Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

13/06/2015 - 23/06/2015

Production Details


Two of the most groundbreaking plays from the German theatre scene are coming to Wellington. A startling script from writer Ferdinand Bruckner in 1929 titled Pains of Youth, and Woyzeck that was born in the hands of dramatist Georg Büchner in the 1830s. Both plays offer archetype stories from remarkably contemporary viewpoints. “These are two extraordinary writers and these plays were just centuries ahead of their time”, says Woyzeck’s director Jonathon Hendry, who has also adapted the unfinished play.

The demoralization of a group of disillusioned medical students becomes the focus of Pains of Youth, while Woyzeck looks into the dehumanising effects of doctors and the military on a young man’s life. “Doing plays like these forces everybody that engages with them to butt up against humanity in a really robust and invigorative way”, explains Shane Bosher, the guest director for Pains of Youth. “From an acting perspective, the plays require all of you.”

Both plays will be staged in the Te Whaea Theatre, using two separate sets. From a design perspective, the challenge lies in creating spaces that speak to each other. “It’s a challenge doing two shows in one space, because they’re both quite big important shows, with limited budgets” says production manager Amy-Louise Mill, who is also a third year performing arts management student. Limitations all too familiar in the ‘real world’ but that won’t stop the youth production team from delivering a theatre experience that stays with the audience.

WARNING: These plays contain adult themes and language, partial nudity and may not be suitable for younger patrons.

Fully-realised production.

Students involved: Year 3 Acting, Year 3 Design, Year 3 Management, Year 2 Costume and Year 1 & 2 Technical & Management.

Shane Boshertrained as an actor at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. He oversaw the creation of 98 productions, including 21 new works and 9 touring productions during his 13 year tenure as Silo Theatre’s Artistic Director. He’s a three-time recipient of the Director of the Year award from The New Zealand Listener.

Jonathon Hendry is a graduate of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. After periods on the Trust Board, Board of Studies and as a guest tutor he joined the staff of Toi Whakaari in July 2007. He established himself as an award winning actor before directing with ATC, Silo, Downstage, Circa, Centrepoint and BATS.

Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington.

Saturday 13 June–Tuesday 23 June 2015
(no shows on Monday 15 June and Sunday 21 June):
6.30pm – Woyzeck
8.30pm – Pains of Youth

Public matinees will be on 20 June:
12.30pm – Woyzeck,
2.30pm – Pains of Youth.


Double bill:
$35 (full); $20 (concessions); $20 (Toi Whakaari graduate and Toi Whakaari or NZ School of Dance student, in advance).

Individual Shows:
$25 (full); $15 (concessions); $10 (Toi Whakaari graduate and Toi Whakaari or NZ School of Dance student, in advance).

TO BOOK: www.toiwhakaari.ac.nz or phone (04) 381 9250

Mobility car parking is available on-site, and the toilets and theatre are wheelchair accessible.

WOYZECK – Cast and Crew

Guest Specialist: Script Advisor Jo Randerson
Toi Whakaari Staff:
Director - Jonathon Hendry
Costume Supervisor - Kaarin Macaulay

Year Three, Bachelor of Performing Arts (Acting)
Woyzeck: Jacob Dale
Marie - Olivia Monks
The Doctor - Hannah Schunk-Hockings
Drum Major - Mattias Inwood
Captain - Jack Barry
Andre - Michael Van Echten
Sergeant/Carney - Guy Josh Cramond
Soldier/Monkey - Tim Earl

Year Three, Bachelor of Design (Stage and Screen)
Production and AV Designer - Chloe Alderton
AV Consultant - Charley Draper

Year Two, Bachelor of Performing Arts (Management)
Technical Designer - Kirsten Lee
Deputy Stage Manager - Brynne Tasker-Poland

Year Two, Diploma in Costume Construction
Costume Supervisor - Georgia Gilvear

PAINS OF YOUTH – Cast and Crew

Guest Specialist: Director Shane Bosher
Toi Whakaari Staff:
Costume Supervisor - Kaarin Macaulay

Year Three, Bachelor of Performing Arts (Acting)
Marie - Olivia Mahood
Desiree - Ella Hope-Higginson
Petrell - Justin Rogers
Lucy - Kalyani Nagarajan
Freder - Shane Murphy
Irene - Miryam Jacobi
Alt - Taufa Fisiinaua

