The Only Child

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

26/08/2011 - 17/09/2011

Production Details


One of the major 19th century playwrights is being given a 21st century overhaul. Inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s 1894 classic, Little Eyolf, Simon Stone and Thomas Henning (of The Hayloft Project in Melbourne) trade mountains for metropolis as THE ONLY CHILD tears the Herald Theatre a new one from August 26th 2011. 

They were the golden couple, the couple most likely to. They were happy and in love. Flash forward. Rita is an imperfect mother. Alfred has withdrawn from his wife and their relationship has degenerated into a mess of resentment, sexual frustration and misdirected fury. When their son goes missing, they’re forced to make unexpected adjustments to their life together. Worlds will implode and walls may crack. This is a portrait of their marriage – mercurial, malicious, tender and honest. 

Australian theatre whizz-kid Simon Stone has carved a name for himself by blowing the cobwebs and the accumulated dust off classic texts: his self-funded company The Hayloft Project has fearlessly and radically transformed the work of Chekhov, Wedekind, Seneca and Gorky. Earlier this year, his bold new take on Ibsen’s The Wild Duck at Belvoir St. Theatre took Sydney by storm. Some critics cried vandalism, others liberation. Audiences packed the theatre. At only 26 years old, his work as director, adaptor and provocateur has been picked up for mainstage production at Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and Belvoir, where is now Resident Director.

Reworking Henrik Ibsen seems like a perfect fit for Stone; Ibsen’s works pick at the scab of society, exposing the moral collapse of contemporary society.

In Silo Theatre’s production, Artistic Director Shane Bosher’s approach, after his sleeper hit The Brothers Size, will be employing a European sensibility to push and explore Ibsen’s deconstruction of modern marriage. He’ll be drawing influences from the work of film auteurs such as Lars Von Trier, Michael Winterbottom, Ingmar Bergman and Gasper Noe (Irreversible). He writes: “Not since Edward Albee’s The Goat have I come across a work so visceral and charged, yet backed by such a real and profoundly human reality. The play exists in an extraordinary parallel space – some of the content will shock audiences, but at exactly the same time enable the audience to think about their own lives, their own relationships in a profoundly human way. I think it’s a beautiful piece of work.” 

Silo Theatre will really push the envelope theatrically with performances that bare all, both emotionally and literally. With three of the actors are required to perform fully naked, this is wonderfully confronting stuff. 

Treasured Kiwi actress and Silo Theatre regular Claire Chitham (Outrageous Fortune; Shortland Street) returns briefly to New Zealand to join the powerhouse cast which includes Josephine Davison (Outrageous Fortune’s Suzy Hong; Silo Theatre’s The Scene) and Sam Snedden  (Silo Theatre’s The Ensemble Project; Mojo). Following his trail-blazing turn in Silo Theatre’s sell out production When the Rain Stops Falling, acclaimed actor Stephen Lovatt will lead the company as the emotionally crippled Alfred. 

Silo Theatre has commissioned Leon Radojkovic, of Doctor Colossus fame to compose the soundtrack. Last seen onstage at the Auckland Festival with his own revisioning of the cult film Carnival of Souls, Neil Finn has described Leon’s music as “madly sophisticated, nutty and exciting”.

The Hayloft Project have managed to buck the conventions of theatre in Melbourne – in much the same vein as Silo Theatre is casting aside the “usual” concepts of how theatre should be produced and performed and instead looking at how it could be adapted and evolved. THE ONLY CHILD is contemporary theatre at its best.

“…A resounding success. A piece of tremendous poetry, truth and effect for today’s audience…” – CONCRETE JUNGLE 

“…9/10 … Even amidst the most shocking of revelations, THE ONLY CHILD has the power to also draw sympathetic, mirthful laughter from its audience. I loved it…” – THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

plays at the Herald Theatre, THE EDGE
August 26th – September 17th 2011
Monday and Tuesday: 7pm. Wednesday – Saturday: 8pm (No performances Sunday)
TWENTYSOMETHING: Monday 29th August 2011
OPEN DIALOGUE: Tuesday 30th August 2011
Herald Theatre, THE EDGE
Tickets: $25.00 – $49.00 (service fees apply)
Tickets available through THE EDGE – or 09 357 3355   

