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

01/07/2017 - 29/07/2017

Production Details

High Old Times Down on the Farm 

From the pen of award-winning New Zealand author Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) comes the hit comedy WEED.

It’s the 90s… and farming is struggling.  

Henry Donovan is being forced into the mortgagee sale of his farm.  

But thankfully, his mate Jack Riorden has a cunning plan. Fired up by a marketing conference, they decide to go for broke and grow a cash crop of marijuana.

Terry, a young woman Henry met in Wellington, turns up and Jack enlists the aid of his hapless nephew, Hugh.

Can these partners in crime go for green, beat the bankers and save the farm?

Is this ‘grass’ the solvency solution or will the dodgy joint venture just go to pot, and their dreams go up in smoke?

With WEED, Oscar-nominated McCarten has us laughing as his typical Kiwi characters valiantly strive to beat the system and win the day! A genuine comic gem. 

“Lots of laughs and a great time had by all” – Dominion Post

1 Taranaki St, Wellington
Preview 30 June
1 – 29 July 2017
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm
Fri – Sat 8pm
Sun 4pm
$25 – $52
$30 SPECIALS – FRI 30th JUNE 8pm & SUN 2 JULY 4pm
BOOK here

Playmarket NZ
HELL Pizza  

Henry Donovan:  Gavin Rutherford
Jack Riorden:  Andrew Foster
Hugh:  Simon Leary 
Terry:  Bronwyn Turei

Set Design John Hodgkins 
Lighting Design Lisa Maule 
Costume Design Sheila Horton 

Stage Manager:  Eric Gardiner
Sound:  John Mackay, Bonnie Judkins & Ross Jolly
Technical Operator:  Bonnie Judkins
Publicity:  Nick Purdie &  Vanessa Immink
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller
Photography:  Stephen A’Court
Box Office:  Eleanor Strathern
FOH Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn 

Theatre ,

2 hrs 20 mins, including interval

Timely revival of classic play

Review by Ewen Coleman 09th Jul 2017

Currently, marijuana is hitting the headlines for its medicinal use. But, 25 plus years ago following the 1987 stockmarket crash, cash-strapped farmers growing it for sale as a source of income was in the news. 

Of course, other sections of NZ society were also benefiting from selling it, but it was the farmers growing it, the backbone of NZ’s economy, that intrigued playwright Anthony McCarten and stimulated him to write his play Weed in 1990. [More


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A must for a great night’s entertainment

Review by Simon Sweetman 09th Jul 2017

The play WEED

was first performed as a contemporary piece – the playwright Anthony McCarten had the success of Ladies Night behind him and its 1990 premiere was at Circa Theatre in its earlier locale.

For this revisit Circa has moved, the play’s original director is back – but it’s a new cast (obviously) and it’s viewed now as a piece of recent history; we flash back to the early 90s via a soundtrack featuring Nirvana, AC/DC and some late 80s staples – John Mellencamp’s Paper and Fire speaking to both the theme and the era.

WEED has two farmers Henry Donovan (Gavin Rutherford) and Jack Riordan (Andrew Foster) planning to ‘diversify’ – they will grow marijuana to prop up failing livestock sales. The chemistry between Rutherford and Foster is palpable from their first scene together and from there throughout, both are skilled for the physical-comedy elements (Rutherford in particular is brilliant here) and both have great natural comedic timing – the play wins because of the meeting of McCarten’s zinging dialogue and Rutherford and Foster’s brilliant realisation of their characters.

Simon Leary plays Jack’s stoner nephew Hugh. He’s also brilliant in his way with this character, wandering off mid-sentence and punctuating even his most inane lines with a demented grin or daft giggle. He’s a fool. A comedic fool. We know they often need to be watched.

Hugh will provide the seeds for Henry and Jack and free-spirited artist Terri (played with all the enthusiasm that can be summoned by Bronwyn Turei) is a muse for Henry (unbeknownst to her; in fact he’d like her to be more than just that).

Viewed now there’s a subtle political comment underpinning the pure entertainment of this piece. We can see the criticism of neo-liberal economics but we’re not bashed over the head by it.

We can also just sit back and watch as four superb performances make the very best out of a sharply observed, wryly amusing script.

Henry’s wife ran off in the night, Jack’s a bit too pleased with himself, is Hugh really that stupid? And what’s Terri’s plan?

At the heart of this play is a great observation of rural characters – never quite a cliché, though sometimes (for the sake of humour) not that far from it.

WEED is one of the funniest theatre productions I’ve seen in a while. A must for a great night’s entertainment – and as good as all of the performances are it is Rutherford’s character that carries it. He’s there for the amazing monologue-driven prologue; we watch from there – those, erm, seeds of his character – and we see a great range of emotions, and the aforementioned deft physical comedy.

