08/09/2012 - 13/10/2012
At Centrepoint Theatre we are going back in time with our next production: New Zealand comedy classic Well Hung.
That’s right: we’re taking you back to rural New Zealand in the 1970s.
A sleepy rural town – complete with its own annual “Blossom Festival” – is the backdrop for murder, mayhem and police misadventure, as well as a whole lot of mirth, as a team of incompetent cops scramble to solve a case that should be cut and dried.
Fame hungry Detective Jasper Sharp is dispatched to Small Town NZ to solve a murder case the local cops can’t seem to get a grip on. Meanwhile, everybody already knows the town dolt Wally did it!
While Sharp is obsessed with getting his face on the cover of the Woman’s Weekly, his team of local cops have a lot more on their plates. They’re juggling their own illicit affairs, an abundance of dodgy evidence, and above all – figuring out how they can avoid being dragged into participating in the town’s annual Blossom Festival.
What do you get when you combine a team of bungling police with a cocky detective, mistaken identities, and lusty liaisons in the broom cupboard?
A classic Kiwi comedy so funny it should be illegal!
Well Hung features a lineup of familiar faces: Stuart Devenie (Four Flat Whites in Italy) as fame obsessed Detective Sharp; Jon Pheloung (last seen here in Enlightenment) as straight-laced sergeant Bert Donnelly; and Richard Dey (Flipside, The Thirty Nine Steps) as enterprising cop Trevor.
Also joining the cast are Karl Burnett – most famous for his stint on Shortland Street as Nick Harrison – in his first ever theatre role. Not content to just tread the boards for the first time, Karl is taking on a double role in Well Hung: as both town scapegoat Wally, and as hotshot Blossom Festival organiser Adam. Rounding out the cast and adding a much-needed shot of oestrogen is Darlene Mohekey in the double role of police wife Lynette and amateur dramatist Hortensia.
Conrad Newport – no stranger to wrangling actors in mad scenarios after directing a successful season of The Thirty Nine Steps here at Centrepoint in 2011 – is once again at the helm as director for Well Hung.
Daniel Williams is doing double duty as set and costume designer for Well Hung, after previously bringing his design flair to the memorable “suitcase“ set for The Thirty Nine Steps and the dazzling white set for Enlightenment. Daniel is looking forward to recreating 1970s NZ onstage for Well Hung.
Season runs Sat 8 September – Sat 13 October.
Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday – Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm.
Please note there will be no performance on Sunday 9 September.
$37 Adults, $25 Seniors, $27 Under 30s,
$25 Community Service Card Holders, $15 Students,
$65 Dinner & Show.
$15 Tuesday – Tuesday 11 September, 6.30pm.
Bookings for $15 Tuesday open at 9am Monday 10 September.
Still edible if a little gamey
Review by John C Ross 10th Sep 2012
Meet at the start an ordinary-looking country-town police station, vintage about 1970, given the vintage of the photo of Our Gracious Queen. Meet Bert and Trev, two bumbling country-town cops. But there’s a problem.
A double murder down on the farm, husband and wife, cartridges found on the scene point to an obvious suspect (think a playing upon the Crewe murders, and the notorious stitch-up of Arthur Allen Thomas). Enter a city detective, manic, egotistical and a bit screwball, sent to help sew up the case, who refuses to recognise ‘obvious’ facts, and turns out to be right in this, albeit for utterly wrong reasons.
This is cop-show/whodunnit as farce, and very farcical and amusing the action and the characters increasingly become. It gets hard for a reviewer to say much directly about the action without giving away its power to surprise. Let’s just say that in the shift from comedy towards farce, the play is reasonably successful in treading a fine line between plausible yet ridiculous human behaviour and utter absurdity, so that an ending which in normal terms would be horrifying is simply black-funny.
To the necessary farce business of stripping a shapely female character/actor to her bra and knickers is added having Trev the cop losing his trousers, and never getting them back. (Fortunately his underpants are not too revealing. The character is meant to be well-endowed, but presumably most of us would prefer to take that on trust.)
It can be said that this play has hung around since 1974, yet is still edible, just a little gamey. It was the best-known and most notorious of Robert Lord’s early plays, and does not quite have the continually assured touch of a mature work such as his Joyful and Triumphant. Still, it has some terrific situations and good lines (“I do love you, Trev, I’m so proud to be having your abortion” – or words pretty close to these).
Farce is hard, both for the director and the actors. Conrad Newport has done very well with tone and control of pace, and yet there may be room for this production to grow further as it settles in.
On the first night (8 September) the action had to freeze for several minutes, when a lightning strike caused as a power-surge in the region, and all the stage-lights cut out, except for one emergency light. We the audience had to enormously admire the actors, for coping with this calamity, and then getting the acting going again from where it had halted. At the time, no-one can know how long something like this is going to go on. (Remember the disruption caused by rain to Andrew Nicholson’s dressage routine in the Olympic Games.)
Jon Pheloung as Bert provides an adroit rendition of a character who for much of the play appears safely ordinary and predictable in his too-short walk-shorts and long socks, and turns out to be prone to passionate rage.
