BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

30/11/2016 - 10/12/2016

Radio NZ Drama Online, Global

05/04/2020 - 31/05/2020

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details

Award-winner Sam Brooks throws you into the dark recesses of the green room, where shared histories and awkward memories smack lips in the mirror.

“funny,poignantandterrifyinglyintunewiththeanxietiesofyoungpeopleworkinginthearts”The Otago Daily Times 

WineLips invites you into the backstage world of the theatrical performer. Backstage at his new show, Scotty has invited actor and ex-girlfriend Brit to share a bottle of wine with him. She brings the wine, he brings the unpleasant memories. They both bring the quarter life crisis.

Making Friends Collective is Adam Goodall, Amy Griffin-Browne, Andrew Clarke, Flinn Gendall, Johnny Crawford and Tony Black. The Collective was founded in November 2012 by Goodall, Clarke, Crawford and Black for the production of Rageface in the New Zealand Fringe Festival 2013, for which the company was nominated for Best Newcomers in the New Zealand Fringe Awards that year. The Collective has produced ten shows since 2012. The company is an incubation chamber for bold, sincere theatre about us and the world around us. We want to help build an inclusive community of young New Zealand voices, making work that’s vital, self-critical, fun and audacious in its execution.

BATS Theatre, the Heyday Dome,* 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
29 November – 10 December 2016
at 8:45pm
Preview night Tues 29 November
Full Price $20 | Concession Price $15 | Group 6+ $14
Preview ticket full $10 | Preview ticket concession $8
Comedy, Dramatic, Funny, Dark
Book tickets

Want to see both shows in the Making Friends Collective Season? Buy a Season Pass now to WineLips and StandUpLove for only $30 full price and $25 concession.

*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS. 

COVID 19 Lockdown Festival 2020 
Wine Lips by Sam Brooks

Wine Lips is part of the BATS Theatre/RNZ Live on Stage. Now! partnership.
The recording was made on Monday 28 November 2016  
Recording director for RNZ – Adam Macaulay
Recording engineer – Marc Chesterman 
 Listen duration52′ :41″  

Karin McCraken as Brit
Tom Clarke as Scotty 
and Jake Brown as Max.

Theatre , Audio (podcast) ,

1 hr 10 mins

Edgy, funny, insightful, fascinating and ultimately touching

Review by Terry MacTavish 06th Apr 2020

What can compare with the magic of live theatre? To see the cunningly designed stage set, the striking costumes and evocative lighting, to watch the actors move and gesture and glance, to be part of the spellbound anticipation and response of the audience, even that terrified awareness (just possibly mine alone) that you yourself could ruinously break the spell by madly leaping up and shouting out. Could a merely audio experience for a listener in isolation suffice after that?

Yet demonstrating its valour and value, as it has in so many admirable ways during this covid-19 crisis, Radio NZ has generously freed up more of its radio drama collection, giving us the chance to relish them again. Some scripts have been written or adapted for studio recording. Others have been recorded live onstage, as was this one: Wine Lips, writtenbythe incomparable Sam Brooks, produced by The Making Friends Collective, directed by Stella Reid – recorded by RNZ director Adam Macaulay and engineer Marc Chesterman.

Will this work? The premise is straightforward: an awkward reunion between past lovers who still have issues to resolve; the setting, familiar to many, is a theatre Green Room, while a show takes place on-stage, which for us is off-stage. There are only two main characters to hold in the mind, Stage Manager Scotty cruising through the final performance of a ludicrous ‘Boylesque’ show (‘forbidden love between a Gloriavale missionary and a free-loving dancer’), and his ex-girlfriend Brit who is now a TV success, based in Melbourne but guest-starring in theatres throughout New Zealand.  

Wine Lips is a play I enjoyed live four years ago, not this Bats production, but one mounted by Counterpoint in Dunedin’s Allen Hall. In that show, the explosive entries from the ‘stage’ by the minor character, Max the Boylesque actor in outrageous costume and hilarious panic, were a riotous audience favourite. Without the visual impact these fall a bit flat on radio and are sometimes confusing. Initially I also miss the seedy glamour of the green room setting, and the visual contrast between scruffy Scotty in backstage working mode and the languorous poses of the gorgeous Brit.

