UNEASY DREAMS and Other Things

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

10/10/2018 - 27/10/2018

Production Details


A phenomenal new play inspired by Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. With pop music. And a penis.

The award-winning Uneasy Dreams and Other Things is set to premiere at Circa Theatre this October under direction from internationally renowned Sara Brodie. Featuring stunning design, photography and live music, and with a cast of refreshing New Zealand talent. 

Samantha is moving up in her career. A career overshadowed by everyday misogyny and the successes of men, the fight has been… Long. Hard. Sam has has to “man up.” After a night of uneasy dreams, Sam wakes up on an important morning to find herself transformed. In a state of shock, she must navigate career, sex, friendships, identity, and art within this whole new ball game.

A surreal and intelligent story that combines Kafka’s classic work with contemporary dialogue and stunning visual design. And 80s pop hits.

“Very clever, very funny, very imaginative; a startling, wild ride.” – Playmarket

Part of the 2018 Women’s Theatre Festival, Uneasy Dreams boasts a cast and crew of talented wahine and friends across disciplines and generations. Director Sara Brodie (Auckland Theatre Company’s Under the Mountain, New Zealand Opera) is one of Aotearoa’s most highly regarded Directors and Choreographers, with an extensive repertoire in theatre, opera and dance that has seen her work flourish both nationally and internationally and earned her an Arts Foundation Laureate Award (2015).

Playwright Dr. Lori Leigh has utilised her impressive academic background in theatre and gender studies to create this truly contemporary and glass ceiling smashing version of a classic narrative that is wildly fun and intelligent.

Surreal and stunning Set Design by Harriet Denby is complemented by Tabitha Arthur’s photography and Lighting Design by multi-award winning Lighting Designer Jennifer Lal. All set to pop music favourites performed live by Liam Kelly and Peter Scriven.

Uneasy Dreams and Other Things is extremely proud to present the Circa Theatre debut of three of its extraordinary cast; stunningly electric Lydia Peckham, comedy queen Johanna Cosgrove (AUNTY, BURBS), and recently discovered star Arlo Gibson (Mega Time Squad, Mating in Captivity). Hidden treasure Matthew Staijen-Leach (Richard II, Second Afterlife) returns to the Circa stage for the first time in three years.

A play with quick wit, big brains and serious guts; a visual feast and a live music treat. Uneasy Dreams is one impressive package. A Metamorphosis that will leave its audience forever changed.

WINNER – Adam NZ Play Award Runner-Up (2017)

WINNER – Sara Brodie, Arts Foundation Laureate (2015)

WINNER – Sara Brodie for Most Original Production (Wellington Theatre Awards, 2011)

WINNER – Johanna Cosgrove for Outstanding Performer (Dunedin Fringe, 2017)

WINNER – Johanna Cosgrove for Best Comedy (Auckland Fringe, 2017)

WINNER – Jennifer Lal, Best Lighting Designer (Wellington Theatre Awards, 2015/12/10/06/05/04/01/1999)

WINNER – Eleanor Strathern, Most Promising Emerging Artist (NZ Fringe, 2018)


Uneasy Dreams and Other Things
Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Wednesday 10th – Saturday 27th October
7.30pm Tuesday – Saturday, 4.30pm Sundays
$25 preview on Tuesday 9th October!
Tickets: $25 – $35
Bookings: www.circa.co.nz // (04) 801 7992  

Theatre ,

A generous and varied dramatic feast

Review by Tim Stevenson 11th Oct 2018

Sam had a hard day at work yesterday. She’s up for a promotion, her boss is on her case – he wants her to ‘man up’ – and now the bastard’s sexting her. She wakes up in the morning to find herself transformed; manned up, you could say. We won’t say exactly what the transformation involves, to avoid a spoiler, but the publicity material has already given most of the game away (“a penis”).

With a premise like that, this story could develop along a number of paths. Uneasy Dreams and Other Things takes them all – as you might expect from the title – with the common link being how the play’s characters react to Sam’s unexpected new endowment. 

There’s the sex farce path, taking in shock/horror reactions – “Omigod, you’ve got a – !” – and lewd afterthoughts of the “Can I see it? What does it feel like?’” kind along the way. This angle is popular with the audience, as is bawdy, earthy Reta (Johanna Cosgrove) for voicing it with such relish.

Another thread is formed by monologues and dialogues about male and female identity at the personal and social level. Sometimes these are set pieces, sometimes they’re people talking and arguing; they can be bitter, satirical, reflective, searching, comic. The leading participant here is Lydia Peckham as Sam, struggling to understand and deal with the consequences of her change.  

There’s also a domestic drama/Shortland Street-like aspect, which follows the impact of Sam’s ‘condition’ on her relationships with husband Greg (Matthew Staijen-Leach), best friend Reta and flatmate/Greg’s brother Fran (Arlo Gibson). The treatment here is mostly naturalistic in its detail and includes the high point of the evening for this reviewer: a poignant sequence in which Sam and Greg try to fantasise their way out of the bizarre ‘reality’ of their situation.  

At this level, the play’s fantastic premise is at the same time its main strength and also a potential stumbling block. There’s the interest and fun of watching ordinary people dealing with an invasion of the non-ordinary into their lives. On the other hand, there is the nagging thought – “Nah, that never happened.” Playwright Lori Leigh revels in the opportunities provided by the premise, and mostly manages to stifle or finesse that pesky doubt. When she’s doing both successfully, the play gets an extra lift from the sympathy we feel for the characters’ shared predicament. 

Leigh has produced a script that is rich in humour, poetry, invention and insight. These virtues are given the best possible showcase by an utterly admirable production.

Peckham in the lead role seems to be slightly nervous at the very beginning but by the end of the play she is transformed: she has loosened up and warmed up, her eyes flash, her voice is full of power and feeling. She has in fact metamorphosed, which makes your reviewer wonder whether this progression is deliberate, a way of mirroring the narrative flow. Deliberate or not, it’s a joy to watch. 

Leigh has written strong parts for the other characters, and the production has found excellent actors for the parts. Staijen-Leach, Cosgrove and Gibson all give confident, energetic, sensitive, sharp-as-a-tack performances in their roles.

The production gives a strong sense of successfully unified design, integrating music, physical layout, visual display and the movement of the actors around stage. All credit and respect to Director Sara Brodie, to be shared as appropriate with an inspired creative team: set and costume Harriet Denby; lighting Jennifer Lal;AV Tane Hipango; photography and graphic design Tabitha Arthur. Also on the team, and meriting a separate and special mention, are Liam Kelly and Peter Scriven, performing the ’80s pop soundtrack live with support from Arlo Gibson.

Leigh’s notes in the program suggest that she wants the play to say something positive about where male and female identity in contemporary society is going – in  her own words, “Things are about to break.” It’s an interesting question whether what we see and hear on stage supports this conclusion. Your reviewer is happy to leave the question open and recommend that people go along to find their own answers. Wherever they end up, they will come away with the satisfaction of having attended a generous and varied dramatic feast. 


Editor October 18th, 2018

Here is the link to Tim's chat with Jesse on RNZ about UNEASY DREAMS ...

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