Richard Dey’s Trev, from his earliest efforts to get a sale for his rusty, wound-back dunga of a car, is more readily a comedy/farce character.
Karl Burnett doubles as Wally the local village mental-defective, exaggerated but not impossibly so in his oddness, and, more briefly, towards the end, as the solid local farmer Adam.
Darlene Mohekey doubles as the sexy Lynette, with her blonde wig and high-pitched voice, and with or without her top and short skirt, and also as the histrionic Hortensia, the local amateur musical comedy director, and abortionist, with her auburn wig and alto-ranged voice.
The star character actor is however Stuart Devenie, as the frenetic, eccentric Detective Sharp, who draws the audience wonderfully into his obsessive rantings and schemings. It’s a delicious performance.
Daniel Williams’ single-set design with its multiple doors into and out of an opened-out police-station room, fairly realistic, serves the production well.
It’s a funny, enjoyable show, and let’s hope for no more lightning strikes.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Retro cop caper a joyfully reconstructed jaunt
Review by Richard Mays 10th Sep 2012
Retro rules in this period Kiwi romp that materialises out of some vaguely remembered pre-PC, pre-digital, alternate universe.
Yes, even the cops got ever so slightly shaggy(!) under their dark blue custodian helmets in the early ’70s, with over-the-collar hair, sideburns and upper lip facial-fungus. And while Well Hung may look like a New Zealand slapstick stage take on the British and American Life On Mars TV series, this play by Robert Lord actually does come from ‘Mars’, making its stage debut at Wellington’s Downstage in 1974.
Quite rightly, director Conrad Newport keeps it there, presumably for it to be picked up and relayed back from the ‘red planet’ via Curiosity – though what a modern Mission Control would make of this over-the-top day in the life of a small town Kiwi cop shop, defies conjecture. More important is how the opening night audience reacted to a play that possibly missed its opportunity to be the slightly darker law and order equivalent of Roger Hall’s legendary Glide Time, hailingas it doesfrom the same era.
Coincidentally, 1974 is also the year that saw the establishment of Centrepoint Theatre, and judging from the hoots of recognition and approval from the audience during the show, there’s plenty of social history uncovered by the production for baby-boomers to appreciate and reflect upon.
Certainly it’s easy to visualise Stuart Devenie’s cleverly crafted crimplene-suited, drawling, Pinky Bar addicted, philandering, megalomaniacal detective Jasper Sharp jumping to all sorts of unlikely conclusions in a weekly TV sit-com set in a dysfunctional ’70s provincial police station.
Resplendently naff in police-issue walk shorts and socks, John Pheloung’s ever-so uptight Sergeant Bert Donnelly is always going to play second string to his mullet-haired, moustachioed, slightly dodgy, law a-bending, wheeler-dealing, better dressed (sometimes) and better-hung associate, Constable Trev (ahem) Woodcock, impeccably performed by Richard Dey.
Trev has already got his leg over Bert’s flirtatious ditzy Cheeky Hobson-esque wife Lynette, realised in deliciously broad accented upwardly inflected tones (as in ‘Guv us a kuss?’) by Darlene Mohekey. It was Mohekey’s saucy ad-libbing that helped cover Saturday night’s power surge that temporarily knocked out the Centrepoint lights mid scene as surely has it plunged Westpac Stadium into darkness during the All Blacks/Pumas test. The antics that followed quickly made up the loss of momentum.
The performer also shines in a distinctive cameo as the ‘hunch-fronted’, garish-orange kaftan-clad Hortensia Herrick, larger-than-life hyper-dramatic doyen of the local am-dram – oh and part-time ‘backstage’ abortionist – from the days when it was either obtain such an illegal termination for an unwanted pregnancy, or book a quick flight to Sydney.
In the midst of this extra-marital mayhem, it’s almost incidental that the boys in blue have a shocking double homicide to solve. Cue former Shortland Streeter Karl Burnett as the stroppy, conceptually challenged, socks and jandals-wearing Wally; and also as local farmer and blunt-talking Blossom Festival organiser Adam Turner – both taking turns as suspects.
The script, loosely based around the 1970 Crewe murders in Pukekawa, is not big on witty dialogue, but it does provide the situational framework for wide caricature and any number of slapstick routines. While Daniel Williams’ lovingly rendered period office set with its opaque wire-reinforced glass internal windows, broom cupboard, toilets, cells, swinging doors and props provides further opportunities for incidental knockabout (literally) comedy, the production doesn’t go overboard when it could have possibly coaxed more choreographed clowning from the open-to-extrapolation text.
So, don’t expect profundity – and the times have moved on too far for satire, but those of a certain age won’t be able to resist being transported back to that comparatively halcyon and less complicated era of Piggy Muldoon, carless days, and archetypal style and fashion crime.
Mix in a scene-setting Loxene Golden Disc Award soundtrack featuring the likes of Craig Scott, Bunny Walters, The Fourmyula and Hogsnort Rupert, and in the hands of this cast and production team, Well Hung is a joyfully reconstructed jaunt down a quickly over-growing memory lane.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer