Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

12/06/2018 - 21/06/2018

Production Details

Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s tragicomedy about the demeaning power of money was an instant classic from its first performance in 1956.

Billionaire Claire Zachanassian returns to her home town of Güllen after many years away making her fortune. In the interim, Güllen has fallen on hard times (even selling the contents of the town’s museum) and when Claire offers the townspeople enough money to bring the town back to life, they are initially overjoyed – until they hear the conditions of the bargain.

Featuring third year actors on stage, second and third year managers off stage and the work of second year costumiers on the actors. Directed by 1983 graduate Danny Mulheron (Why Does Love, Hillary) and Miranda Manasiádis (Lobsters, Ikarus).

Tue 12 – Thu 21 June 2018
Te Whaea Theatre, Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington 
8.30pm nightly (no show 17 June)
1.15pm 13 & 19 June (“Taught” matinée)*
11.00am 21 June
$15 full, $10 concessions, $5 for all matinée tickets
On sale now! Seating strictly limited.

Warning: Adult Themes, violence, use of fake guns

(The second part of the double-bill, The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, is also on sale and you can buy a discounted package ticket for both shows here. It is possible to see both shows on the same night.)

*The ‘taught’ matinée is a performance that is hosted by a Toi tutor and the show stops and starts so that discussion can happen with the actors, director and other creatives. They are very informative performances but can be frustrating dramatically for younger audiences. Reading the play in advance can help. The ‘taught’ matinée has great learning outcomes and I would recommend it for 15 to 17 year olds. Some teachers are coming to an earlier show so that they can prepare their students for the performance. 

Alice May Connolly
Andrew Eddey
Anthony Crum
Chris Alosio
Conan Hayes
Hannah Lynch
Kawakawa Fox-Reo
Leo Maggs
Matè Lagae
Mosese Vea’ila
Skyla Love

Co-director Danny Mulheron
Co-director Miranda Manasiadis
Lighting Designer Marcus McShane
Producer Glenn Ashworth
Production Manager Cohen Stephens
Stage Manager Nicole Alexander
Deputy Stage Manager Debra Thomas
Technical Manager Mattias Olofsson
Costume Co-ordinator Kaarin Slevin
Costume Supervisors Alice Wade & Tamara Mills

Theatre ,

A timely opportunity to test ourselves

Review by John Smythe 14th Jun 2018

As we take our seats in the Te Whaea auditorium, the cast is slowly donning shabby grey costumes in the strip between a sketched backdrop suggesting a dilapidated town (scenic art by Sassy Shepheard) and a long run of rostra. We wait … and eventually they wait too, while someone paints a ‘Welcome’ banner. We share the sense of anticipation.

The bell and train whistle wielded by Station Master (Leo Maggs) mark the start of Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 classic, The Visit, co-directed by Danny Mulheron and Miranda Manasiadis. This Toi Whakaari graduation play complements the very recent American work, The Wolves.

The once-prosperous town of Güllen is now a place the fast trains pass by – until Madame Claire Zachanassian (Skyla Love), the distinguished billionaire guest they are expecting, stops The Flying Dutchman in its tracks in order to alight with her entourage: Chief Justice-turned-Butler, Bobby (Matè Lagae), and the blind servants Lobby (Conan Hayes) and Kobby (Kawakawa Fox-Reo). She also brings a coffin.

Mme Claire’ jet-black frock and feathered shoulders, and her staff’s orange attire, make the townsfolk’s greyness seem even more drab, despite their excitement. A limp resulting from a near-death experience only makes her even more exotic.

It quickly emerges this is a return to her roots for Mme Claire, who grew up in Güllen as Clara Wäscher, the daughter of a carpenter, and left when she was 17. Her first love, Anton Schill (Mosese Vea’ila), is now the local shopkeeper. Will the spark of their adolescent passion be reignited? Is this why she has returned?

The Burgomeister (Anthony Crum), Pastor (Hannah Lynch), Doctor (Alice May Connolly), Teacher (Andrew Eddey) and Policeman (Chris Alosio) are intent on getting Anton to capitalise on Clara’s apparent love for him to secure her financial support to revitalise the town – indeed to save it from oblivion.

Slowly and inexorably layers of memory are peeled away until the true story of what drove Clara from Güllen, and how she has made her billions since, is revealed. No spoilers, except to say what has hitherto been seen as a story of monstrous vengeance in the quest for justice now resonates with the #timesup movement.

While many previous productions have been star vehicles for the lead actresses, this Clara resists the temptation to spit venom. She states her case and sits back to watch what the townsfolk do – giving each of us the opportunity to interrogate our own moral values: what would I do, honestly, given the choice they face?

It starts with people acquiring new items of clothing on tic, splendidly signified by splashes of bright yellow. They circle like the birds of prey Clara’s garb suggests – but of course due process must be followed. A town meeting, to be exact. A democratic vote. A judicious spin on the result.  

While the characterisations are strong and clear, the satire is not over-played. Real feelings and rationalisations are at the core of everyone’s changing behaviours. We cannot observe and complacently console ourselves that that was how the world was then. If anything it is even more so now.  

This revisiting of The Visit is a timely opportunity for us to test ourselves. 


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