Crystal Palace, New Plymouth, Taranaki

31/08/2017 - 01/09/2017

Papa Hou Theatre at the YMCA, 12 Hereford Street, Christchurch

07/09/2017 - 10/09/2017


Taranaki Arts Festival 2017

Production Details

In this charming show about death, beauty and what lies Underneath, the Olivier Award-winning team of Pat Kinevane and Fishamble: The New Play Company have created a multi award-winning ghost story.

A hit of the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, Underneath is the Irishman’s third internationally successful solo play and people will be mesmerised by his deft story-telling.

This stunning play is a darkly comic, rich and vivid account of a life lived in secret and a tribute to the people who live on the fringes, under the nose of everyday life.

Pat wrote the play with psychological insight and delivers it with compassion and wit. With references to Egyptian tombs, this ghoulish tale is a must for all theatre lovers.

“This show is charming and surprisingly light-hearted for the topic. It’s beautifully acted and it’s really engaging and funny.” Craig Cooper, Festival Artistic Director

“This is one ghost story that haunts more by virtue of its poignant truths than its supernatural elements.” – Los Angeles Times  

To the point: Compelling ghost story/multi award-winner/deft story-telling/darkly comic/secret life/charming/light-hearted/engaging and funny

Crystal Palace
Thurs, Aug 31, 8.45pm
Fri, Sep 1, 6pm  


PAPA HOU YMCA, 12 Hereford Street, Christchurch
Thu 07 Sep – Fri 08 Sep, 6:00pm
Sat 09 Sep – Sun 10 Sep, 8:00pm
$49 / Conc $45 / Student Rush $20
*Fees & conditions apply, see How to Book.

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 35 mins

Utterly captivating and powerful

Review by Erin Harrington 08th Sep 2017

Underneath is a sophisticated, witty and mesmerising production that ducks and dives, stitching together a complex story about fear, cruelty, desire, longing, and the interplay between external appearances and internal nature.

The show – which is written and performed by Olivier-award winning Irish actor Pat Kinevane and presented by the internationally renowned Irish theatre company Fishamble – places us inside a tomb with our narrator: a dead woman whose scarred skin has turned the colour of charcoal. It’s not worth knowing anything more than that, except to say that yes, it’s kinda (deliciously!) macabre, and no, this isn’t going to be a problem for the squeamish. Instead, she genially welcomes us to her space, settles us in, and chats away happily, sharing the story of her life and mysterious death with us.

Recollections of myriad schoolyard and adult cruelties, both fleeting and devastating, are offset by flippant impersonations of banal real estate-themed reality television, and comic interludes and interruptions, as our narrator goes about the daily business of her (after)life.

A key touchpoint throughout our narrator’s tale is ancient Egypt – or, more to the point, our present day accounts of a certain Orientalist sense of romance, such as Elizabeth Taylor’s lush portrayal of Cleopatra in the 1963 epic drama. This is accentuated through Kinevane’s stylised black and gold makeup, the layered, tattered black costuming, and the sculptural lighting, which renders the dark space, and the gold props, either or opulent or crepuscular. This is augmented by a rich, sometimes playful soundscape, and through dextrous physical and vocal work. It’s a terrific package. 

This lush iconography is wryly juxtaposed against our setting – we know little, at the outset of the performance, except for the fact that we are in some sort of tomb or mausoleum. A great deal of pleasure comes from the meandering story’s unfolding, as we discover who our narrator is, how she came to be entombed, and what her message is for us, the living.

These multiple strands are tied together with a gentle, mischievous, and sometimes bittersweet sense of humour. A few playful gestures towards the doomed ship Titanic, and the impassive, treacherous iceberg that made it go ‘glug glug’, are indicative of the way that visible surface and unseen depth cannot be disentangled. What is the power, and terror, of beauty? And what about those who are forced, by virtue of appearance, to live on the margins? 

Underneath is an utterly captivating and powerful piece of theatre. People linger outside afterwards, decompressing and gushing. I feel a little overwhelmed and almost tearful at the show’s emotional generosity. As we are often reminded, our narrator is now at peace, and while this might temper some of the story’s darkness, decanting years’ worth of heartache and anger, it doesn’t soften the blow, nor the charm, of her story. 


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Dark, disarming, comedy mystery: bloody fantastic

Review by Holly Shanahan 01st Sep 2017

You never know what is around the corner… and it has been a long time since I have seen a one person show I have been so enthralled by. Please, if you can, go along and see Underneath tonight. While I feel the Festival this year is a little heavy on solo shows, I can safely say this is an inspired choice. Bravo.

Underneath is the kind of theatre work we rarely see in Taranaki, performed by a brilliant solo-storyteller. It is a tale about beauty, cruelty, and of simple twists of fate, and while it can be very funny, it is also very touching.  

The construction of the tale is complex, jumping from past to present in a breath; from memory to poetry to whimsy to casual conversation and back again, using a variety of simple theatrical techniques. It takes a while to get your head around the unique performance style and exactly what is happening in the story, but once hooked (and it doesn’t take long), Pat Kinevane is hilarious, frightening, beautiful and enchanting.

As he recounts the story of a woman, and her torment after being disfigured as a young girl, Kinevane uses voice, skilful physicality, simple eerie lighting effects, smoke, sound and basic abstract set and prop pieces to evoke a mood of mystery, and to set time and place. Her life, and death, is a tragic tale, but in the retelling her decomposed corpse is not without humour.

The juxtaposition of the tragic and light serves this story well, as does the interaction and involvement of audience members. I love the use of very simple smoke and lighting effects to create horror-esque silhouettes, and Kinevane’s abstract physical choreography, reminscent at times of German expressionism, is executed with precision. I love seeing a performer so in command of his body.

The writing is very clever, weaving Egyptian and Titanic references into the tale in a variety of language styles. Parts of the show could be mistaken for dark burlesque performance poetry, other parts stand up comedy, but somehow, it works. 

The golds of set and prop pieces tie into the Egyptian references and give beautiful contrasts and textures under different lighting effects. I particularly love the long piece of golden knitting, setting our protagonist in the flat above which ‘Aldi’ and ‘Lidl’ live, and the abstract crown used to evoke her tormentor.

I do feel the ‘Crystal Palace’ is not the ideal venue for this work, as I do have to strain to see everything going on, but it still works.

Go visit this grave and listen to this story, it is a proper theatrical work of Art for the Arts Festival. A dark, disarming, comedy mystery, it is bloody fantastic. Literally.


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