Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

16/09/2014 - 20/09/2014

Production Details

Contains Bad Language and Dirty Politics 

“Any idiot can balance the books by selling the f**king furniture. Piss away the country’s assets on the Stock market” 

1991, a corporate conference room in Wellington. As $23 billion of New Zealand assets are flogged to the highest bidder and labour laws are rewritten, a union team renegotiates their contract with the company after it’s sold offshore.

Polite tolerance between the parties turns to name-calling and petty-point scoring across the negotiating table before finally descending into betrayal, threats and illegal acts. Wild Bees is the funny, vicious truth about New Zealand in the 1990s.

Passions boil over, allegiances are forged and broken and the consequences of economic theory are given a human, if not always pretty, face. 

Written by Phil Ormsby and directed by Stuart Devenie, Wild Bees stars Damien Avery, Jordan Blaikie, Alistair Browning, Alexander Campbell, Wesley Dowdell, Alex Ellis, Kevin Keys, Emma Newborn and Donogh Rees.

Based on a true story.

The Basement
16 – 20 September, 8pm
Tickets are $25 – $20
from www.iticket.co.nz  

12:00 PM Wednesday Sep 17, 2014 Trade union battle brilliantly captures foray into brave new world

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 20th Sep 2014

Against the mixture of fantasy and farce served up by the current election campaign, Wild Bees offers a bracingly realistic appraisal of the watershed years when Rogernomics ushered in a brave new world of asset sales and employment contracts. 

The play chronicles the triumph of neo-liberal economics by dissecting a last-ditch union battle to hold on to old-style collective bargaining in the face of a ruthless drive towards individual contracts. [More


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Political Swarm from Elections Past

Review by James Wenley 17th Sep 2014

It’s the final week for the left and the right to duke it out in the election campaign. If this campaign had been written by a playwright and presented at The Basement, it would have been criticised for its implausible plot twists (Snowden, Assange, and Eminem?) and rapid genre shifts. What’s actually on at The Basement is another political swarm, Wild Bees by Phil Ormsby, which depicts the repercussions of Government policies a number of New Zealand elections ago. 

Set in 1991 following the Rogernomics restructuring and the 4th Labour Government’s asset fire sale (“any idiot can balance the books by flogging off the factory furniture” critiques one union member), the country is now in the Ruthanasia era. It’s a bad time to be up for contract negotiations, but the union is celebrating their centennial and are determined to push for a pay rise for their members. What they don’t expect is to be offered completely new contracts with flexible hours and the end to rights they had secured over their history. [More


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Grounded in truth

Review by Cherie Moore 17th Sep 2014

Set in a conference room in Wellington, Wild Bees tell the story of an employees’ union in the early 90s taking on their company to negotiate a new contract – one that is fair for everyone. With the upcoming election so close, it is the perfect time to be staging a political work, and to look at poignant political moments from New Zealand’s past. Written by Phil Ormsby and directed by Stuart Devenie, Wild Bees plays at The Basement Theatre until Saturday.

With a simple set and the audience in traverse, all of the action takes place in a conference room, and Devenie is careful to ensure both sides of the audience get ample time with each actor. Every character is clearly defined and believable and it is easy to buy that this group of people would be in a room together.

Donogh Rees is fantastically charismatic as a call centre manager, passionate about keeping ‘her girls’ happy and greeting people in Te Reo Maori. Other standouts include Alexander Campbell as George, a spineless smiling corporate who gets used as a puppet and never quite manages to finish a sentence, and Wesley Dowdell as Leo, a diligent number-cruncher trying to do the right thing. Kevin Keys’ listening and ease is incredibly watchable, and Jordan Blaike has fantastic comic timing. As an ensemble, the nine actors in Wild Bees work really well together, and each character has a moment to shine. 

The play is long and unfortunately not enough happens in the first half. The piece lacks tension and while the subject matter is important, it’s not written or presented in a way that makes me care enough. There are, however, people in the audience who are the right demographic to really enjoy this piece because the material is relatable to them and their careers. Those people do seem to love it, and while there are moments I enjoy and find funny, perhaps I just am not the target market for this work.  

The second half is better paced, but the transitions between scenes throughout the play are often awkward and the choice to have the actors directly addressing the audience in extended dialogue sections is not something I appreciate.  I do appreciate that for a politically based work, it is primarily a presentation of what is important to each character, so it always feels grounded in truth.

As the corporate power, the characters Alex Ellis and Damian Avery play make a dangerous pair that balance each other’s temperaments and are moving toward a common goal, but their performance choices lack depth. Because the play is set around a large board room table, the times where there is movement become so much more potent and the times this doesn’t work, more obvious.

Wild Bees is an insight into things people have worked for in this country, and a reminder of the progress we still have to make. While this work wasn’t for me, I think there is an audience who will greatly enjoy Wild Bees this week.


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