These are the Skeletons of Us

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

09/08/2011 - 13/08/2011

BATS Theatre, Wellington

27/03/2012 - 05/04/2012

Production Details

Elephant Nation is proud to present THESE ARE THE SKELETONS OF US, a brand new play from the people who brought you Titus and The Night Before the Morning After. With their previous work being touted as ‘ingenious’ and ‘poignant’, this original new play is sure to delight audiences.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Follow the story of Guy as he looks back on his first truly loving relationship immediately after a sudden break up. Surrounded by things that inhabit his home but don’t belong to him he begins to sift through the ‘bones’ of his relationship. With the supervision and the support of his two friends he begins to look back and try and figure out where it all went wrong.

A love story backwards in the vain of modern classics, such as ‘Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind’ and ‘500 days of Summer’. The audience is taken into the journey of this less than perfect relationship told through the eyes of a young man.

Collaborating to create the memories of this unconventional love story Sean Webb and Perlina Lau have created an original score that sets the tone to this exciting fresh work.

This new play by Chris Neels features some of Auckland’s best young talent including Nic Sampson (History Boys, Space Race, Idiots), Chelsea McEwan Millar (Flightless Birds, Find Me), Andrew Ford (Idea of America, Boys Life, History Boys) and Colin Garlick (Really Good at Auditions). 

THESE ARE THE SKELETONS OF US, only for a brief five show season as part of Elephant Nation’s double bill at The Basement Theatre.

These are the Skeletons of Us 
August 9th-13th 2011
The Basement Theatre
Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD
Bookings: or Ph: 361 1000 


BATS theatre Wellington
27th March – 5th April 2012
(no show sunday/monday)  

Guy: Nic Sampson
Girl: Chelsea McEwan Millar
Friend: Andrew Ford
Other Friend: Colin Garlick

Music and Sound design: Sean Webb

Design and Operation: Ruby Reihana-Wilson

Skeleton without structure

Review by Lynn Freeman 12th Apr 2012

I heard about a production of Romeo and Juliet played in reverse, so you start with the death scene and end up with these two young lovers meeting, Apparently it’s even more devastating seeing it that way, reminding you how much they loved each other and how much was lost.

Chris Neels’ play of a not so young or idyllic couple whose relationship ultimately also fails, is also told in reverse. Unfortunately what the audience gets to see for the first 40 minutes is two people, who are not very likeable, yelling at each other. A lot. By the time we get to know them pre-hatred phase, it’s really too late to care about them individually or what they’ve lost.

When we first meet this unnamed couple Guy (Nic Sampson) hands over the last of his ex’s stuff to her –Girl (Chelsea McEwan-Millar). He’s in his dressing gown, which he wears throughout the play, and we learn he’s an avid reader who stays around home and lacks anything in the way of ambition. She is tiny and dynamic and works as a fairy in a shop in town. They don’t really have a lot in common, resentments build, tempers flare.

The actors do a great job, and there are some wonderful lines in Neels’ script, it’s the structure that’s the problem here. The guy’s two mates (Andrew Ford and Colin Garlick) are characters that need a lot more fleshing out to justify their place in the story. 


Make a comment

Refreshing change with a love story told backwards

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 29th Mar 2012

A sense of apprehension nagged away at me as I approached Bats to see These are the Skeletons of Us: yet another dissection, or in this case an x-ray as the play’s poster suggests, of a love affair gone wrong and all the clichés that will inevitably occur. My forebodings, I’m glad to report, were unfounded.

While telling a story backwards isn’t anything new in the theatre (Vincent O’Sullivan, Harold Pinter, and George S. Kaufman have all, with varying success, had a go) it is a refreshing change and when you add to it droll humour, some good relaxed comic acting that also encompasses some touching scenes of pain and anger, and some smart, inventive direction, then the clichés get completely forgotten.

This hour-long play begins and ends with Guy sitting on a park bench moodily feeding some Mallard ducks whose mating habits are, as Guy points out, symbolic. Guy is a sort of eternal student, would-be poet, and was once a maker of balloon animals. The young woman with whom he falls in love works in a fairy shop and occasionally she wears fairy wings. She is the realist, Guy the romantic.

Guy lives in a shambles of a flat and has two mates (played with comic insouciance by Andrew Ford and Colin Garlick) who look after him, tease him, and keep the action going by moving the furniture and props for the next scene.

The start of the play and the end of the affair begins when Guy noisily crunches his food when he eats, fails to get a job, and half-heartedly tries to write poetry, while she

mentions a handsome Scandinavian called Lars too often and Guy gets fed up with what he calls “coital Russian roulette”.

The beginning of the affair is romantic and Nic Simpson as Guy and Chelsea McEwan-Millar as the girl make an attractive couple and they act together making the lovers touching, funny, and believable, so that the ending is bitter-sweet without being cloying, which in itself is a small triumph, as is the subtle support provided by Sean Webb’s score and played by the composer, Ruby Reihana-Wilson and Natalie Parker.


