White Trash Omnibus

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

13/08/2008 - 16/08/2008

Production Details

Andrew loves Jeremy. Jeremy loves Andrew, but won’t admit it. Jeremy likes to fool around with Kevin. Cheryl thinks she loves Kevin, and is having his baby. Kevin loves himself. Then along comes Denis to f*ck it all up…

White Trash Omnibus is written and directed by Auckland University Creative & Performing Arts Masters graduate and playwright Patrick Graham, author of iS and Lost Girls, both recently performed at the Herald Theatre.

The play stars Ari Boyland who is set to feature in the upcoming South Pacific Pictures TV series Go Girls.

Also featured are Kate Rylatt, who recently featured in Stage2’s production of Suburbia, as well as Thomas Sainsbury’s popular play Beast, and Mike Ginn, a recent Unitec graduate who featured in the TV series Amazing Extraordinary Friends and Arnette Arapai’s Running With The Bulls at the Musgrove Studio.

Tragicomic and raw, White Trash Omnibus explores the lives of two men who think they’re in love with the same man…

Ari Boyland, Mike Ginn, Kate Rylatt, Jack Seabrook and Patrick Graham.

R18: Contains sexual content and violence that may offend August 13 – 16, 7:30pm, Musgrove Studio. BOOK BY CALLING THE MAIDMENT THEATE: 09-308-2383

Kevin:  Ari Boyland
Andrew:  Jack Seabrook
Jeremy:  Mike Ginn
Cheryl:  Kate Rylatt
Dennis:  patrick graham

Lighting Designer:  Nathan Snell
Set & Costume Design:  patrick graham
Publicity Design:  Dion Rowe

Lighting / Sound Operator:  James Wenley
Publicity:  James Wenley, patrick graham, Paul Letham 

Unimaginative abusers fail to move

Review by Sian Robertson 14th Aug 2008

A week before his wedding, Kevin, emotionally retarded, quintessential Kiwi bloke, finds himself experimenting with gay sex. It turns out he likes men way more than his fat pregnant wife Cheryl.

*spoiler warning*
Kevin has a job cleaning public toilets, which is where he is first seduced by Dennis, who, we discover later, is Kevin’s pregnant fiancée Cheryl’s father. Go figure. It’s hard to feel sorry for Cheryl, who, like the rest of the characters, is a total masochist and a bit dense.
*spoiler ends*

Okay, so Kevin’s more of a sadist than a masochist, and his brother Andrew isn’t dense. In fact out of all the sorry, broken characters, the only one with some colour and something resembling a spine is Jack Seabrook’s effeminate nancy boy Andrew, who although stuck in the middle of it all, doesn’t mooch around playing the victim.

To his credit, Ari Boyland is also convincing and easily despise-able as ostentatiously homophobic pothead wife-beater Kevin. Jeremy (Mike Ginn) is a weak link, though I don’t know if this was entirely Ginn’s fault as he gets the short end of the stick as far as great lines are concerned.

Dennis (played by writer/director Patrick Graham) is a pathetic lonely older man, desperate for company, who can’t seem to do anything except use and abuse the ones he loves.

Kevin experiences another side of himself (as he’s cleaning the piss off the toilet floor he realises how much he loves the raw smell of man) but does he have to be such a bastard about it?

White Trash is a ‘tragicomedy’ but rather than being wickedly funny, the humour seems to be an attempt to ease depressing subject matter – instead succeeding in making it darker. The story doesn’t really comment on the fate of its white trash protagonists either: though realistic, it’s gratuitous; a black hole comedy, ultimately more gloomy than it is shocking.

Openly gay Andrew used to get off on having the crap kicked out of him by Kevin’s mates when they were kids. There’s a bit of unravelling of the brothers’ relationship, but we don’t know that much about Cheryl (Kate Rylatt) other than that her father resents her mother.

A couple of references to a drunken car crash, in which someone they knew died, has no real bearing on the story except to illustrate how fraught with tragedy their lives are. Boohoo. Perhaps if the characters weren’t all such unimaginative abusers they’d stop screwing each other over and/or dying.

For all its careless violence, flippant betrayal, attempted rape and drug-numbed grief, the story failed to move me.

Writer/director Patrick Graham explains in his apologetic programme notes that he’s kind of ‘the Ed Wood of the Auckland theatre scene’. I couldn’t have put it better myself.


Siân Robertson August 22nd, 2008

Touché, Mr Alexander! I've also been savouring the entertainment value of the comments following my review.

