THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (is trapped in a supermarket)

Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

03/11/2015 - 07/11/2015

Production Details

The People Who Play With Theatre – the team that brought you PUZZLE (2015), JUST ABOVE THE CLOUDS (2013, 2014) & THIS KITCHEN IS NOT IMAGINARY (2012) is back with another original visual theatre feast for Auckland audiences!

Starring Ryan Dulieu, Chye-Ling Huang & Cole Jenkins and led by Auckland based playwright and maker Ben Anderson, this dynamic collaboration takes you on a strange and wonderful theatrical adventure set in a supermarket at the end of the world…

“He is the last man left on Earth… and he’s trapped in a fuckin’ Countdown. When Tom shows up to work one morning, he realises he’s the only one there. He tries to leave, but he’s locked in. It dawns on him that, in addition to most things, he has also been left out of the apocalypse.

A 2013 graduate of The Actors’ Program, Ryan Dulieu is prolific within Auckland’s theatre scene with credits including: AGENT ANNA, FIX, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, and most recently starring in THIS IS OUR YOUTH at the Basement earlier this year. Catch him in his first ever collaboration with The People Who Play With Theatre.

Chye-Ling Huang’s recent credits include PUZZLE (2015) and THE MOONCAKE AND THE KUMARA (2015). Chye-Ling is a member of the National Performer’s Committee for NZ Actors Equity. A keen puppeteer, this will be her fourth production with The People Who Play With Theatre.

Cole Jenkins is a well known face in Auckland’s theatre community performing at the 2013 Auckland Fringe Festival in ONE BY ONE at the Herald Theatre. Since then he has performed on many occasions at The Basement and in Q. This will be Cole’s third visual theatre show with the team at The People Who Play With Theatre.

Ben Anderson works in Auckland as a writer, director and designer. He completed a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts at Unitec in 2010 where he studied writing for theatre with Gary Henderson. Ben has written and produced several works for theatre including visual theatre pieces THIS KITCHEN IS NOT IMAGINARY (2012), JUST ABOVE THE CLOUDS (2013, 2014) and PUZZLE (2015). His graphic play THE SUICIDAL AIRPLANE was published by The Play Press in 2012 and has been produced three times between 2012 and 2015.

Upstairs at The Basement Theatre
DATES: November 3 – 7 at 7.00pm
VENUE: Upstairs at the Basement Theatre
TICKETS: $22.00 ($17.00 – Concession)

Theatre ,

Countdown to the Apocalypse

Review by Rachael Longshaw-Park 28th Feb 2017

Sitting in the audience for the return season of The Last Man on Earth is Trapped in a Supermarket is a real joy. Ben Anderson has created an engaging and aesthetically stunning piece of theatre. 

Once again Auckland is introduced to Tom, played by Ryan Dulieu, an unfortunate protagonist who finds himself locked in the local Countdown after an apparent apocalypse. Unsure of how long he has been there, his personal monologue soon turns into conversations with the items in the supermarket that spring to life. Chye-Ling Huang and Cole Jenkins manoeuvre and voice several puppets from foul mouth fruit and vegetables to the projections of Tom’s loved ones through popular kiwi brands. [More]


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Relentless panic alleviated by breath-taking vocals

Review by Candice Lewis 23rd Feb 2017

The stage is stark and lit in the harsh tones associated with modern shopping; either side is delineated by elasticated white lines that represent the shelving (and so much more). Tom (Ryan Dulieu) isn’t just lost in the supermarket; he’s trapped and it’s the end of the world.

A beautiful little puppet that represents his feelings of insignificance is worked brilliantly by Chye-Ling Huang, Cole Jenkins and Dulieu. We meet this ‘tiny Tom’ via the acapella rendition of ‘Spirit In the Sky’ (originally sung by Norman Greenbaum and transformed into a colder sounding hit for Doctor and The Medics in the 1980s).

Tom is having a crisis – that much is clear. He’s shouting up into the sky, talking with produce and convinced that he can’t find a way out. The talking vegetables (and one fruit) are mean and obscene in a way that is equally appealing and terrifying to the inner 12 year old (ooh did the onion say “cunt”?). Soon enough I’m wondering how many tabs of acid this guy took in order to get trapped in his own mind, or whether he’s missed the medication he needed in the first place.

It’s unlikely that Armageddon has occurred, or if it has, it’s only happening for him. The relentless shouting panic of it all is alleviated by the absolutely breath-taking vocals of Huang and Jenkins; not only is their singing divine, they bring to life this supermarket wasteland. Other puppets worked by Huang and Jenkins represent a bigger, bolder Tom who might just see the sunlight again. They also cover other close relationship; the interactions are funny and yet increase in tenderness.

