The Pecking Order

Wesley Methodist Church Hall, 75 Taranaki Street, Wellington

12/02/2007 - 15/02/2007

Production Details

Co-created and directed by Sophie Stone and Kent Seaman

Pigeons as a metaphor for the downtrodden of society?  This new work premiering at the Fringe 07 has a mood which is blatantly confrontational, set to disrupt the general comfort zone and ruffle some feathers.

“We wanted to use pigeons in this work as they are such a perfect example of life that is crushed and unappreciated in our society,” says Sophie Stone, the co-creator of The Pecking Order. “The world we live in is one that is constantly striving for beauty, power and greatness, pushing down anything that does not fit into this mould.  We wanted to write a play exploring this power hungry society through pigeons who are right at the bottom of the food chain.”

It is not, as you might imagine, a bunch of actors dressed as birds, clucking around the stage saying “this blows”.  Instead it’s a story of four people struggling to find their place in society, having to scavenge and fight much like those pesky birds we love to hate.  Each character has to deal with stereotypes and labels that have been placed upon them and choose whether to back down or speak out.

“It’s really very playful,” says Kent Seaman, the co-creator “We wanted a piece that was easily accessible to anyone that might be interested.  Although we are addressing the political attitude of our country, we didn’t want it to become dreary like a bad politician’s speech.  It needed to remain fresh and fun, and that’s where the pigeons came in.”

For a thought provoking look at the most unwanted bird, The Pecking Order provides an emotional and stimulating journey and will perhaps make you look at life with a new respect, or at least make you spare a few breadcrumbs.

Kent Seaman
Sophie Stone
Jeremy Downing
Maggie Watts
Stevie Widewood

Theatre ,

1 hr

Physical better than verbal

Review by Lynn Freeman 22nd Feb 2007

Funny old thing,  inspiration. The Pecking Order had its origins in a meeting between one of the two playwrights, Kent Seaman, and a pigeon. From that he and Sophie Stone created a play that compares and contrasts the lives of pigeons and people, and finds them not so very different in fact.

We meet Charlie (Jeremy Downing), who collects trash and doesn’t care what people think of him until he falls in love with the ambitious Connie (Maggie Watts). In between scripted scenes, which tend towards the predictable and preachy, there are far more interesting sections of purely physical theatre. 

Ironically these say so much more than the dialogue, especially the opening scene of people / pigeons reading newspapers and gradually being pushed off their perch by the top dog (pigeon). 


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Clichéd attributes of human existence

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 16th Feb 2007

Animals have been used as a metaphor for human behaviour ever since Aristophanes wrote The Frogs. As the title of Stepping Stone Production’s The Pecking Order suggests, the pecking order of birds is synonymous with the pecking order of society – in this instance Wellington pigeons and three young 20 something’s living in the city. 

Charlie and Sam are scavengers who spend their time on a roof top, when not scavenging, looking down on the passer-by’s and commenting on the world. Then Charlie meets Connie and in order to impress her tries for a real job.  When he fails he realises that like the pigeons some humans are destined to remain picking at the crumbs while others go for the juicier bits.  He also learns the meaning of love, being himself and many other clichéd attributes of human existence. 

The concept of the play has some creative inventiveness about it with well choreographed scenes depicting the world of pigeons interspersed with the reality scenes.  And directors Sophie Stone and Kent Seaman, who also wrote the play, have schooled their energetic actors well who all give spirited performances, not helped however by the echoing acoustics of the hall, of a play that while not original does nevertheless raise some interesting issues.


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Excellent stylised sequences

Review by John Smythe 12th Feb 2007

It is refreshing when a creative mind or two can be inspired by an everyday experience – in this case an encounter with pigeons – and have the inner and social resources to enrol their peers in the process of bringing it to fruition as a creditable Fringe performance.

Writer/directors Kent Seaman and Sophie Stone use their observations of urban ornithology to comment on human behaviour and values, and explore the classic young adult quest for finding one’s own path through life rather than following the flock.

When unemployed ex-supermarket deli boy Charlie (Jeremy Downing) falls for bank clerk Connie (Maggie Watts), it threatens the status quo with his best mate Sam (Sophie Stone), who knows it won’t work for Charlie to change his essential self in order to win Connie’s love. The suited, complacent, rich and powerful are epitomised by Kent Seaman’s Norman White, and a supercilious waiter, while Stevie Widewood’s homeless woman personifies the underclass.

Unfortunately the acoustics of the cavernous Wesley Methodist Hall and the untrained voices of most of the cast, too often given to talking at speed with minimal articulation, means much of the dialogue gets lost. But the words – including much earnest ‘on the nose’ discussion about life and how to live it – is not this play’s strong suit.

It is the stylised sequences, mostly blending pigeon and human behaviour in ways that range from the humorous to the chillingly anti-social, that lift this production well above the pedestrian. In this the whole cast is to be highly commended both for the invention and delivery of them. Some good video sequences also add value to the show.


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Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council