I feel compelled to clarify my position on a couple of things: I agree with Romeo's analysis of the script's lack of pacing and cohesion and particularly the characters' lack of motivation - this is why it was gratuitous and why it failed to 'move' me. It wasn't (for the most part) poor acting that let the play down, it was what they had to work with.

Rosabel - it's debatable whether theatre should always elicit an emotional response. Personally I do love a play that makes me shed tears - of laughter/empathy/anger/whatever. Obviously, though, some theatre is satisfying on a more cerebral level, while some relies heavily on spectacular visuals. The best has elements of all the above. At any rate, I think White Trash was trying to incite an emotional response and, not only in my case it would seem, it failed. In fact it didn't stimulate any other part of me, either (except briefly in one of the sex scenes when... ah, but I'm a bit old-fashioned: I prefer my porn in the comfort and privacy of my own home).

Aaron Alexander August 20th, 2008

Hell, bring this bloody thing to Wellington! If it's got anything like the tension and conflict of the comments thread, I'll go, even if it is a bit...you know...


Rosabel Tan August 20th, 2008

I saw White Trash last Wednesday, and although it certainly had its flaws, I think there were also aspects of it that were great - there were scenes in the play that were well written and very well acted - for example, the scene in the bathroom when Dennis first seduces Kevin, and later when Kevin is having dinner with his wife. Scenes like these seemed to reflect a real truth about Kevin's struggle with his sexuality (which, contrary to Sian's review, had been going on since high school) which I did find moving. At the same time, I also agree with Churchill's comments that the use of Cheryl's ghost as a plot device was terrible, and that Dennis's actions made no sense to me at all - these aspects really brought the play down, particularly the 'social realist' aspect of it (which was, I felt, the redeeming aspect of the play).

In response to the comment that "the review was more about the actors.." etc, it's possible that Milo was referring to the underlying ideas explored in the play, which I agree were neglected somewhat. In particular, I thought Kevin's inner struggle was a really interesting idea which should have been explored further, and rather than being dismal (assuming Romeo used this in the more negative 'bad writing' sense of the word), I thought it felt quite authentic.

One thing that struck me about Sian's review, though, is her comment that the play failed to move her. Although I can see why, I'm curious as to whether all plays should necessary move you in the way she seems to imply; watching White Trash, I was reminded of the whole new brutalist movement, with playwrights such as Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Kane. Although White Trash isn't the same calibre as, say, Shopping and Fucking, I thought that the intentions may have been similar, albeit less well executed...

Welly Watch August 20th, 2008

Well I’ve just re-read Ms Robinson’s review, Milo, and find it almost entirely focussed on the characters and the story they play out. Even the ‘weak link’ she mentions is attributed to the character rather than the actor – in fact she affirms the actors wherever possible, it seems.

I find no evidence anywhere that “the review was more about the actors & director/writer being shite than anything else” and can only surmise that you are being extremely defensive on someone’s behalf. How ironic that you personally attack a clearly competent critic in the process, just because she admits the show didn’t move her. Compared to the other commentators above she would appear to be fairness incarnate.  

As for your ‘can’t stand any confrontation’ whimper and wimpy little ‘sorry to offend’, what a copout, get over yourself – oh, but now you’ve got me getting personal. Sorry (not).

Romeo August 19th, 2008

In my time on this earth I have seen well over a hundred theate shows. With out a doubt this was the most excruciating I have had to endure. I myself was too polite to follow in the footsteps of the others who walked out during the production I was at. I attended the final night, in which people started walking out about two thirds into it. The girl behind me started having a text conversation about half way though, as relief one would presume. Further along my row an older gent kept reading over his program in in a bid at self-entertainment. The actors themselves were not bad and on the odd occasion the script allowed for any pace at all, they ran with it. Unfortunatly when ever a spark started to glow it was quickly extinguished, as the dialog would come grinding to a halt, much to the dissmay of the audiance who were clearly gagging for a bit of life. The subject matter itself, although not helping, was not the problem with the production. The script lacked pace, the cahracters lacked strength and motivation, therefore never earning the empathy of even the most forgiving audience. When an audience giggles at ghost saying 'Maybe I will meet my (dead) baby", you know things aren't right. When the same ghost, in her wedding dress, goes on to sing Dionne Warwick, it's no wonder the man infront of me held his head in his hands in a bid to try and muffle his laughter. I know this may sound hash, but some of the reviews lauding this dismal portrail of a gay, white, under class are more laughable than laudable. However just my opinion and best of luck to the crew in their future endevours. Can't imagine they could do much worse.

