Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

24/02/2012 - 26/02/2012

NZ Fringe Festival 2012

Production Details

The Show Must Go On is a colourful and entertaining look into what goes on behind the scenes of a struggling travelling circus. It focuses on many dark aspects of being human but the circus’ performers are quirky entertainers through and through and the complicated love triangles, touching and intimate scenes, energetic dancing and alternative costuming are all their own. It is a play bound to play with your heart strings that will also shock and amaze.

Mid-year 2010 a group of young writers and actors, Tabitha Besley, Eleanor Strathern, Zach Miller-Bassett, Comfrey Sanders and Paki Tahu began bouncing ideas around for a theatre piece they wanted to create. By February 2011 they had completed the script and began rehearsing, performing a three night season in April, at Nelson’s Suter Theatre.

After the performances the group were passionate about taking their success further. “It felt like all the work we had put into it couldn’t just end there,” said Tabby. “We thought that taking part in the Fringe Festival would give us a a great opportunity to keep working on this project and find audiences who can really appreciate it.” The story follows a travelling circus and the journeys of the troubled characters within it, using dark themes, humour and various performance arts to enchant audiences. “The play was constructed from a combination of themes and scenes that each of us wanted to put into a script. The characters are all close to our hearts,” Eleanor said. Tabby explained that the story development was a group effort, with each writer taking on a number of scenes before coming together to edit the final script.

The cast expect to be the youngest performers in the Fringe Festival as they all fall between the ages of 15 and 19. “One of the most important things for us bout creating this play was to show the potential that young people have,” Tabby explained. “Youth are often portrayed negatively in the media and we really want to show that there are young people out there doing amazing things.” The group loved working on the show with each other because it was all a collaborative process. “One of the reasons we came together in the beginning was because we had all experienced a similar feeling of not being heard or given the creative freedom we wanted in other youth drama settings, so we thought why not create our own opportunities.”

The group are supported by Inspired Productions, an organization in Nelson who aim to empower young people through theatre and film projects. Originally the show was backed financially with funding the organization got through the Nelson City Council “Tomorrow’s Leaders Today” programme funded by the Ministry of Youth Development, but this time round the cast is working only with the money they gained through ticket sales in 2011. They would like to thank Nelson’s youth centre The New Hub who have sponsored their rehearsal space and Interislander for providing them with a group discount on travel.

The Show Must Go On opens at 7.30pm on the 24th of February for a four show season. Tickets cost $20 adult and $14 concession from Whitireia Theatre.

Venue: Whitireia Theatre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington
Friday 24th February – 7:30pm
Saturday 25th February – 2pm, 8:30pm
Sunday 26th February – 7:30pm

Full – $20
Concession – $14    238 6225

A challenge the media portrayal of youth

Review by Jo Hodgson 25th Feb 2012

“I put my heart and soul into my work and I’ve lost my mind in the process” – Van Gogh. 

The Show Must Go On is a character-driven drama about ‘Le Petite Cirque’, a travelling circus fraught with internal conflicts.

Ringmaster Michelle (Maniana Raunigg) is a domineering authoritarian who can’t see that her desire for success is hurting those around her. She ridicules Martin the clown (Isaac Thomas) to the extent that he believes he is a complete failure, so he contemplates escaping it all. Tuesday the fortune teller (Tabitha Besley) predicts the truth but Michelle makes her predict ridiculous far fetched readings that will keep the punters happy.

Her star performer and lover, dancer Gabriel (Hayden Jefcoate) tries to support her but feels lost and disrespected. When he seeks direction from Tuesday, the plot thickens with a grim revelation.   

Into this scene of stunted potential comes Angie (Eleanor Strathern), a ‘glass half full’ wordsmith who has run away and happens to join the circus.  She becomes Martin’s performance side kick and muse and the catalyst for this insular group opening up about their fears and life truths while also opening up about her own future.

The large Whitireia Theatre stage is used effectively, with well-defined areas depicting various lodgings and the circus arena. Lighting is unobtrusive and mostly well executed; occasionally dialogue is spoken in the dark. (Sound and light operation is provided by two young men from a local high school.)

The musical excerpts throughout are well chosen and evocative, especially ‘Butterflies’ by Sia at the climatic finale.

The costumes are imaginative, matching the atmosphere of the play especially those of the Ringmaster manipulating her chorus of four high-energy dancers like ghoulish marionettes.  Great choreography by Hannah Krermmer and Allie Donoghue-Hunt and circus props add colour, especially the Glow Poi wielded expertly by Hayden Jefcoate.

The script is quite mature and deals with complex issues but the emotional conflicts are not delivered with enough dynamic contrast and intensity to make me completely empathetic to the characters, although the ending is certainly much more connected, echoing the Van Gogh quote above.  Eleanor Strathern needs particular mention for her natural acting flow in the role of Angie.

The Show Must Go On was first performed in Nelson in 2011. The original group had spent a year previously work shopping and writing this script, which seems to parallel the writers’ own experiences of the desire to be heard and respected for their ideas. After that performance they wanted to take all their hard work and passion further afield, so applied to be part of the Wellington Fringe Festival.

These young people, all between 15 and 20 years old, are to be commended for their commitment to their ideas and belief that youth theatre can be engaging and powerful. Also their want to challenge the portrayal of youth in the media by “showing the potential that young people have.”

With the support of Inspired Productions, a Nelson community organisation to promote participatory development through drama, music and multi-media, this young group have completely devised, written, produced this entire show from concept through to production, including promotion, sponsorship, integrating new cast members and performing it all themselves. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council