THE SLAPDASH ASSASSIN
15/09/2012 - 06/10/2012
JEREMY ELWOOD TAKES A SHOT AT SLAPDASH COMEDY
Comedian Jeremy Elwood is taking to the stage at The Court Theatre in the world première of new play THE SLAPDASH ASSASSIN. Elwood trades a microphone for a handgun in an Irish comedy “as black as a pint of Guinness”.
“In ‘the industry’, stand-up comedians aren’t the same as actors,” says Elwood, a regular panellist on TV show 7 DAYS. “Fair enough. Just ask Robin Williams, Billy Connolly, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Dawn French…”
Elwood studied acting at Otago University and has performed in several productions in Dunedin and Auckland, as well as touring New Zealand in THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED). Elwood calls THE SLAPDASH ASSASSIN “one of the best scripts I’ve ever worked from.”
“I’d heard about Jeremy’s acting chops from his reputation at Otago,” says director Ross Gumbley. “He’s fearless, has a great chemistry with the other actors – it’s been a delight to work with him.”
In between performances of THE SLAPDASH ASSASSIN, Elwood will also perform a stand-up comedy show with Michele A’Court (NZ Comedy Guild’s “Female Comedian of The Decade” and columnist) on September 27 during the show’s run.
THE SLAPDASH ASSASSIN grew out of a conversation with Irish writer Mark Power, who was writer-in-residence at the Liverpool playhouse in the 1980s while Court Theatre Chief Executive Philip Aldridge was an actor. In 2008 Power and Aldridge resumed contact and Power outlined the basic premise of THE SLAPDASH ASSASSIN: a retired Gardai who recruits his grandson to kill the criminals that were never brought to justice. Gumbley “loved the idea” and asked Power to write his first full-length work in twenty years.
“SLAPDASH has been a long time coming,” says Gumbley – “we’ve been working towards this production for almost four years. Mark is a beautiful writer with a gift for dialogue who’s mixed great ideas with pitch-black comedy.”
“I’m immensely grateful to The Court,” says Power, “not just for commissioning the play, but in the case of Philip Aldridge and Ross Gumbley, for initiating the work, and encouraging me to persist with it.”
THE SLAPDASH ASSASSIN opens on September 15.
Performances: 15 September – 6 October 2012
Show times: 6:30pm Mon/Thu, 7:30 Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat (2pm matinee Sat 25 August)
Venue: The Court Theatre, Bernard St, Addington
Tickets: Adults $48 | Senior $41 | Groups (20+) $39 | Under 25 $29 | Child $19
Bookings: 03 963 0870 or www.courttheatre.org.nz
CAST: Damien Avery, John Bach, Jeremy Elwood, Kim Garrett, Michael Keir-Morrissey and David Weatherley
Set design: Mark McEntyre
Lighting Design: Geoff Nunn
Sound Design: Sean Hawkins
Stage Manager: Helen Beswick
Props Manager: Anneke Bester
Costume Design: Annie Graham
Set Construction: Nigel Kerr, Richard Daem, Henri Herr, Maurice Kidd, Richard van den Berg
Wardrobe: Emily Thomas, Bronwyn Corbet
Production Manager: Mandy Perry
2hrs 15mins, incl. interval
Review by Lindsay Clark 16th Sep 2012
It has taken almost four years worth of ‘conversations’ to hatch this pungent revenge story, but its subject lies in the discord of generations way back. Playwright Mark Power (a Scouser of Irish descent, now living in Ireland), seems sufficiently removed from the gory business of Irish civil strife to contemplate it ruthlessly, but close enough to infuse it with riveting passion. In addition, he crafts the language and structure of the play with insouciant ease.
It is savagely funny but has a truthful pulse which never skips a beat through a series of startling and sometimes shocking events. There is a potent sting in this tale.
Ross Gumbley is completely in tune with the tone and substance of the play. Over his years at Court he has had some memorable ‘Irish’ connections. His direction of this one must be a stand-out. The plot line follows a family group through a few hours of tense developments which are delivered with sharp edged clarity by his control of rhythm and pace and there are performances to match.
In Mark McEntyre’s set, we have a suggestive arrangement even before the house lights go down. A comfortable and well worn farmhouse living area is framed by ancient, twisted roots: grim world out there; safe haven in here. Except that out there keeps coming in and at each entry there is an escalation in tension as we are made aware of the circumstances of this family.
There is plenty of laughter, plenty of wit, but under it all events move inevitably to a conclusion as humorously bitter as could be imagined.
The initial moments are deceptively cosy. An elderly man (Seamas) is stirring soup at his kitchen bench, anticipating an arrival. It is his grandson (Jerry) who powers in to break the illusion. As he strips off nasty plastic wrappings we learn that he has just executed someone in what he will later describe as “just terrorism.”
By six, his cousin Vincent, rebellious priest has arrived unexpectedly and with a wife, Grace. It is while their honeymoon arrangements are being seen to upstairs that their uncle, looking to recover a stash of guns for the other side, enters to set up a day to remember. The Bishop, for one, will have to be involved.
The cast is uniformly strong, given time by the writing and direction to develop real characters.
For the older generation, steeped in the troubled and tragic events of their country, Michael Keir-Morrissey (Seamus), John Bach (the uncle, Padraig), and David Weatherley (Gus, the Bishop) flawlessly provide the all too real landscape in which a younger generation will try to make headway.
As the priest, Vincent, who so dramatically rejects the palliatives of his calling, Damian Avery partners effectively with Kim Garrett (Grace), herself a strong element in a play of potent statements.
Jeremy Elwood is the driven Jerry. He brings to the role both subtlety and conviction. Angry, infuriatingly glib, wickedly logical and ultimately vulnerable in his weary despair, he voices the predicament of those who use selective violence in the name of justice.
Annie Graham’s costumes set up the characters perceptively, including those for three apparitions, victims of the gun (Oliver Probert, Jarred Skelton and Connan Mountain). Sean Hawkins and Geoff Nunn (sound and lighting respectively) complete the creative team in fine style.
It may seem strange that this forceful, funny and intensely Irish play should premier in Christchurch, but its message applies to revenge whatever the context and however it is styled. The rationale that bystanders need have no fear is exposed for the hypocrisy that it is. There are no bystanders.
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