Milo August 19th, 2008

I think perhaps I may have offended people and just wanted to clarify that this wasn't my intention at all. I am infact a very pakeha, very female and very straight young person who live in Ponsonby. I probably should have mentioned that when I went on a slight tirade about it no?

Thanks for your comments John, after reading them I can see how one could see my perspective as a heterophobic and overtly P.C one. This is completely fair enough. To clear this up, my comments using this example was a specific one about Ms Robertson's review and not about all women/men who review negitavely.

The point I was trying to make was, when reading reviews about highly controversial work (or however you want to describe it) I don't think it's necessary to be so personally criticial. It seemed that the review was more about the actors & director/writer being shite than anything else.

Ah well, I think perhaps the responses I've recieved from this are the reason I stay off message boards in general, I don't have the thick skin to take any confrontation!

Although in complete contradiction - to the person who said to shove it up my ass - did you read what I wrote? I loved the play, so did you, so whats the beef? That you're of the same stereotype I mentioned? If you read the whole comment, you would see that it was not in any way a generalisation - and if you read this post, you will see if you did initially take that as a personal attack, I have attempted to clarify that.

So I'm sorry if I offended anyone. My comments about the reviewer being harsh and mean stand, but in no way did I intened to offend anyone or hurt anyones feelings.

Churchill August 18th, 2008

I was at the Friday performance that nibbles5 (apparently) also attended - ticket stubs available on request - and would like to reassure her that, when I put my hand over my face, it was not to wipe away tears but instead to block out yet another one of the painfully incoherent moments on stage. Any sounds coming from my seat were those of suppressed giggles rather than sobbing, although I believe I may have lost my attempt to conceal these when Cheryl's ghost appeared in full bridal regalia as a deus ex machina (and cell phone directory).

Nibbles5 may also have missed the moment where at a particular scene change roughly half the audience started to clap (possibly from relief) before stopping as the actors re-emerged, which for me clearly illustrated a shared confusion about what the actual story was.  The progression of action on stage took place in a series of illogical lurches, not helped by the actors' tendency to mumble and half-swallow their lines, and while it was nice of them to try to patch everything over with sex scenes it would be good if these seemed to come from actual character motivation rather than the need to do something other than fiddle with yet another cigarette. None of Dennis' actions made sense in any context, there was a random and irrelevant car crash, a strangely misplaced public service announcement about how smoking pot is worse for your baby than being beaten by your husband, and embarrassing attempts at BDSM that were none the less more convincing than the fight scenes.

I agree with John Smythe's comments above about the identity of the reviewer, so I won't be including my own demographics, but given that the above defensive comments seem to presume that the objection is to the subject matter rather than the play itself, I've seen far better plays about unpleasant people having sex - the Silo's production of Shopping & Fucking  and Unitec's Victory: Choices in Reaction, to pick some local examples - and if they have to be New Zealanders I'll take Outrageous Fortune.

nibbles5 August 17th, 2008

Well you may have failed to be moved caller 1 but I suggest that it was due to the desensititised nature of your own hard ass rather than the excellent quality of the production. What vigorous activities may have produced such an effect on your posterior I won't venture to speculate... However I went on Friday night and being separated from my chums due to the show being SOLD OUT we collectively witnessed audience reaction from different positions. THERE WAS NOT A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE. My friends were all tearing and quietly sniffing, I was welling and those behind were open sobbing.

As my friend commented there were no dry dull patches in which to tire, the audience was captivated by the tangled web of drama building to a climactic finale which held beauty, joy and tragedy in equal measure. Jack Seabrook cradled all these emotions and the audience in the palm of his hand embodying the conflicts that had build throughout the story. What a sterling performance from a talented young man.

I also loved Patrick's performance as the fabulously fucked up Dennis. Patrick has a commanding presence on stage and can flip from sweet to menacing in a heartbeat. He managed to effortlessly draw sympathy from me for a completely unsympathetic bastard. I loved how little throwaway comments in the script like; She never let me see my children, gave us an insight and sent us off on a train of thought about him without the point being hammered home in a heavy handed manner.

Patrick's script was tight and lightly touched on areas beyond the scope of the main action that gave it a feel of being in the world rather than existing only in an isolated bubble of events. The humour was cleverly interwoven into the text lightening the drama without seeming clunky. It was the type of humour that arises naturally from events and felt spontaneous. People commented to me that they felt awkward because they would be laughing at something and then something awful would happen straight after but again that often happens in dark moments in real life.