Make a comment

A compelling portrait of a 21st century twenty-somethings relationship

Review by John Smythe 28th Mar 2012

Having become aware, though this esteemed organ, thatAucklandwriter /director /actor /improviser Chris Neels is a creative force to be reckoned with, I have been looking forward to seeing this play at Bats. And I’m not disappointed.

Relationships will always be the stuff of drama, on stage as in life. This Guy  and Girl  story is idiosyncratic and true. Presumably the characters don’t have names because they are supposed to be generic.

To add interest to the tale, Neels starts with their breakup then tracks back inexorably towards their first meeting, while punctuating the action with ‘now-time’ scenes of the mop-up aftermath, managed by the Guy’s Friend and Other Friend.

The Guy has the narrative voice and, interestingly, reveals himself as self-indulgent and intolerant while she is relatively free, easy and receptive – although she does work as a party fairy. He, however, is unemployed and sees himself as a ‘scholar’. The assertion he is doing nothing with his life is offset by the existence of this at times quite poetic dramatic artefact, which may be seen as his creation.

A mess of clothes – mostly hers – bestrews the stage amid which a park bench, a bed, a drum kit, a chest of draws, a table and chairs are disported. He slobs about in a dressing gown throughout while she enjoys a few costume changes. As the action plays out, the space become tidier.

Nic Sampson brings a default sardonic drollness to his Guy so that the revelation of his capacity for enjoying the first flush of love adds poignant depth, given we have – by then – seen how he loses it.

Chelsea McEwan-Millar is delightfully mercurial as the much more self-aware, warts-and-all – Girl: a very well realised individual in both writing and performance.  

The friends have little existence outside their relationships with the Guy and his relationship with the Girl, which only happens through a disarming encounter between her and the Other Friend. But Andrew Ford and Colin Garlick make the most of their opportunities to reveal their distinctive characters, while working tirelessly to facilitate the staging.

Sean Webb plays his original score live, and is joined by Ruby Reihana-Wilson and Natalie Parker in a memorable scene. Neels as director has made the most of what the Bats space has to offer, using all its portals to excellent effect. He also tips a bucket or two on his authorial character, literally (you have to be there).

In the wash-up, there is nothing extraordinary about the central relationship: it plays out its hour-and-a-quarter upon the stage and further down the tracks of both lives, is unlikely to be thought of very much more; mainly because he will probably have repeated his pattern and she will have chosen better. Or not.

It is the authenticity of all this that makes These Are The Skeletons of Us a compelling portrait of a 21st century twenty-somethings relationship.

It’s hard to assess, from the few examples we get in Wellington, whether there is an Auckland style as such but this production has a subtly different feel to it compared with most Bats fare. As such I hope Wellingtonians will flock to it.


Bev Hall March 28th, 2012

Great review for an outstanding performance of an intelligently crafted theatre piece. Wellington will be WOW'd by this show.

Make a comment

Fully formed, well realised, very funny

Review by Stephen Austin 10th Aug 2011

Theatre about relationships can often be fraught with traps. It is so easy to fall into angst-ridden clichés and well-worn stereotypes to get the point across and it can quickly fall into a conjugal bore. How to make material like this work well and still make an attempt at being original?

Chris Neels’ answers this neatly with These Are The Skeletons of Us by presenting the events of this story backwards, more or less, and giving his characters decent back-stories, inner-lives and senses of humour to make them fully credible.

Guy is feeling the effects of a long-term relationship break-up and is picking up the pieces with the help of his two flatmates. In the process of cleaning out her belongings, he recalls past events, how they met, the best of times and even the problematic moments.

This simple premise that is dealt with great humour, touchingly wry observation and plenty of emotional wallop, laying the bones of it bare for us to observe and enjoy.

The cast are all excellent, but it is Nic Samson as Guy who really shines here, with a role that allows him some greater emotional weight than other shows he has been involved with recently. He tackles the role with a sincerity and great comic delivery that make Neels’ script hum fully.

Neels directs with a highly assured hand, informing the action with items and actions that invoke memory and sustain the central relationships. He keeps a keen eye on the comedy, while making sure the significance and gravity of the situation are never neglected; an excellent balancing act is created – by Sampson, Chelsea McEwan Millar, Andrew Ford and Colin Garlick – in the final product. 

Paulina Lau and Sean Webb’s moody emotional score underpin the central action and help sustain the already pacey nature of the script; never encroaching on the action, but always there as subtle comment.

The set is quite cluttered with the bones of Guy’s life and it is steadily picked through, sorted and tidied to add an extra level to the themes and allow for some excellent invention, especially in the montage of how the couple met. Lighting design is quite subtle, but effectively holds everything together.

I am consistently impressed by the quality of productions by freshly graduated practitioners in Auckland lately, but this show is a notch above being a few clever acting exercises and some half-baked ideas being thrown together onstage.

This hardworking truly vibrant company of excellent young theatre professionals has here presented a fully formed, incredibly well realised work and one of the funniest shows I have seen on stage this year. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Julie Cornwall August 11th, 2011

 Yay - awesome comments - sure wish I lived closer to take in your amazing gift that you share with all of us :) :)  

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council