26/08/2014 - 30/08/2014
THE GREEN ROOM: WHERE LIPS ARE UNSEALED
STARRING CHELSEA MCEWAN MILLAR & NIC SAMPSON
Award-winner Sam Brooks takes you out of the theatre and throws you into the dark recesses of the green room, where shared histories and awkward memories smack lips in the mirror. Wine Lips, playing the Basement Studio from August 26, 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.
For a majority of people, what happens behind-the-scenes in a theatre is a magical and unknown world. For the actors however it’s a bastion of nerves, excitement and revelation. After exploring site-specific work in his highly commended play Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys, where the actors spent the entirety of the performance in and around a parked car, Brooks this time brings us to the belly of the stage beast; opening theatrical opening the doors and taking us into a world of mirrors and – let’s face it – booze.
A back-to-back winner of Playmarket’s “Playwrights b4 25” in 2012 and 2013, Brooks has seen six of his works produced at the Basement Theatre and earnt a shortlist nomination for the ADAM Award for And I Was Like two years ago. Having worked in a variety of roles Auckland Theatre Company and Massive Company and an almost weekly-reviewing column for The Lumiere Reader, Brooks has quickly become a pillar of Auckland’s theatrical scene.
Perhaps as familiar as the décor of The Basement itself are the two leads in Brooks’ work – Nic Sampson and Chelsea McEwan Millar.
From film to television to the stage, Nic Sampson and Chelsea McEwan Millar are two well credited performers who are coming together on stage for the second time (after 2011’s smash These Are The Skeletons Of Us) for this arrested development comedy. With a combined resume that incudes performances in Power Rangers, Go Girls and US film Emperor, Sampson has twice worked with Auckland Theatre Company (Black Confetti, End of the Golden Weather), has joined the writing team of TV3’s popular late-night programme Jono and Ben @ Ten, while also being part of the weekly fast-paced improv group SNORT.
Chelsea in many ways could be called a resident of The Basement, performing in seven shows over the course of four years at the venue – performing in The Slap-Dash Assassin, Eigengrau, Love After Dark and Hummingbird, the latter directed by Nic Sampson himself. She has also acted in popular NZ film Under the Mountain and for the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin in In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play).
This triumvirate of Auckland theatrical types only adds to the honest, authentic nature of this site-specific work (held literally in the green room of The Basement, no less), and once again sets Brooks, Sampson and McEwan Millar as three leading lights within the community.
“His sweet coming-of-age comedy, Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys, was performed in the Basement carpark with such natural panache by Dan Veint and Calum Gittins, that even when they kissed, I saw only characters, not actors.” – Janet McAllister, The New Zealand Herald on Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys
“Out-standing.” James Wenley, Theatrescenes on Queen
WINE LIPS plays
26 – 30 August, 7pm and 9:30pm
The Green Room of the Basement Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD
Bookings: (09) 361 1000 // iticket.co.nz
Eight out of tannin
Review by Matt Baker 27th Aug 2014
If you’ve ever wondered what The Basement greenroom looks like, or the stories its walls could tell, Wine Lips is the answer. From the authentic show posters featured on Bex Isemonger’s set and Amber Molloy’s inventive lighting design, both of which thankfully make full use of the greenroom mirror, to the stalwart ease of actress and actor Chelsea McEwan Millar and Nic Sampson, and the brutal honesty of writer/director Sam Brooks’s script, Wine Lips is as close as you’ll get without having to step a foot into the industry. There are, however, myriad meta-fictional jokes, many of which would go over non-industry audience members’ heads, and the references to both real and fictional people, performances, and places awkwardly blurs the line of witnessing a based-on-a-true-story/names-have-been-changed-to-protect-identities style tale.
Sampson (Scotty) plays a nicely understated balance between the genuine mourning and misplaced defences of both a cynical ex-partner and disillusioned director, his motivations betraying his actions. McEwan Millar (Brit) proves that you can take the girl out of the theatre, but you can’t take the drama out of the girl in a well-pitched intellectually and emotionally resonant performance, the fragility of the latter on the constant verge of breaking in response to Sampson’s unrelenting drive. [More]
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Makes you think
Review by Nik Smythe 27th Aug 2014
Writer /director Sam Brooks has concocted a curious piece of theatre examining the lives of young actors in their own habitat. The Basement Theatre’s actual backstage /dressing room /greenroom space provides ideal ready-made scenery for set designer Bex Isemonger, with its impressive original bomb-art and archival posters on the wall, big mirror, mismatched furniture, fairy lights, props and costumes, takeaway containers and general clutter.
Chelsea McEwan Millar is Brit, an up-and-coming screen actress on the brink of bona-fide success. She’s come to visit her old friend and ex-lover Scotty (Nic Sampson), who is stage-managing an intriguing new gay-burlesque work in the Basement studio next door. Things are clearly more than a little awkward between them, as Scotty quickly starts to interrogate Brit with undisguised self-pity.
In one short hour we learn a lot about Scotty and Brit, though there’s never any sense of forced exposition. The authentic setting, along with Brooks’ penetrating script and intuitive direction, serves to engender wholly natural performances from the cast.
As the pair catches up, bickering and downing an alarming quantity of cheap booze in a short space of time, they are frequently interrupted by Scotty’s backstage duties, readying various props and costumes for the production onstage.
To contrast the central couple as they each confront their impending mortality having reached that crucial mid-twenties stage in every actor’s life, Geordie Holibar plays Max, the fresh face (in drag) of idealistic youth. When Max asks Brit for career advice, her sagacious response feels like a revelation even to herself, that she’s achieved a level of status where she can now legitimately inform the next generation.
Another notable supporting character is the extraordinary-sounding play going on through the backstage door behind us. Left largely to our imagination, clues are provided by Scott’s somewhat sardonic description, Max’s glamorous frocks and shoes and Amber Molloy’s eclectic sound design comprising various effects such as vehicles and gunshots, and lots of world music set to house beats.
The behind-the-scenes setting is apt framing for the ensuing inquiry into what is behind the protagonists’ own life decisions – how much they conceal from each other and/or themselves, and whether they even understand their own motivations.
From my own point of view, as a one-time ambitious aspiring artisan with a diploma in drama, now solo father with a desk job writing these accounts of other people’s valiant works, the themes of this one-act fly-on-the-wall romantic would-be parable feel particularly poignant. Whether it’s ultimately depressing or encouraging is a matter of perspective.
As in reality, there’s no clear answer to the troubling questions raised, and certainly no underlying optimistic follow-your-dream type message. If anything, quite the contrary: a wake-up call, to get real and grow up, one way or another; to interrogate oneself as to whether the fire still burns inside or is it time to ‘settle down’? But would soldiering on be based on nothing but stubborn egotism? Or would settling down be premature defeat? Whichever choices we make, where they take us is more often than not nothing like where we expected to get to anyway, so then what?
So, Wine Lips makes you think – evidently. Humorous in-house industry references aside, the issues of career and relationships are universal. The play could be seen as a dramatic counterpart to Samson and friends’ earlier farcical comedy Green Room; though the characters in Wine Lips are more distinctly fictional, as opposed to exaggerated self-caricatures, their stories ring just as if not more true.
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