The dialogue too, full of little personal digs and smart theatre in-jokes, seems at first a bit stilted – but then it would, given Scotty’s resentment and Brit’s defensiveness that years ago she chose her career over their relationship.  Increasingly, with nothing to distract from the simple power of the words, I am drawn in by the intensity and intimacy shown in the exploration of this relationship, of pursuing dreams, of questioning choices made, and of disillusionment.

Tom Clarke makes Scotty credible and appealing – initially he is the more sympathetic character – while Karin McCraken presents Brit as superior and somewhat shallow, with her smooth accent and bottle of cheap wine. But Brooks has provided her with the material to develop Brit’s humour and explore her motives, and to show a kinder side in her scene with Max, played with engaging naivety by Jake Brown. Once the ex-lovers start to reminisce we warm to them as they warm to each other. I like the tender story of how she got the nickname Wine Lips, and sympathise with the dilemma each faces, trying to make a living from theatre in New Zealand.

Brooks, who does not write for ‘rich old white people’, sees his characters as facing a quarter-life crisis. I bite back the urge to point out that 25 is nothing – there is ample time for many more mistakes! (*In a minute there is time / For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse…”*) A younger friend, listening in lonely lockdown in Singapore, says he finds Brooks brave, articulate, honest and vulnerable, an emotionally intelligent writer who not only brings him into the world of the play but makes him reflect on his own life and the cost of choosing one path rather than another.

So yes, despite the eternal horror of actors trying to sound as if they are kissing passionately, Wine Lips succeeds as a radio play. The sharp observations of the realities of life in the theatre ring true, and Scotty and Brit’s story is fascinating and ultimately touching. It would be interesting to catch up with these characters at 50. In the meantime Sam Brooks’ edgy, funny, insightful dialogue, interpreted by the clever team at BATS, ensures an audio experience that will provide stimulus for the most boring day in home isolation. 

*T S Eliot: ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’

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Cheeky start, complex potency, satisfying aftertaste

Review by John Smythe 01st Dec 2016

The winner of this year’s Bruce Mason Playwriting Award, Sam Brooks, proves yet again what an exceptional young playwright he is with Wine Lips, currently playing in concert with Stand Up Love: a judicious pairing produced by The Making Friends Collective in BATS Theatre’s Heyday Dome.

While Stand Up Love examines the disintegration of a relationship between a stand-up comedian and his co-dependent girlfriend, Wine Lips brings a lomg-parted couple back together backstage, as a ‘Boylesque’ show plays out off (i.e. on stage). And here Brit and Scotty are specifically written as twentysomethings questioning their life-to-date choices as they confront the dreaded thirties a their prospects as maturing adults.

As in-jokes for luvvies delight a knowing first night audience, we are teased into wanting to know exactly who or what these two have been to each other. The astute directing of Stella Reid sees Tom Clarke’s Scotty and Karin McCracken’s Brit create volatile chemistry out of a profound familiarity with each other that is now tempered with self-preserving trepidation.

While there is clearly baggage that has to be unloaded, their anxious delight at being together again makes them delay the inevitable, which only increases our desire to know. Likewise Scotty’s duties as a stage manager, attending the needs of boylesque performer Max (Jacob Brown) and tidying up the jetsam flung from ‘onstage’, impedes the primary plot’s progress to dramatic effect while emphasising his role in life.

It becomes clear quite quickly that Brit is the more successful and famous, having scored significant stage and screen acting work in the intervening years. And as their backstories surface, the questions of how each feels about their present circumstances and where they hope to be in the future add piquant and poignant juice to the ever-changing chemistry.

We do have to accept a convention that has bits of the offstage/onstage show blare intermittently from the Tannoy – to hilarious effect – and suspend our disbelief at witnessing a supposed copulation in conveniently sudden half-light. But these are forgiven amid the game-playing and revelations that constantly enrich the encounter.

While these committed yet desperate lives are distilled in the esoterica of theatre and screen work with all its attendant insecurity, they speak to anyone confronting or recalling the existential questions of identity, self-worth, vocation and purpose in their twenties or at any other age.

Wine Lips delights with a cheeky start that deepens to reveal a complex potency leading to a satisfying aftertaste. Not to be missed – and best taken with a first course of Stand Up Love


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