My only negative comment would be that I felt the actor who portrayed Kevin, was fantastic at the casual jocular lad aspect of his character but struggled to fip to the violent dark side. I didn't feel the fear and nausea when he fought with his pregnant fiance because he just wasn't the menacing animal he could have been. I needed I little more Jake the Mus at that point to really get lost in the moment. I also agree with the fellow who commented on the cigarettes not being lit causing moments of reflexivity although I suspect it is probably illegal to light up onstage in our pc world.

Anyway congratulations to all of you involved in creating the show and thanks for taking us on a wild ride. x x x ps this is from a white middle class straightedge suburban mother of two so shove that up your old wazoo Milo

John Smythe August 16th, 2008

I feel bound to note that “Perhaps next time a fringe piece of theatre containing violent explicit themes is reviewed, it would be best to use someone who isn't a white, middle class, straight female” is a racist, classist, heterophobic, sexist limitation on the right of a reviewer to have an intelligent human response to the play.

Or is it that I should have found someone non-white, either ‘upper’ or ‘lower’ class, gay and male to review this one? Someone who, according to your logic Milo, is also either a perpetrator or a victim or a willing recipient of violent behaviour … Except if he didn’t find violence a sexual turn-on, that would presumably rule him out too (given the viewpoint of the straight pregnant wife appears to be neither here nor there in your estimation).

And all this time we have wilfully had men reviewing plays involving women too and vice versa, not to mention New Zealanders reviewing plays representing other cultures and eras in history … No murderer or murderee has ever reviewed a play involving murder. And what about flights of fantasy set in places no actual person has been, involving non-human characters even? Who should review those?

Seriously, though, a great thing about theatre – and fiction in all its forms – is that it can take us to places we may never get to go – indeed may never want to go – in reality … The question, generally, is what value do we get from going there vicariously? If a play will only have value for a select group of people who get off on recognising certain characters and behaviours from first-hand experience, and that is sufficient to make it worth their while, it is incumbent on the producer to advise the paying public accordingly – e.g recommended for sadomasochistic gay audiences only … Or whatever.

Otherwise, being a sentient human being should be the only qualification required for attending a play. Beyond that a critic needs to be able to interrogate, evaluate and articulate their necessarily subjective response from a clear understanding of how and why theatre gets made.  Then, on this site anyway, anyone else can have their say ... and good on you all for doing so!

Milo August 16th, 2008

After seeing the original White Trash omnibus performed through Smack Bang theatre co. I left feeling heartbroken & emotionally raw. This play was a refreshingly real, harsh & unapologetic piece of work and Auckland theatre go-ers should be encouraged to go in any way possible. I felt the same way after seeing the updated piece.

The content of the show is heavy & often uncomfortable, but in my opinion this adds to the whole experience.

For anyone to critique the actors, I ask them to consider how many male heterosexual actors do you know (or know of) who would commit so fully to playing incredibly explicit homosexual scenes. As we know from the over hyped media attention of "Brokeback Mountain" this sort of commitment is seen as very risque. Ari Boyland & Mike Ginn jumped into their respective roles with confidence and skill which seems to have been overlooked by many of the negative reviews coming out.

Whether or not you enjoyed the play, and for what ever reason you liked or disliked the play, the reviews coming out from Ms Robertson and co. seem to be searching for petty ways to insult the story and it's director Mr graham. Perhaps next time a fringe piece of theatre containing violent explicit themes is reviewed, it would be best to use someone who isn't a white, middle class, straight female.

Albeit the gaynz review was also negative, at least it was more of a critique and less of a personal lashing. Obviously harsh, but at least there is some sort of balance in the review.

I'm not saying that people do not have the right to be negative about theatre - I feel that there were definite places within the show that needed work. I have never written a response to a review before and would definitely call myself a "long time reader first time writer" but after seeing many shows in Auckland & following reviews of most, I was very surprised by this one.

I'd also like to draw attention to the other comments surrounding this show on the Gaynz website which I think are very apt for this smaller forum

David Herkt’s comments from the gaynz forum about White Trash Omnibus.

“It is odd, Antares, isn't it? I laughed a lot all the way through it.... And as far as realism is concerned, it did find it very, very realistic. I know people like that....

Maybe it is the annoyance of Caliban seeing himself in a mirror....”

