Centrepoint, Palmerston North

19/09/2015 - 17/10/2015

Production Details

Stellar cast in New Zealand premiere of Unholy Ghosts at Centrepoint 

A cast of theatre stalwarts unite for Campion Decent’s award-winning play, on at Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North. 

Heartfelt, funny and deeply moving, UNHOLY GHOSTS tells the very personal story of playwright Campion Decent and the loss of both his parents. Making its New Zealand premiere at Centrepoint, and directed by theatre favourite Conrad Newport (The Pink Hammer, Well Hung), Decent has created a terribly funny tearjerker. Awarded the Rodney Seaborn Playwright’s Award in 2012, Unholy Ghosts reveals the comedy at the heart of an everyday tragedy. 

A successful producer finds himself a front row seat at a strange new tragicomedy: the undignified death of his parents. There’s not much time left for either his ailing mother the actress, still prone to melodramatics, or his father the salesman, still flogging his side of the story. But there’s just enough time to open old wounds and have a jolly good go at new ones. 

At once personal and universal, UNHOLY GHOSTS invites us to reflect on the narrative turning point that visits all our life stories. It’s an irreverent, life-affirming take on loss with all the inherent funniness of a good funeral. 

“It’s one story, my story,” Decent says, “yet it stands as a representation of a story that visits us all in one way or another, at some point in our lives. It was written from a place of grief in an attempt to honour yet complicate the past, mourn productively in the present, and to sight the future. My hope is that out of this place of grief arrives a portrait of life in all its messy truth and comic madness. And a story of love: the tough love of family, a tender love of life, and my own redemptive love of theatre.” 

UNHOLY GHOSTS unites an impressive cast. Kiwi comedy legend Ginette McDonald, perhaps most associated with the gormless, vowel-mangling girl-from-the-suburbs, Lyn of Tawa, makes her Centrepoint Theatre debut as the ailing actress mother. Stuart Devenie, who plays the father, is no stranger to Manawatu audiences having recently appeared in Roger Hall hit Golf: A Love Story earlier this year. They are joined by Alex Greig, who is a Chapman Tripp Theatre Award winning actor, and also treads Centrepoint’s stage for the first time in this production. 

After the sell-out spectacle that was Frankenstein, it’s time for Manawatu audiences to get a little more intimate and experience the critically-acclaimed production that has had theatregoers across the ditch raving. With an A-grade cast and crew, and an exceptional script, UNHOLY GHOSTS is “an enjoyable, engrossing crowd-pleaser, with bucketloads of heart.” Don’t miss it.

CENTRPOINT THEATRE, Venue  Centrepoint Theatre, 280 Church Street, Palmerston North
Dates  19 September – 17 October 2015
Preview  Friday 18 September, 8pm
Opening night  Saturday 19 September, 8pm
$20 Tuesday  Tuesday 22 September, 6.30pm  Tickets available from 21 September, 9am.
Times Wednesday 6.30pm / Thursday to Saturday 8pm / Sunday 5pm
Tickets  Adult $38 / Senior $30 / Student $18
Bookings  06 354 5740 or centrepoint.co.nz  

Starring Stuart Devenie, Alex Greigand Ginette McDonald

Set & Costume Designer Daniel Williams
Lighting Designer Jennifer Lal
Photography by Brendan Lodge and Max Deutschle

Theatre ,

Cranky, bitchy, richly human ‘ghosts’

Review by John C Ross 21st Sep 2015

A single character comes on stage and tries out a string of synonyms for voidness, emptiness, a collapse of structure and meaning. What he is sharing is a sadly inevitable experience, if you don’t yourself die too early: the impact of the deaths of both your parents; finding nothing left between yourself and an empty sky.

This is the Son (Alex Greig), bleakly humorous, and most of the rest of the play is a replay of recalled visits to Mother (Ginette McDonald) in her nursing home, and to Father (Stuart Devenie), in his. Here is Campion Decent’s own story; a version of it These are his ‘ghosts’ and both are far from ‘holy’.

They have been separated for years and are bitterly nasty about each other. They’re both wilfully rude and ‘difficult.’ Still, he quotes Oscar Wilde’s dictum, that “Truth is rarely pure and never simple.” There have been wrongs on both sides, incompatibilities and difficult life-situations. The last scene featuring his parents is frankly imagined: how would they get on with each other in heaven? 

At the start of the second half, the Son states, “What I’m about to tell you is not entirely true.” Fascinating, then, that what happened, and the stories about, the representations of, what happened, are by no means the same thing. What actually has happened did happen, and yet remains unknowable. 

This is the New Zealand premiere of an Australian play that won an award back in 2012. Still, Mother was a Kiwi who came to Oz as an actress and has retained her relish for flamboyant theatricalism. Father’s was a salesman and remains preoccupied with the costs of things, and pushing his own sides of stories. The Son himself, a theatre producer, also has the nature of a conscious performer. 

In the first half, both parents are still relatively able. Mother can still demand her smoke and her glass of red wine, and can manage her lipstick. Father can still get around a bit. In the second half, they are both further along and moving even further, on the way out.

Ginette McDonald and Stuart Devenie are both excellent as these cranky, bitchy, richly human, increasingly enfeebled individuals, moving on towards death. 

Alex Greig is also splendid as the Son. There’s a kind of tough gaiety in his telling, and representing, of his dealing with his ‘ghosts’; dealing with his loss of them and with his own moving onward, making the best of the highly unorthodox relationships that he has. 

Over all, Conrad Newport as director has made a fine job of this production: a string of episodes holding together with the Son as master of ceremonies.

Daniel Williams’ set and costume designs work well – with a back-scene made of three revolving panel-structures. The last of them is superb.

This show can be warmly recommended.


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