Playhouse Theatre, Dunedin

09/12/2015 - 12/12/2015

Production Details


Get inside the creative process with the Young Dramatics Society of Riggleston High School as they prepare for their end of year Christmas show. Explore the silly season through their rendition of Jesus’ awkward teenage years, an elf revolution at Santa’s toy factory and a problematic pantomime. Feliz Navidad! 

Counterpoint are proud to be capping off a highly successful year with this hilairious world premiere, by Dunedin-born playwright, Rosie Howells. Howells is a Univeristy of Otago graduate, now based in Wellington, who has a long relationship with Counterpoint, who presented another of her works, Grimey Times, in 2014. Theatreview said of Howells and Grimey Times, “It is almost as if [she] possesses a superpower that allows her to recognise things hidden deep within the human psyche and then aptly express them in very clean, concise and clever ways…Go and discover for yourself the joy that is Rosie Howells. You will not regret it.”

Director Ben McCarthy is off the stage for this production, after appearing as Eb in Counterpoint’s production of The Cape earlier this year. After his directorial debut in May in the form of CAMPUS WATCH: The Capping Show 2015, McCarthy is sure to bring the same raucous laughter to the Playhouse Theatre next month. He says of Howells’ script: “Rosie has written a script with more layers than your average Christmas comedy. She has captured the essence of being a sixteen year old. Howells builds three very stereotypical high school characters, then slowly colours them into realistic people that you will recognise from when you were that age.”

McCarthy has assembled a cast of familiar faces for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, two of whom have aleady graced the Counterpoint stage this year. Trubie-Dylan Smith plays Joe, a blunt, non-verbal rugby player who holds the secret talent of being an excellent comedy performer. Marea Columbo (Boy on the Swing, The Merchant of Venice) is Laurie, who’s highly strung, obsessed with theatre and doesn’t have any friends. Finally we have Nick Tipa (Boy on the Swing, The Cape) playing Cam, the artsy, political, sensible hipster. “All the cast are  very talented and tremendous to work with. Each of them bring a certain comedic expertise with them, as they come from such strong comedy backgrounds.” said McCarthy of his talented cast.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is presented by Counterpoint Productions and opens opens on December 9th at 7:30pm. The doors will open approximately 15 minutes before the show. Cash only please. To book in advance head to

Dates:  9th – 12th December, 7:30pm
Venue:  The Playhouse Theatre, 31 Albany Street, North Dunedin, 9016 

Theatre ,

Spirit of revelry firmly established

Review by Terry MacTavish 12th Dec 2015

All hail Counterpoint, the lords and ladies of misrule! With the wisdom of children and fools, Counterpoint, true to its name (forming a pleasing contrast to something else), recognises the festive season as a time of too many speeches and frequently pompous formality – official farewells, staff functions, university graduations, school prize-givings – and offers instead a bit of topsy-turvy absurdity. 

And as in medieval times they teeter on the brink of cheerful blasphemy (think Mak the sheep-stealer in the Wakefield Shepherds’ Play, concealing the sheep in an empty cradle). Rosie Howells, Dunedin’s own jongleur, in The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, playfully explores the tricky adolescence of Jesus: puberty is hard enough without being the one and only son of God. 

In the play-within-a play format, desperate drama wannabe Laurie is determined to write, direct and star in a Christmas musical for Riggleston High School Young Dramatics Society that will convince the sports-mad school to offer a drama class. She bossily informs the two reluctant boys who eventually turn up that she will be the protagonist in a rite of passage story about Jesus’s difficult teenage years, at a high school curiously similar to their own. There, endowed with an American accent, the weird loner will contend with a bully called Judas and worry about the slut-shaming of ‘easy’ Mary Magdalen.

The cast is a delight: all talented, experienced stalwarts of fabulous local institution Improsaurus, these actors have an easy, nonchalant rapport with each other and the audience that can’t be faked. We never doubt that they are in control. Before a word of script is spoken, Marea Columbo as Laurie has us laughing helplessly as, alone in a neglected school props room, she panic-eats peanut M&Ms, paints her nails with felt-tip pen, and experiments on the whiteboard for the right message to inspire fellow ‘thespians’ to sign up for the school ‘Christmas Show’. Hmm, no, ‘Xmas’ definitely looks cooler.

In due course she is joined by Cam, winningly played by Nick Tipa, who – like Columbo – impressed in the award-nominated Boy on the Swing earlier this year. Cam is the artistic one, and clearly Laurie is rather struck on him, at least until he admits he’s not too sure who she is, though they’ve been at school together for years.

Last to arrive is Joe, the sporting hero with secret dramatic aspirations, though he pretends he is only there as punishment for painting nipples on a school statue. Trubie-Dylan Smith is great as Joe, a role that was quite possibly written with him in mind, so exuberantly does he fill it out.

Recognisable types perhaps, but Howells’ script is so much more than an episode of Glee, and director Ben McCarthy has ensured his cast create characters with depth as well as humour. Even bossy Laurie is ultimately adorable. While Columbo is unashamedly over the top when doing drama warm-up exercises or belting out the puberty song, I like the unsentimental way she can deliver a line like, “I haven’t had a friend as a teenager.” We are shown just enough of their vulnerable sides to make us care about all three misfits, and the ending leaves a pleasant glow.

But this is a crazy Xmas Show, not merely a touching coming-of-age story, and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year offers the clever actors a real romp. What could have been isolated sketches are part of the narrative, as the teenagers experiment with alternative play scripts, notably the impassioned elf revolution at Santa’s factory, inspired by politically-minded Cam. Joe’s flamboyant side is responsible for a wildly funny pantomime send-up (and what a Dame he makes!), while the Jesus story that does eventually prevail allows for some hilarious parodies of Harry Potter, especially the Miracles class.

Dunedin is blessed indeed, this festive season, that bright young theatre company Counterpoint has lasted the distance. Led by Creative Director Bronwyn Wallace and her team of Nell Guy, Audrey Morgan, Jordan Dickson and George Wallace, the company is constantly experimenting with different venues and commissioning daring scripts by local writers. Meanwhile the actors have honed their skills with ever more assured improvisation on Friday nights in the Fortune Studio. Though increasingly professional they have remained fresh, natural and unpretentious.

The theatre is full and enthusiastic, for Counterpoint has deservedly built up an adoring yet discerning fan base; but my guest, a mum who has triumphantly coaxed two children through puberty, has not seen Counterpoint before, and she also is laughing her head off. And when the play finishes, the spirit of revelry has been so firmly established that everyone lingers, partying on. Merry Christmas, dear readers. Enjoy your figgy puddings.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo