The Ocean Star

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

28/09/2006 - 21/10/2006

Production Details

Written by Michael Galvin
Directed by Roy Ward


Every sibling battle you’ve ever had, every fight with a parent or child, will pale in comparison to the outrageous and suspiciously self-induced hardships that befall Brian, Ted and Jay.

Meet Brian, Ted and Jay, an ordinary middle-class family with issues. Big issues. Brian hasn’t left the house since his wife died leaving him to bring up the boys. Now oldest son Jay (a short-film maker) has all but mastered the art of failure in both his career and love life and little brother Ted is driving them crazy with the symptoms of what may or may not be an incurable disease – and then there are the voices in his head…

This delightfully comic play will leave you thinking your own family never seemed so sane.

Greg Johnson
Adam Gardiner
Dean O'Gorman
Rachel Nash

Set - Mark McEntyre
Lighting - Steve Marshall
Costumes - Kasia Pol
Sound & composition - Marc Chesterman

Theatre ,

1 hr 35 mins, no interval

Father and sons Galvinised

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 01st Oct 2006

A strong, dynamic ensemble cast brings to life Michael Galvin’s superb black comedy, The Ocean Star. Galvin’s second play is an insightful yet witty exploration of a dysfunctional family’s attempt to confront their past and present, then navigate a way forward together. Through three central characters – Brian, and his two sons, Jay and Ted – Galvin juxtaposes bleak reality with comic observation, extremely well.

First we meet Brian and Jay, whose co-dependent relationship Galvin sets up nicely. They exist in the family home, stuck in their comfortable daily domestic routine.

From the opening scene, Greg Johnson, as Brian, is easy and entertaining to watch, as the widowed father hibernating from the world, spending his days locked into headphones, engrossed in reviewing books and music, firmly detached from a real life.

Adam Gardiner’s Jay is every bit the misunderstood art house ‘short’ film maker, who is convinced he will change the world through his art, if the world would only listen. Gardiner’s comic timing is great, and his natural ability makes this fine performance seem effortless.

Galvin also establishes their academic bond and banter very well, as they justify the inclusion of Latin subtitles in Jay’s latest work, then in the next breath expose their mutual addiction to a shallow Reality TV show. The reality is, TV has become a daily ritual: the black box is easy company for both. It doesn’t talk back.
Enter wayward son Ted, who arrives on the doorstep with a suitcase and 3 boxes of vinyl, announcing important news, and that he is here to stay. Dean O’Gorman is devastatingly good as he relentlessly berates and needles both his brother and father till they crack. His portrayal of a sick, manic man hell-bent on taking his family with him down the road to self-destruction, is brilliant.

Galvin’s writing for Ted is particularly gripping. While Ted’s desire to undo his brother and father is unforgivingly cruel, it’s hard not to like, pity and care for this hedonist.

Completing the cast is Brian’s deceased wife and the boy’s mother, Helen, played by Rachel Nash. Sadly, she appears only in Ted’s hallucinations. A talented actress of substance, I naturally wanted to hear and see more of her. However, Galvin chooses to focus on the relationship between the male members of the family, so she becomes little more than a figment of Ted’s imagination.

However, we do hear her perspective on the vital highs and lows of the marriage and family life, through a series of re-created drama therapy sessions, and spoken memories. Galvin extrapolates much humour from mixing up the casting in the role-play sessions, and while it works, ultimately the emotional punch is somewhat removed.

By contrast, there is real payoff and poignancy when Brian overcomes his own baggage to save his son and, following on from that, faces the realisation that Ted actually wanted to die. Johnson delivers a touching performance throughout.

Director Roy Ward marries the strengths in Galvin’s writing with the cast, admirably, drawing us further into Galvin’s emotionally impaired world.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same fusion with all in his design team.

The players are housed in a ‘removed’ yet detailed, naturalistic setting, with fitting touches from set designer Mark McEntyre, such as an increasing clutter of paper and books, and half a dozen lamps attached at random points to the shelves, illumining Brian’s sanctuary.

Sound design and composition by Marc Chesterman however, I found at odds with this realism and with the journey of the play. At the top of the show, what I initially thought was churches bells (expected for a suburban Sunday morning), morphed into a reoccurring ethereal world-music moment which at times swelled like a film score, epic and expansive, unlike the claustrophobic existence at hand.

Costume Designer Kasia Pol, however, styles the cast aptly. When we meet Brian, he is half dressed for bed and half dressed for the lounge, complete with an open dressing gown as his security blanket. Jay suffers in crusty clothes and Ted shows off his assets with well-chosen jeans and T.

Lighting Design by Steve Marshall is even and clear, but the repeated depiction of Ted’s pain feels more like a pantomime storm.

But while I felt a certain amount of ambivalence about the overall design, at the play’s climax all elements come together with a single vision. As Chesterman’s music swells, and Marshall’s sharp white beams glares at us, the cluttered house and its occupants are thrown open, free to move on.

Galvin leaves us with hope and a light at the end of the tunnel, with father and sons, supporting each other wholeheartedly, after unlocking and dealing with the pain of the past. I look forward to what comes next from Galvin, as The Ocean Star proves he is a playwright to watch in the future.


jonbonjovi October 2nd, 2006

I am pleased 'Helen' the mother did not speak in the play The Ocean Star, as she did commit suicide and people who commit suicide do not get to come back to explain why....that's the sad and realistic truth so I thought it entirely appropriate she only came back as a hallucination.

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