Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

04/02/2014 - 08/02/2014

Production Details




Michael Lowe directs Simon Ward and Simon Wolfgram in the premiere season of Thumper.

A no-holds-barred exploration of the off-field violence committed by a professional sportsman, Thumper delves into the real-world culture of permissiveness that tacitly condones such behaviour when it fails to hold men accountable for their actions.

In the aftermath of his first ever loss, professional boxer Peter faces assault charges and struggles to deal with the fact that he is no longer undefeated – and therefore past his prime.  William, his court-appointed therapist, races the clock to establish trust with this reluctant client, but hides a motive to betray that trust, and risk his career – to ensure Peter’s brutality does not go unpunished.

ONLY 5 PERFORMANCES: February 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th, 2014 – 7pm
The Basement Studio – Tickets: Full $20, Concession $15
BOOK Online: or contact the Basement: 09 361 1000

SIMON WARD last appeared on the Basement stage in 2012 as “Tim Muffin” in Eigengrau. Other theatre credits include “Friar Tuck” in Outfit Theatre Company’s Robin Hood,  “Laurie Marshall” in Space Race and “James” in Emotional Cripple, co-written and performed with Shoshana McCallum. 

SIMON WOLFGRAMwas recently nominated for Best Actor in a Short Film at the 2013 Rialto Channel NZ Film Awards, for his role in Aidee Walker’s Friday Tigers. Stage credits include “John” in Leopard by Shoshana McCallum, and “Michael” in The Primary Motivations for the 2011 Fringe Festival.

MICHAEL LOWE played “Theo” in Mrs Van Gogh at the Musgrove Theatre for the 2013 Auckland Fringe Festival, other screen and stage credits include Ladies Night, Hello & Goodbye, The Almighty Johnsons and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Lowe was also awarded “Best Wild Card” for the 2013 Short+Sweet Theatre Competition, and “Best NZ Play” and “Best Drama” for 2011’s The Obituary.

Thumper plays
February 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th at 7pm
Basement Studio
$20 Full $15 Concession

Theatre ,

Unanimous decision

Review by Matt Baker 06th Feb 2014

The inciting incident that rings the bell in Simon Ward’s play is, unfortunately in today’s society, by no means a fanciful subject matter. However, the lesser reported, and unaccounted, consequences are a source of great dramatic material. A court-appointed psychological evaluation for an assault charge is an inevitably sure-fire situation, and Ward has written a durable 12 round psychological drama. Tension constantly bubbles below the surface of the script, and leads to a surprising, yet inevitable, ending. 

There is a tentativeness in the extremity of Ward’s writing, however, it is not a disservice to the material (aptly addressed in the programme notes), merely the sign of an emerging writer finding his voice. The lines are incredibly natural, and both the actors allow themselves to process through them, creating a genuinely organic dialogue. [More]


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Plenty of humour in challenging play with brilliant final twist

Review by Forrest Denize 05th Feb 2014

“Don’t start a fight unless you know how to finish it,” warns the tag line for Simon Ward’s new play, Thumper.  Relatively new to the playwriting scene, Ward has jumped in the deep end with a play tackling the controversial issues of violence and rape in a society where sports that rely on ‘brute force’ as much as skill are celebrated, and their champions – no matter how troubled – revered.

Peter (Simon Ward) is a boxer facing assault charges and Will (Simon Wolfgram) is his court-assigned psychologist, hired to carry out an assessment in the hope it might help Peter’s case but with his own motivations.  The action takes place in Will’s session room; the set is naturalistic and functional, the lighting simple.

Directing a two-hander can be a real challenge but Mike Lowe ensures that the scenario, which in real life might be quite static, stays alive and bristling with tension.

Given the writer self-deprecatingly puts in his notes, “Next time I’m writing a comedy,” there is plenty of humour in Ward’s script. As an actor, his comic timing is spot on and this helps ease the audience through a rather long establishing period in the opening scenes of the play. It also encourages the audience to feel more sympathetic towards the blunt, aggressive, past-his-prime boxing pro.

At times, however (and this could simply be a result of opening night nerves), I feel that Ward sacrifices some of Peter’s emotional integrity for the laugh. When speaking to his young daughter on the phone, the change from the harsh boxing persona to gentle, fatherly concern is so stark it comes across as funny, when there is potential for a genuinely touching, emotional moment.  

Will, the plotting psychologist, balances Peter’s explosiveness with calm, internal energy; spot on for a therapist’s demeanour according to an audience member. Wolfgram is initially a little difficult to hear, but he shines when the character’s true colours are eventually revealed with a single satisfying, savoured line. I would love to see the potential of this status change explored even further, but nonetheless, Wolfgram’s even voice and demure smile is chilling.

“Don’t start a fight unless you know how to finish it.” Ward takes his own advice and the play ends magnificently. The final twist is both brilliant and sickening. I find myself ecstatic that the psychologist’s plan, with its uniqueness and sheer nerve, blows apart the foreshadowed storyline.  

I am pleased to see this difficult material being explored on stage, as these are issues that often come up in sporting culture in New Zealand, but are not always taken responsibility for. It is also clear that Ward has real comedic talents, however, and I look forward to seeing what he will come up with next.  


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