Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

26/10/2017 - 28/10/2017

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

25/09/2018 - 27/09/2108

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

01/11/2018 - 03/11/2018

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

18/03/2019 - 22/03/2019

Hamilton Fringe 2017

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

Production Details

Can you handle nothing happening? 

In a fast moving world can modern man handle very little happening for a sustained period of time? Can you? With Sean Lynch as their guide audiences will find out the hard (or the easy) way as he leads them across the edge of sanity to the other side – by watching paint dry. Live!

To add to the suspense and unpredictability of the performance a different colour will be used every night.

Solo performer Sean Lynch has a long history with theatre in Hamilton. He one of the founding members of the Electra Theatre Company, Hamilton’s only professional theatre company that existed from 1987 to 1996. Since then Lynch has established himself as one of the country’s leading Lighting Designers, working regularly with Auckland Theatre Company and Silo Theatre.

Watching Paint Dry will mark Lynch’s return to the stage after a 20 year absence.

Watching Paint Dry is written and directed by award winning playwright Anders Falstie-Jensen. The idea for the play came from a conversation he had with his 7 year old  son Anton who one day was staring into the wall for a long time. Anders asked Anton if he was watching paint dry. The answer was ‘no’ but subsequently they ended up talking for a long time about boredom and what the expression ‘watching paint dry’ means.

Says Falstie-Jensen “Watching Paint Dry is a riff on our relationship with time and how we struggle handling very little happening. It’s been a very bizarre rehearsal period because we spend quite a bit of time doing nothing. Looking at a wall while monitoring where our minds go, or how long we can sit still before we subconsciously want to check our phone.  The play is really a series of moments where we are bored for a while, then stop and do something interesting, before going back to boredom. It’s surprisingly interesting to be bored sometimes.”

When the director of the Hamilton Fringe Festival director Pip Lewis calls to ask you to bring a play to her festival you cannot say no! Watching Paint Dry was written specifically for the Hamilton Festival. The production also marks the return of The Rebel Alliance to the Meteor Theatre. Their last visit was in 2012 with Standstill, which was performed as part of the FUEL Festival

Meteor Theatre
26 – 28 October 2017
Tickets: $15
Book at

Allen Hall Theatre
Thu Nov 1 – Sat Nov 3 2018
7pm & 2pm (Sat)
Tickets: $30/$25
Book at 

Circa Theatre
18 – 22 March 2019
Tickets: $15 – $30
04 801 7992  

Previous works by The Rebel Alliance:

The Orderly – ‘Solo theatre as it should be.’ Capital Times

A Night of French Mayhem – ‘finely crafted…boldly innovative’ NZ Herald

Grace – ‘Artistic Excellence’ theatreview

Yours Truly – ‘The Rebel Alliance could easily be mistaken for an international touring company’ NZ Herald

Standstill – ‘Marvellous’ NZ Herald, Best of Theatre, 2011

Manifesto 2083 – ‘profound and challenging’ theatreview

Written & Directed by Anders Falstie-Jensen
Performed by
Sean Lynch (Hamilton, Wellington)
Simon O’Connor (Dunedin)

Theatre , Solo ,

60 minutes

Physically interesting, metaphysically flightless

Review by John Smythe 19th Mar 2019

Writer-director Anders Falstie-Jensen notes in the programme that this work arose from his son’s response to hearing his parents describe a boring meeting as “like watching paint dry” – or to be more precise, it was their response to Anton’s response that inspired Anders to create this play.

Given the painted kitchen wall the boy watched – “he was completely still as we watched him watch the wall in total silence” – was already dry it is not surprising he declared himself bored after three minutes or so. But Anders was anything but, as he watched his son and wondered, “What is going on in his mind right now? How long can he do that?” And it has to be said his level of fascination as a parent cannot be assumed to equal that of an audience objectively watching a performer paint a wall and watch it dry.

In my experience mere mention of the play’s title has consistently caused people’s eyes to widen and mouths to twitch as they contemplate a witty rejoinder then ponder the prospect in bemused silence. I sense the people who have gathered in Circa Two on this opening night retain this bemusement while sharing a frisson of inquisitive anticipation: is it possible we really are just going to sit and watch paint dry for the next 50 minutes; will this be Zen and the Art of Watching Paint Dry?

The blank (i.e. white) wall awaits: a large door-sized flat. When Sean Lynch – who is also the lighting designer – enters clad in jungle green overalls and announces “Tonight’s colour is green” a ripple of collective approval is felt. We observes his methodical preparations, smile at the punny way he indicates the painting is about to begin and watch him roll it on with meticulous care …

A collective gasp and giggle suggests we all notice he’s missed a bit on one edge and we’re all on edge as we wait for him to notice … But he doesn’t. He does, however, swipe right back to white with a cloth-wrapped finger – just one little stripe. And being human, we process that action for meaning too.