The set, too, is very clever – a hidden wall shifting us between two farmhouses with ease. A superb production. One you must see.

Originally published on offthetracks.



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Entertains with value-added insight and substance

Review by John Smythe 02nd Jul 2017

When Anthony McCarten’s Weed premiered at the old Harris Street Circa theatre in 1990 (also directed by Ross Jolly), you’d have had to be living under a rock not to know how so-called ‘free market’ imperatives had affected farmers and their rural communities. Most urban theatre-goers would have applauded the withdrawal of subsidies from a sector they saw as unduly privileged. So the focus was not so much on the plight of the farmers as the entertainment potential inherent in their need to diversify – in this case, by growing marijuana.

Of Michael Haigh’s Henry Donovan and Grant Tilly’s Jack Riorden, The Evening Post’s Laurie Atkinson wrote: “As a couple of greenhorns in the criminal underworld … they bumble their way into our affections in much the same way as Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway did in The Lavender Hill Mob.” The production was hugely successful, going to tour and enjoying a return season at Circa.

Revisited 27 years later, Weed plays as an astute critique of neo-liberal economics. The focus is very much on how the politics of self-interest corrode human relationships in a competitive market where the contours of the ‘playing field’ are invisible to rookie players, and where the supply v demand equation is reported by hearsay. And because the inherent drama digs deeper in this production, the comedy works even better.

We find ourselves to be delegates at a ‘Towards the Future’ farmers’ conference where Henry Donovan, whose sheep farm is in hill country “way up north”, is trying to respond to a lecture on ‘macro-economics’ by recounting a recent visit to his lawyer. It is an astutely-written prologue, well seeded with thematic and story elements, and the deep-felt exemplary timing of Gavin Rutherford’s delivery proves the theory that truth + pain = comedy.  

While Henry (whose wife has left him) is lost and bewildered, his neighbour Jack Riordan – sharply realised by Andrew Foster – claims to be up with the new way of thinking, and he’s the one who suggests how they could diversify. Indeed he is already ‘turned on’ to the scene, thanks to a nephew in the know and grow. It’s Jack who masterminds their plan, calculates the forward projections and declares, “There’s no room in any of this for greed, Henry.” Yeah right.

Simon Leary’s Walkman-wearing Hugh (the nephew) is entirely convincing as a hopelessly unfocused student, having a crack at Administration in his sixth year at university. “If bullshit were bitumen,” his Uncle Jack tells him, “you’d be the road to Auckland.” Yes well … it takes one to know one?  

Add to this mix a free-spirited artist called Terry, with whom Henry struck up a friendship in a café when escaping from the conference, and the stage is set for altered states of being all round. Bronwyn Turei commits whole-heartedly to Terry’s hyper delight in all things rural while totally nailing insightful moments of truth – again to great comic effect.

The John Hodgkins-designed set, with a folding wall that takes us from Henry’s sparse kitchen to Jack’s more classy ‘den’, flanked by the corroding detritus of decades of farming, is an absorbing work of realist art – a quality emphasised in the transitions by Lisa Maule’s lighting design. Sheila Horton’s costumes are also eloquent in articulating the background and status of each character as the scenes progress.

Attention to detail is not as apparent in some aspects of the production, however. While I’m happy to accept the subjective reality of a green glow emanating from the just-sprouting seedling tray, I am distracted by lack of credibility at other moments. The full-grown pot plant doesn’t look like cannabis to me or others I ask (although I’m assured it was meticulously researched and constructed). When you slug a mouthful of sour milk, spitting it out is not enough; multiple rinses must follow. And when Jack is bragging about the efficacy of his possum traps while Henry hobbles about like a wounded stag, how come Jack doesn’t jump to a conclusion, albeit wrong, given he can’t see why Henry is limping? Rather than being a scripting issue, I think the latter arises because of the way the stage business is directed.  

There are some good visual gags and a surprisingly gripping moment involving an actual pool shot, that will doubtless play out differently every night. When Henry physically expresses his upset state, is the beautifully-timed visual ‘punctuation mark’, involving one of Terry’s art works, serendipitous or contrived? Either way, it gets a huge laugh on opening night.

The most rewarding aspect of Weed, for me, is the way it reveals the toxic truths inherent in the neo-liberal economic model. “It’s a comedy, no more no less; its duty was, and I hope still is, to entertain!” writes Anthony McCarten in a programme note. Yes, it certainly does entertain, with value-added insight and substance that marks a critical moment in our history we need to re-evaluate, not least in this election year.  


Editor July 3rd, 2017

“What would happen if farmers could sow cannabis crops?” – Dominion Post, Monday 3 July 2017, front page. Today Fairfax NZ launches a series of articles about legalising cannabis

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