But if he really does have an immortal metabolism, I suppose that gives him licence to drink without seeming drunk, just as he can live on and on without appearing to age.

Slevin works the space well, makes good eye-contact, clearly loves the material and – most importantly – gets us thinking about the effect we humans have had on this planet, which is so much older than the brief candle of our so-called civilisation.  

More than a potted history of Earth in the Universe, The Immortals is a blistering critique of humakind’s stupidity, delivered non-didactically from a perspective of amused and bemused objectivity. As such, Slevin delivers a palpable hit from Amis.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


John Smythe February 14th, 2010

Dove God? Apparently not. 'Dud God' - now corrected.

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