His tidying everything away then asking us to turn our phones on and up then place them in a specific way distracts us from the central purpose and sparks a new train of wondering. Not that anything comes from this; we do hear one text alert and a Messenger or Instagram beep but since Sean pays no heed to them, they – like the motorbike outside – seep into the general background … Mind you, a background is what we are watching … Is this a Zen revelation moment, that everything is part of it and nothing is part of it?

There are long periods of just watching and the sense of togetherness is pleasant. Nevertheless I do find myself counting the basic stage lights: 11 pointing forward to the stage, six back-lights, two pointing downward above the painted wall, one on the floor stage left pointing to stage right …

A snap change of the lighting state totally alters our perception, as does the sound recording of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’, sung first in Spanish then English. One word from Sean influences our response to the breathy sax solo … And when it’s over, he muses aloud on what to make of the lyrics, suggesting there is more than one interpretation, according to context.

A 400 year-old Zen-master challenge is directly related to what we are experiencing. We are invited to imagine a portal in the drying paint and we are told what lies beyond. Is this is Anders’ mind we’re into now: what he – while writing this play “in bursts of 40 minutes commuting on the train between West Auckland where I live and Britomart” – imagines he might imagine while watching paint dry? Perhaps. But then we’re invited to tour the home of our own childhood – and I’m astonished how clear the memory is for me …  

At some point a ‘mini-me’ version of Sean appears (Anders’ son, perhaps?) and while his presence is charming, he appears to have no agency, no place or way to be beyond obeying the minimal instructions he has been given, so I find it hard to blend him into the overall proceedings. Sorry but it feels gratuitous, somehow, and rather unfair on the boy.

A Danish chair provokes a Danish folksong, translated line-by-line by Sean, which involves the fate of a cat in traffic and the advantage a sparrow takes – showing how life goes on after death. Then we are tempted with tuna only to have its progress from conception to tin graphically described – including with impressive floor-work from Sean. (I have to confess my visceral response to this sequence is inextricably linked to the atrocity in Christchurch four days ago; I am simply unable to dismiss my awareness of that even though I know it has nothing to do with the evolution of this play.)

Other walls in history are canvassed: the siblings and cousins of the one we are watching. But there is no sense of completion, no acknowledgement that the paint of this wall, our wall, has dried. And I feel much more separate from the rest of the audience than I did when the show began.

For me, at least, Watching Paint Dry has not been as intriguing as I had hoped it would be. It has been interesting to note what physically happens when paint dries, especially when observed in the same lighting state, but the metaphysical dimension has not taken flight for me. The opportunities for personal contemplation and subjective projection have been welcome but what Anders has written for Sean to say and do somehow lacks poetry and more often than not feels intrusive and even manipulative rather than subtly provocative. 


Make a comment

Proverbial pastime by no means boring

Review by Barbara Frame 02nd Nov 2018

My watch says it’s 7.13pm. Ten or so minutes ago, when the show began, the overalled performer (who is he: a Zen master, an amateur philosopher, a tradesman with psychotherapeutic ambitions?) informed us that today’s colour is Adrenalin Orange. Then, tentatively at first, he painted a large white rectangle in that very shade. He’s also asked the audience to leave their phones on with the volume turned up. [More]


Make a comment

Experience the depth, meaning and joy

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 02nd Nov 2018

Take a blank wall, add paint (Adrenaline orange!) and combine with a gentleman in a khaki boiler suit. Fold in a Danish chair and some tins of tuna, and you have the recipe for a dazzling display of entertainment. 

Watching Paint Dry is hardly the common person’s idea of a fun night out, but with the addition of some clever visual trickery and subtle group hypnosis, this is a masterpiece that keeps you thinking long after the stage is empty. 

Sole actor Simon O’Connor is the master of his audience. He lays down the rules of engagement early on: mobile phones are turned on and up, and encased in a plastic cover, to be seen but not to be touched. This is a masterstroke, providing chances for quips and giggles, and forcing us to engage through “the boring bits” – we are literally watching paint dry. 

Inspired by a child’s reaction to an overheard idiom, Anders Falstie-Jensen has deftly created the frame for O’Connor’s epic performance. Every scene is an artwork, building portraits that are balanced in colour and composition. The artist is viewed as a still life for long periods with airy spaces of silence, allowing the overlay of visual effects as the colour contrasts start to affect the eyes. Vibrant orange and khaki green almost shimmer against each other, casting an eerie ghost image.

Changes of state are used to brilliant effect through lighting and music. That the work won a prize for lighting at Wellington’s NZ Fringe is not surprising. The musical references, quaint and bizarre as they are, are a real highlight. O’Connor’s monotone translation of a dark and morbid Danish folk song is side-splittingly hilarious.

But the thing that makes me keep thinking is the connections I am able to make with my past and my memories through experiencing the joy of Watching Paint Dry. There is no doubt in my mind that every person who is lucky enough to view this incredible performance will have a very different experience, but one that is no less deep, no less meaningful than my own.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council