Absurdity gives way to sorrow, the acknowledgment that we are all alone from the moment we are born to the moment we die. Well known proverbs and snippets of ‘good advice’ abound in order to highlight how quickly wisdom can feel like a cliché. Tom is swimming against a current he may not be able to survive, and yet he does not give up. If you are feeling lonely, don’t go to this alone. 


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Like a movie made out of Yoga Mats and Paper Plates

Review by Jess Holly Bates 04th Nov 2015

It’s no secret that I have a raging crush on devised theatre. It is fast, and furious, and often absurd. Providing live experiences made under pressure, the material generated in a devising room operates in a dangerous state of flux, always under threat of performative disorder. This kind of theatre puts the act of making stories at its centre, by unpacking all of the cogs of the theatrical process onto the stage and forcing us to engage with them. We are demanded to use our imaginations, and the risk of doing so is thrilling, for both audience and maker alike. 

The People Who Play With Theatre are one of the few young companies in Auckland consistently producing excellent devised theatrical works – see Puzzle (2015) and Just Above The Clouds (2014, 2013). All of Ben Anderson’s signature moves are here – his charmingly daggy love of pun, his taste for physical metaphor and as always, his chorus of puppet characters. For The Last Man On Earth, we are treated to the company of a talking mushroom, a depressive onion and a head of broccoli with a penchant for bullying (among other new friends). [More]  


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A core of truth within the ostensible absurdism

Review by Nik Smythe 04th Nov 2015

This is the second supermarket based production I’ve reviewed in a fortnight.  The first, The Things We Do, was a solo performance of multiple characters.  This time it’s a three-hander about a lone individual, and while the first is wholly a character study, The Last Man on Earth (is Trapped in a Supermarket deals more directly with existentialism and mortality.  Their main similarity is in the hilarity. 

Aptly-named company The People Who Play With Theatre have, with dramaturg Matt Baker, devised a fanciful, essentially downbeat tale of the hapless lone survivor of an apparent catastrophe, trapped as he is in the storeroom of a supermarket.  What it says on the tin you could say, although the visible tins say ‘Homebrand Tomatoes’, stacked on metal shelves among a range of typical fare: crackers, chips, water, detergent, cereal, soft drink, sugar, eggs, paper towels and toilet paper, etc. 

Ryan Dulieu is Tom, the young quintessentially average supermarket worker (still in surprisingly pristine work clothes), whose mixed fortune it is to be in what amounts to a readymade civil emergency bunker at the time of the unspecified event.  He estimates it’s been about sixty days but can’t be sure, and it seems the cracks are beginning to show as he’s verbally harassed by various produce items which I’m again surprised haven’t spoiled by now. 

Said animated fruit and veg puppets are controlled and voiced by plain-black clad pair Chye-Ling Huang and Cole Jenkins, who together have a rather busy time of it over the hour long performance.  As well as multiple puppetry duties, including packets of dried foods substituting for Tom’s lost family, Huang and Jenkins supply a remarkably winsome live soundtrack consisting mainly of crisp acapella harmonies, occasionally supported by rhythms produced by beating empty cartons or shaking a couscous box. 

Ruby Reihana-Wilson’s fairly elaborate lighting design adds significantly to the precarious atmosphere within the walls of a locked down retail complex that Tom has somehow been unable to extricate himself from in the two odd months he’s been there.  In any case, after much anxious musing, contemplation and second-guessing bordering on Hamlet proportions – he has got all the time in the world after all – it is finally deemed time to make a break for it, whereupon the real action-adventure begins…

It’s difficult to conclusively guess what the initial inspiration might have been to create such a deceptively layered piece of work.  Are the excruciating puns a by-product of the philosophical insight, or was the insight devised to pad out the puns?  In the programme, director (and set designer) Ben Anderson reveals the company’s starting point and mandate for this original work is to make theatre that is “at once beautiful, funny, sad and true”. 

There’s certainly visual appeal in spite of the universally humdrum setting, thanks for the most part to the innovative puppetry.  Definitely funny, undoubtedly the catchword for most people’s descriptions.  Sad also yes, with loneliness unsurprisingly being the overriding theme.  ‘True’ is the tricky one, particularly with a story co-starring verbose vegetables, esoteric eggs and other sentient stocks in which, among other key events, a melted frozen foods section causes a treacherous flash flood. 

With disbelief suspended however, it arguably carries a core of truth within the ostensible absurdism, the recognisable human condition reflected in Tom’s plight; even in the chatty groceries’ observations and platitudes.  Not the puns though, they’re a mere cruel indulgence to laugh at in spite of ourselves … though when I put it like that, perhaps they are true to life after all.


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