Rita                                       JOSEPHINE DAVISON
Asta                                      CLAIRE CHITHAM
Alfred                                    STEPHEN LOVATT
Henrik                                   SAM SNEDDEN

direction                               SHANE BOSHER
set and lighting design       SIMON COLEMAN
costume design                  CHARLOTTE RUST
composition                        LEON RADOJKOVIC

production management   ANDREW MALMO
stage management           STACEY DONALDSON
technical operation            SEAN LYNCH
set construction                  2 CONSTRUCT
production assistance       RACHEL MARLOW, JESSIKA VERRIJT

marketing                            SAFIA VAN DER ZWAN
production photography    ANDREW MALMO, JOHN McDERMOTT
publicity                               ELEPHANT PUBLICITY  


Aussie riff on Ibsen throws all in the tub

Review by Janet McAllister 29th Aug 2011

This Silo Theatre production is a spectacle – loads of nudity, swearing, well-paced arguments, satisfyingly angry monologues, messy prop-throwing, and water spillage (beware the front row). There’s never a dull moment in this contemporary Australian riff on Henrik Ibsen’s little known Little Eyolf – the writers use all the tricks (arguably unnecessarily) to prove that 19th-century relationship dramas aren’t boring.

Yet in spite of all this visceral, vaudeville entertainment, The Only Child is conventional and old-fashioned at heart: Daddy feels bad because he was too busy working to spend time with his boy. This is the start of many a Disney family movie – but this time, the guilt comes too late: the son is suddenly lost. However, the mother (a fantastic, fiery Josephine Davison) seems less concerned with her lost son than she is with her distant husband. Who the "only child" really is becomes moot. [More
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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Cathartic journey through grief

Review by Nik Smythe 28th Aug 2011

A deep, luxurious modern bath sits just off-centre on a shiny black floor, before a glass-panelled rear wall covered with translucent textile screens and mirrored walls left and right. All is dark save a soft blue light emanating from the bath.

Two women anxiously converse, seeming desperate to comfort one another through open dialogue, yet clearly thinking more than they are willing to communicate. The husband of one and half-brother of the other returns from a sabbatical in the mountains. Just why he’s been away is divulged in time; the pressing issue is the full-scale search underway for their physically lame son who has gone missing. 

Assisted by their dutifully compassionate neighbour, the estranged pair struggles to cope with the immediate tragedy and to make sense of the guilt and resentment that got their relationship to this point. As they proceed, I can’t recall ever having simultaneously laughed and cried so hard before.

Director Shane Bosher has accomplished a starkly rich production of this modern adaptation of lesser-known drawing-room drama Little Eyolf, a later work by celebrated and ahead-of-his-time Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Not personally acquainted with the original, I had no idea what to expect besides the clues offered by the concise account in the programme. 

Although the setting and language of the play are entirely present-day, there’s a distinct imprint of its nineteenth-century ancestor breathing through the characters’ actions and attitudes. The classically-seasoned modern style is further exemplified in the cast’s up-market retro attire a la costume designer Charlotte Rust. 

Josephine Davison plays an essentially beautiful but twisted soul as lost child Eyolf’s mother Rita. The hardships she has suffered tend to manifest as defensive recriminations – not entirely bitter, but patently on the turn. 

Rita’s sister-in-law Asta (Claire Chitham) is charitable but troubled; helpful and optimistic in outward manner, she holds mercurial feelings and critical secrets that clearly weigh on her. Very close to her brother, and Eyolf, the controversial issue of her own unmarried status is a prime example of the social mores of yesteryear infiltrating the contemporary narrative. 

Stephen Lovatt’s Alfred is possibly the most complicated of them all, as evidenced in his extended bouts of impenetrable catatonia. He spends most of the play in the bath, toiling hard in his mind to construct an impossible unreality in a pathetic bid to conceal his deep-set self-loathing.

With three such formidably complex individuals vying for respect and understanding, the good-natured simplicity of Henrik, the helpful neighbour (Sam Snedden), is a welcomely hilarious breath of fresh air. Sweet on Asta, Henrik’s well-meant blundering renders any such heartfelt fantasies basically hopeless, but his naivety is in some ways enviable in contrast to the others’ tortured existences. 

Simon Coleman’s distinctive production design transports us into both dimensions of the aforementioned hybrid past/present world and – particularly with the spectacular use of light and water – into the unstable psyche of the characters, especially Alfred. 

The cathartic result of watching The Only Child matches the journey we have witnessed its protagonists endure: tormented, violated, but somehow cleansed. 
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 September 3rd, 2011

The Only Child is indeed a powerful production. The bathroom setting – as a place of cleansing – is a potent metaphor that distils this drama to its bare essentials, drawing us in to an essence of human experience. It surprises and keeps on surprising; it confronts and just when you think the publicity image of an embrace is a fabrication – it surprises yet again. Definitely worth seeing!  

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