09/08/2012 - 18/08/2012
Two Actors, Two Solo Plays, Two Incredible Stories
1stLaydee Productions in association with Celery House presents The Triumphants.Two actors, two solo plays, two incredible stories directed by Abigail Greenwood (Young and Hungry COW, The Needies, Crims, Height of the Eiffel Tower, Chalk) and performed by Aidee Walker and Renee Lyons: … And Then You Die and NICK.
… And Then You Die is the darkly comic tale of the naïve, sweet Debbie Le Valient by award winning New Zealand playwright Tom Sainsbury (Dance Troupe Supreme, Crims, Super City).
Debbie (Aidee Walker, Outrageous Fortune’s Tv Villain ‘Draska’, Nothing Trivial, How to Meet Girls From a Distance, The Jono Project) wants the perfect life. A nice home, husband, children, beautiful body and loads of friends. But lonely Debbie only works at a humble shoe store. And friends, boyfriends and a family? Forget about it. Debbie also has a voice in her head constantly reminding her what a useless waste of space she is, especially when she binge eats. Which is basically all the time.
And then one day, Debbie snaps and decides to take what she wants from life. Husband, home and a great job, here Debbie comes! And who cares if there’s a little bloodshed along the way. Life’s a bitch and then you die? Maybe it’s time for Debbie to be that bitch.
…And Then You Die – a collaboration between Tom Sainsbury and Aidee Walker – debuted as a one act play in 2006, it was developed for three people as a three act play and performed in NZ, USA and London. In 2009 …And Then You Die was performed by Aidee Walker at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a one woman show.
‘Aidee Walker is dynamic and captivating to watch. She plays multiple characters with fluid ease in a way that is always exciting for the audience’ – Katharine Viner, Deputy Editor, The Guardian, Edinburgh Fringe , 2009
‘Sainsbury is a remarkable talent…clearly blessed – or cursed? – with a compulsion to make plays. I can see him fast becoming a classic playwright of his generation’-Theatreview
Brought to life by Renee Lyons (Joseph and Mahina, Toys, Super City) and based on inspiring true events NICKfollows one of Dunedin’s local heroes, sportsman Nick Chisholm.
After enduring a major stroke on the rugby field in 2000 Nick went from adrenalin junkie to 22 months confined to a hospital bed. He had a condition known in the medical world as ‘Locked in Syndrome’, described by those who have experienced it as ‘pure hell’.
Unable to move or speak, Nick experienced unbelievable frustration while those around him believed him to be brain dead. In the years to follow Nick learnt the hard way who his friends were and what really mattered in life. His fierce determination, strength of character and wicked sense of humour accumulated to incredible progress that baffled the medical profession.
He forged unlikely friendships and influenced people to change their lives in ways they never thought possible – all from the static position of his wheel chair and the silent voice of his communication board. NICK is a deeply moving and often hilarious story about this man and the people who have shaped his world – for better or for worse. It is a tale of triumph over adversity, of friendship and of love.
Inspirational, heart-warming, black and hilarious, The Triumphants is a celebration of the power of the human spirit to find joy in dark places.
Designed by Jane Hakaria, with sound design by Alistar Deverick.
Q Theatre, Q Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland,
9-18 August, 8pm,
Sunday 12 August, 6pm, Monday 13 August, 7pm.
Buy tickets at Q Box Office (09) 309 9771
or www.qtheatre.co.nz .
Please note booking fees will apply.
R16 violence and sexual references.
Stylish, inventive view of challenging lives
Review by Paul Simei-Barton 15th Aug 2012
Q Theatre’s Loft provides an intimate setting for an engaging double-header that offers two sharply contrasting visions of the current state of New Zealand society.
Thomas Sainsbury’s And then You Die takes us on a wickedly funny excursion into the head of an under-achieving retail worker who has a compulsive eating disorder and a schizophrenic voice reinforcing her chronically low self esteem.
Aidee Walker’s appealing performance brings to life a weird but instantly recognisable mob of Kiwi characters and her powerful singing delivers a hilarious Concords style gospel number on the tyranny of sales targets.
Although the writing is stylish, quirky and inventive the play presents a fairly bleak perspective on life. But the nihilism is studiously casual and the story ends with a psychotic episode that is played strictly for laughs leaving audience members to draw their own conclusions.
The second offering written and performed by Renee Lyons also displays a fine understanding of theatrical story-telling but establishes a very different tone with a moving account of young man cut down in the prime of life by a sporting accident that reduces him to a vegetative state.
The story is based on the real life experiences of Nick Chisholm who suffered a rare brain stem trauma that left him fully conscious but totally paralysed. The decade long struggle to rebuild his life is told as a celebration of the unassuming heroism of the people who supported Nick on his path to recovery.
