Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

14/04/2015 - 18/04/2015

Production Details


Harlem, 1979. The lead dancer at the seedy Studio Soul has just been found dead, and young detective John Gonzales is called in to investigate her murder. But what starts as a routine case turns into an obsession as John’s world blurs into a surreal landscape of secrets, sex and soul music…

The Showgirl is a new play written by Wellingtonian Matt Loveranes that fuses the classic genre of film noir with the decadence of disco. Set in and around a disreputable nightclub on the wrong side of town, the play explores the line between love and obsession while never losing its darkly comedic edge. “Like all the best film – or stage – noirs, this play is more about the people than the mystery,” says director Cassandra Tse. “Matt [Loveranes] has created some truly memorable characters, with dialogue that continues to make me laugh out loud well into rehearsal.”

Detective Gonzales (Jordan Rivers) interviews Luz Cruz (Brittany Goss). Photo by David Lafferty.

The rehearsal process has brought together a seven-strong cast of actors, many of whom are newcomers to Red Scare Collective. “It’s been amazing to be around people who are so talented and passionate,” says performer Margaret Ortega. “It excites me to be part of such a wonderful cast and crew.”

The Showgirl’s setting has given the design team a chance to celebrate the more flamboyant fashions of the era. “The sequins and platforms of seventies glamour tied together with the intrigue of a murder mystery make for an exciting design concept… Well, it’s mainly the sequins that excite me!” enthuses costume designer Lisa Kiyomoto-Fink.

But for the director, it is the uglier side of the trouble-in-paradise plot that holds the real fascination. “I’m embracing the very dark places that the script goes to, and playing with the sense of disintegration we get as the mystery winds its way to a close,” says Tse. “It’s surreal, sometimes uncomfortable, but always thrilling – and what more could you ask of a ‘disco noir’?”

April 14th until April 18th, 8.30pm
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street.
Tickets are $18 full, $14 concession
available from Eventfinder.

Theatre ,

Awesome ensemble work

Review by Maryanne Cathro 15th Apr 2015

It’s Harlem, NYC in 1979, a world of seedy clubs, sequinned fabrics and platform shoes. Young cop John Gonzales is asking too many questions about who shot Fontella Pendavis, star of the stage at Studio Soul. The plot twists, and twists again, like a floor of dancers doing the Brooklyn Shuffle. 

Things that work: 

Rodney Bane as wheelchair bound billionaire Raul Amoroso – such a perfectly pitched performance with just enough ham to feed the black humour, and enough heart to have us believing in his outrageous character. That moustache deserves its own credit in the programme! 

Amazing ensemble work from Brittany Goss, Deborah Eve Rea, Ed Blunden, Maria Jones and Margaret Ortega whose character pastiches alone create a whole picture of Harlem street life. Using actors to set scenes like this is a particularly effective theatrical device and sets the film noir tone of this play perfectly. 

Aaron Blackledge’s lighting turning the Gryphon’s blacks into red velvet.

Lisa Kiyomoto-Fink’s use of gold sequin fabric to create a strong thread of costuming and identity through the play.

Awesome ensemble work. Hours after the curtain call, what remains in my memory are the scenes where all the cast are on stage. 

Things that didn’t work as well: 

Jordan Rivers as Detective Gonzales looks the part but he needs to own it. He is hard to hear, rarely projecting out into the audience. While some moments have great impact, I really think he needs to step up as the leading role in an otherwise powerful cast. In particular he needs to look up and out more so we can see his face properly.

Accents – an impressive attempt to capture the range of accents required to populate this time and place. At times however this is hard to catch. Luckily the context is fairly easy to follow. 

All in all it is a good show. I often wonder why NZ playwrights would choose a time and place so different from our own to set their work, and I honestly think that the same piece set right here in Wellington in 1979 would be amazing. I know there was an underworld here easily as exciting as Harlem to tap into, although the younger generation might find this hard to imagine. But that is Matt Loveranes’ choice as a writer to make and he holds true to the vision; a vision director Cassandra Tse brings convincingly to the stage. 


John Smythe April 15th, 2015

I too “wonder why NZ playwrights would choose a time and place so different from our own to set their work” and agree “that the same piece set right here in Wellington in 1979 would be amazing.” The Purple Onion, where Carmen (born Trevor Rupe) performed her drag act, Carmen’s International Coffee Lounge and then The Balcony spring to mind as models for a fictional club – and the ever amenable ex-Vice Squad detective Trevor Morley would be a mine of juicy information.  

Yes of course it’s “Matt Loveranes’ choice as a writer to make” but it always saddens me when creative New Zealanders imitate other cultures rather than conjure with our own. And it fascinates me that it took an American – Leo Gene Peters – to prove to us that we could embrace the noir style in a totally Kiwi way with Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants back in 2009. It was another American – scriptwriter John Vorhaus – who told the NZ television community, “You guys are so lucky! All the stories have been told but you can tell them again in your own voice and they will seem new and fresh!”

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