“My companion of the evening referred to 'White Trash' as the story of his life... and who am I to disagree. My pechant, in the past, for 'state house pretty' has taken me to a number of venues and a witnessing of events which are uncannily similar to the production... I recall two 'straight' brothers who shared the same sugar-daddy, for example. I know the 'alright, I'll let you' before you've even asked scenario. Or the 'I only do it when I'm really out of it, but that can easily be arranged' situation. I very definitely know the relationships - a friend who was a rent-boy was married, with somewhat similar consequences. You missed the kids sitting around with Dad watching porn, though.”

”I have found the use of the word 'dark' by people in the context of this play fascinating.

I didn't find it dark at all.

I agree, the ending was hopeful and the changes in many of the character's situations opened up a future.

I found at three of the characters sexually attractive - and you sort of wish the swathe of reviewers had told us something like this in their reviews. Sexuality is often how I connect and participate in things.

I'm tempted to discuss my own thoughts on what theatre is but in my fliberty-gibberty morning I should get back to paid employment....

But 'sanctified space where we observe and participate in a heightened re-enacting and re-shaping of human lives' sort of covers one part of it...”

Cat August 16th, 2008

Personally I feel the lack of redeeming features in the characters is an important aspect of  one of the central ideas of the play. How often does one come across homophobic, violent, drug-abusing men? With alarming regularity. How many of them are hiding a 'heart of gold' or some other overused saving grace which, with the right nurturing attitude, will make itself apparent at the darkest hour?

Some people are terrible human beings. They destroy themselves and anyone who comes into their lives. Sometimes they have a 'reason' for being so messed up. That doesn't mean we can (or should) sympathsize with them.

I found graham's play absorbing and well acted. If nothin else, the size of the audience attested to a subject matter that grips and interests people. Of course people aren't going to like it. But don't let this review fool you into believing that they are in the majority.

Paul Letham August 15th, 2008

'Twas indeed me, and this is not a question of loyalty.   As a collective we welcome all feedback, good and bad.  David Herkt's comments from GayNZ were included by me on this site as a useful adjunct, and a response, to the actual review.  My ego is not that fragile, sorry!  :)

Great that you came, and thank you for your honesty - it's much appreciated.  Patrick and I would be the first to admit that White Trash is not to everyone's taste!  We've enjoyed evolving it, and indeed it will continue to evolve, based partly on feedback.

Cheers, Paul.

June LeCompte August 15th, 2008

And who produced this play AntaresNZ. Wasn't it you????

While your loyalty is laudable, your objectivity is somewhat questionable. I thought the play was rubbish and agree with the reviewer ~ and larry Jenkins who panned it on gaynz.

Good debate though.

Paul Letham August 15th, 2008

As a response, in sort, to the above review...  From www.gaynz.com:

If you are gay and in Auckland, and interested in New Zealand Theatre, I urge you to go and see it.

It is a delight - and like the best of theatre - it is accurate.

Patrick Graham's depiction of his New Zealand white trash family is more devastatingly honest and far more interesting than 'Outrageous Fortune'.

The actors are all vividly sexually attractive in their own way.

Ari Boyland's portrayal of Kevin has it down to a tee - 21 years old, the stonewashed jeans, the jean belt, the sneakers - a strutty little short conflicted nearly-gay boy. It is a great depiction of the sexual animal from your dreams - and the sexual nightmare to relate to.....

Jack Seabrook - a total charmer as the 'gay brother'' - ex-rent boy, getting his head around things, gay bastion of the family, with a bent for S&M, stroppily homoerotic but never wetly faggoty, but who ends up happy

Mike Ginn's 'Jeremy' was so wincing spot-on as the real boy who just can't help himself when he's pissed making advances to other boys - it was scary. I wanted to say to him 'I know someone just like the part you portrayed so well' - that soft bottom boy pushing the straight line, clumsily, who is going to roll over the moment you ask....

And Cheryl - her pregnant mother-to-be was superb, her ghost was exactly as she'd really been all along, extraneous to the boys interacting.... a difficult part, sidelined from the first, but one who puts everyone else into relief.

And Patrick Graham - author, director and actor - Well, Mr Graham, I laughed, I sniggered under my breath, I was sexually attracted, I applauded your accuracy, and admired the fact that while ends are notoriously difficult, honey, you nearly got there to a really, really, great one.

The program states that Mr Graham feels like he is the 'Ed Wood' of New Zealand theatre. If he keeps on going he'll be more of the Tennessee Williams of New Zealand theatre, and god knows we need one.

Only quibble - we need smoke. If characters are going to light cigarettes, we fucking NEED the smoke.... a bit of cheap Holidays cigarette smoke blown over the set would have just been perfect. Not having it was an alienation. You glitched about it.

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