The play uses tightly focussed lighting to draw us into the severely constrained world of the protagonist and Renee Lyons performance has a compelling emotional honesty.
At times the mannerisms of kiwi blokedom are laid on a bit thick but the play deftly avoids any sense of sentimentality and presents an inspiring tribute to the way ordinary people rise to challenges posed by extraordinary hardship.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Jet black comedy and a superlative debut triumph together
Review by Stephen Austin 10th Aug 2012
An evening of two completely contrasting solo works: one fully devised by the performer in its first ever public outing, the other extensively workshopped by an established playwright through several versions. Both seemingly have nothing to relate them, although the title of the whole evening signals that they both share a common ground of celebrating triumphs, both mundane and earth-shattering, tiny and huge.
The Q Loft’s small practical black box space is perfect for the immediacy of both works and director Abigail Greenwood wisely chooses to bring the action forward to the audience to increase the intimacy while still utilising the space effectively. Her direction in both is effortless and controlled, keeping all shifts in pacing, styles, themes and structure focussed, grounded and fully realised.
Prolific local playwright, Thomas Sainsbury, strikes again with And Then You Die…, an oddly dark comic tale from a truly unreliable narrator. Debbie Le Valiant has been working at the bottom of the ladder in a results-driven shoe store for quite a while and still holds a pretty optimistic view of life, despite her poor sales statistics. All she really wants is to be liked by all around her and to have the ideal life. Too much to ask? Yes, as it turns out, since she is a stark raving psycho beneath all that good-natured well-intentioned sweetness.
Aidee Walker captures Debbie perfectly and switches into other characters swiftly, with a snappy physicality that keeps the story flowing well. She’s at her best when she has several characters to flip between at once to keep the pace and energy up in characterising a scene.
Some opening night nerves as well as a couple of slightly off technical cues near the beginning seem to take a while to warm up from, but Walker manages the swift style and presence of Sainsbury’s dialogue very well. Her original music for the show is playful, inventive and very welcome.
The set is clever brown paper flats and boxes, functional to the locations, with a small picture frame up the back serving as a window into some fantastic lo-fi animations that comment on and complement the action. It all nicely suggests the everyday, slightly surreal lifestyle of this extremely odd character and her hyper-comic worldview.
There are a few plot holes in the script so I cannot help but wonder if this piece has been a little overworked (it has been in various stages of development and staging over approximately six years – a lifetime by Sainsbury’s prolific standards!) but it is all delivered with such sweet innocuous sincerity by Walker that it cannot help but make me smile broadly at its jet-black sense of the absurd.
After an intermission, for Renee Lyons’ Nick, we find the Loft space almost devoid of set, aside from a black mat playing space down-stage centre with a single chair in the middle. This could not be a more apt metaphor for the differences between the two sections of the evening.
Renee Lyons shuffles fussily onto stage and, through the personage of Korean hospital orderly Soo Young, introduces us to the the world of Nick Chisholm; a young Dunedin man whose charmed, almost every-man, existence is tragically turned upside-down when he suffers a debilitating sports injury that leaves him paralyzed with only his eyes to communicate with. His friends and family rally around him and help him recover with courage, humour and steadfast determination.
From my description above, this would seem to be quite a serious, intensely dramatic work, but there is definitely a swift, wild sense of humour at play here too. Lyons has tapped into every fibre of her acting talent and created a world of relatable characters, based “with a bit of creative licence!” on a very individual story that lifts the audience from a world of observational character study through deep intimacy to high comedy and beyond; that pays off dividends for both performer and audience.
What we’re left with is something truly special that I feel privileged to have witnessed as one of the first audiences to the work.
We never meet Nick, as he is “locked-in” for the majority of the story, but we come to know and understand him fully through his mum Joss, best friends Boyd and Liam, and new British girlfriend Nicola. Even Soo Young’s delightfully bizarre observations give us some insight.
Lyons imbues them all with so much heart and honesty, they seem so real and immediate, we feel we are at Nick’s bedside throughout much of the piece. It is clear she understands and empathises with all of these characters first-hand and embodies them to the extremes of her capacity as an actress.
Basic torchlight illuminating select body parts while vocally running the gamut helps us come to grips with the intense isolation of Locked-In Syndrome. Simply placed slides on the back wall create a depth of both space and perception. Tight, immersive sound design creates a sense of the struggle that the afflicted must fight to regain control of basic motor and neural functionality. There’s even, in a particularly joyous moment, snow on stage!
Transformative, transportive, uncategorizable, original, uplifting, brave. I need a bigger thesaurus to find more superlatives to throw at this wonderful piece of theatre! Bravo!
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer