THE SEVEN FUNERALS OF CHARLIE MORRIS
Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
06/03/2012 - 10/03/2012
A brand new play from the people that brought you last year’s critical success: These are the Skeletons of Us. With their previous work being touted as ‘beautifully poignant and refreshing’, this new work is sure to move Auckland audiences.
Charlie is young.
Charlie is bored.
Charlie is dying.
After discovering that he has had a previously undetected, yet terminal illness, Charlie accepts his fate and decides to plan his own funeral.
With the help of his best friend Pete and a girl he met on the bus, Charlie embarks on an exploration of rites and passages from around the world in a attempt to plan a memorable final party.
This is a play about Death. This is a play about Love. This is a play about Denial. It is an original look at mortality through the eyes of a young man forced to deal with it before his time.
Sean Webb and Perlina Lau have collaborated with the Elephant Nation once more to create a dramatic and powerful new score, to be performed live during this honest and poignant new work.
This new play by Chris Neels, has brought together three exciting, young talents of the Auckland theatre and film industry including Ash Jones (The Importance of Being Ernest, Prince Caspian), Esther Stephens (She Stoops To Conquer, Threepenny Opera, Go Girls) and Chris Neels (Skin Tight, The Sex Show).
The Seven Funerals of Charlie Morris:
Only for a brief five show season at
The Basement Studio.
6th – 10th March at 8PM
‘These are (if I may be so bold) some of the best young actors working inAuckland’ –James Henley Theatrescenes
‘This hardworking truly vibrant company of excellent young theatre professionals has here presented a fully formed, incredibly well realised work and one of the funniest shows I have seen on stage this year’ – Stephen Austin, Theatreview.
ASH JONES – CHARLIE
ESTHER STEPHENS – SHE
CHRIS NEELS – PETE
MUSIC WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY SEAN WEBB & ESTHER STEPHENS
ART/DESIGN: ANNA LANGFORD
Charm, style and smarts
Review by Stephen Austin 07th Mar 2012
Charlie Morris is utterly bored with life. Sitting at home all day, unemployed, directionless, smoking pot, he contemplates where he is at and the futility of where he isn’t headed. He yearns, as any twenty-something would, for forward momentum, something new or just simply for change to happen.
When it comes, change arrives in the form of a terminal illness. Charlie is, naturally, devastated. But along with his best mate, Pete, and a strange woman he met on the bus, he endeavours to engage with his own mortality in the best way he can think of: by staging his own funeral to see which type of burial is going to suit him. The play moves through various stages of acceptance, anger, denial, etc, mirroring Charlie’s experimenting these burial styles.
Chris Neels has created a rich, affecting, very funny work out of something well trodden, that many of us have experienced in some form, in much the same way that last year’s These Are The Skeletons Of Us examined relationships. Where it diverges from the previous work is in its heightened sense of gallows humour and full-blown theatricality. The sense of what it means to grow and understand the world around you is developed and the characters are allowed every moment of realisation, completely and very realistically.
The actors all take hold of this marvellous script and breathe buoyant, immediate life into these complex, fallible characters.
Ash Jones as Charlie is hugely watchable and sustains the role incredibly, staying focused and engaged throughout; he is onstage for the majority of the performance and never misses a beat. He plays with every nuance of the character and we can feel a sense of true despair through all of the good humour and fumbling realisation. It’s clear there’s a lot of risk-taking in Jones’ performance and it pays off for him perfectly.
As She, the name-shifting object of Charlie’s affection and in the early stages our in-road into a point of view of someone outside of his life, Esther Stephens fills a near-thankless role with life, quirk and a unique sense of self. Her vocal delivery and physical style are note-perfect.
Writer Neels has chosen to play best mate Pete himself and this role works beautifully for him. When playing your own creations out, there can be the trap of being a little precious about your own work, but here this does not even seem an issue. His perfect comic delivery and large physical presence make for some of the best moments in the play.
The set utilises the black space of the Basement Studio simply and very well. The walls are chalk-drawn fixtures, barely used. A bath sits in the middle, denoting various locales, in front of an upright piano (manned by the very capable, versatile Sean Webb) plus a couple of chairs. It’s all very sparse. But a couple of set-piece props and some highly effective lighting transport instantly and simply.
The programme notes state that the production was directed by “The Company”. I am utterly floored by this, as the sense of focus and dynamic through-line is so well realised. There must have been some single outside eye to the rehearsal process to reign in all-too-easy indulgences, surely? If not, well done to all on such excellent restraint!
The climax is quite a coup de theatre and really deepens the pathos, while at the same time brings a sense of true celebration of a life after the curiously morbid emotional roller-coaster we’ve witnessed. I really don’t want to spoil it, but must say that the original song and execution of it will stay with me for some time.
It really seems a shame that this show is receiving such a short season for its Auckland (nay World) premiere. This script is totally rounded, full of excellent comedy and performed by a cast who are totally invested in the stakes that the material provides. I truly hope the play can have further seasons around the country in front of more audiences who can be touched by its charm, style and smarts. Bravo.
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