Year Three, Bachelor of Design (Stage and Screen)
Costume Designer - Kathryn Jarvis

Year Three, Bachelor of Performing Arts (Management)
Sound Designer - Blair Godby

Year Two, Bachelor of Performing Arts (Management)
Lighting Designer - Levi Hampton
Deputy Stage Manager - Hannah Wilson

Year Two, Diploma in Costume Construction
Costume Supervisor - Brydee Mclean
Costume Workroom:
Christina Lunn, Michaela Michau
Johanna Otto, Tessa Paaymans
Jessica Thompson, Sonia Trounson

Theatre ,

Dynamically dramatic

Review by John Smythe 18th Jun 2015

Third Year productions from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School always have a special quality thanks to their long-term company nature. Of course that value is always offset by the difficulty in finding plays that give all the graduand actors a good and appropriate role, let alone plays that are relevant and resonant when they are programmed.

2015 has been steeped in centennial commemorations of the so-called Great War through dance, drama, documentary, musical, literary, visual and multi-media arts, so now is an ideal time to consider the effects, post-war, on people trying to return to normality and build a future. And turning to German and Austrian playwrights from the early 19th and 20th centuries also brings a new and salutary perspective to the ‘conversation’.

Thus we have Woyzeck by Georg Büchner, adapted and directed by Jonathon Hendry, and Martin Crimp’s version of Pains of Youth by Ferdinand Bruckner, directed by Shane Bosher – performed by actors who all claim their roles with total commitment and alacrity, defying us to imagine anyone else as their characters. The design elements, too, are exemplary.

Medical student, political activist and playwright Georg Büchner died of typhus in 1837, aged 23, leaving multiple drafts of an unfinished play about a poorly-paid soldier – Corporal Franz Woyzeck – who lives with Marie, the mother of their child, and volunteers for extra work to make ends meet. He has apocalyptic visions but his mental illness goes undiagnosed and when he believes Marie is having an affair with the handsome Drum Major and is beaten up for confronting him, he ends up murdering Marie.

It remained unperformed until Max Reinhart produced a version in Munich in 1913 less than a year before the Great War began). Since then countless adaptations-cum-completions have been staged and screened, most notably Werner Hertzog’s 1979 film. Jonathon Hendry’s adaptation, with script advisor Jo Randerson, begins with a gentle and sensitive Woyzeck (Jacob Dale) and lovely and loving Marie (Olivia Monks) courting by a river and builds the relationship towards the idea of their starting a family together. And Hendry’s directing and staging owes a lot to his immersion in last year’s John Bolton Theatre School.  

What we see – on an open space loosely caged by scaffolding – is a world increasingly distorted through Woyzeck’s subjective perception. The soldiers’ military uniforms are contemporary desert warfare kit and I take it they have already seen action somewhere and are now in training for their next mission.

Woyzeck’s condition may be seen as a form of schizophrenia arising from post-traumatic stress disorder, although the macho culture dominated by the compulsively disparaging Sergeant (Josh Cramond) and ebullient but ‘other worldly’ Captain (Jack Barry), with the handsome Drum Major (Mattias Inwood) held up as a hero, is enough to discombobulate any sensitive young man, except mates like Andre (Michael Van Echten) seem quite at home there.

To earn extra cash, Woyzeck is experimented on by The Doctor (Hannah Schunk-Hockings) – and perhaps his being required to eat nothing but peas adds to his mental instability. Her getting it on with the Captain may or may not be distorted in his perception. Likewise a visit to the fairground produces a bizarre Carney Guy clown (Josh Crummond) and his extraordinarily manifested performing Monkey (Tim Earl) and they increasingly feature in Woyzeck’s hallucinations.

Songs – always beautifully sung – are integrated into the show and TV screens evoke what is addling Woyzeck’s brain (production and AV designer, Chloe Alderton, with AC consultant Charley Draper). While it often threatens to distract from the onstage action, some of the imagery is astonishing, especially the sequence where soldiers arise from under the sand.

Amid the metatheatrical milieu each actor holds to the truth of a real person and that’s what makes it so much more than a display of theatrical skills. Hendry ensures all the bells and whistles serve the story’s core purpose.

Psycho-sensory disruption and challenge are part of the aesthetic for this sort of production and here it allows us to empathise with Woyzeck’s experience – which is all too redolent of the overstimulation and disorientation modern life can so easily impose as we attempt to find a place and a way to be.

Written almost a century later (although neither production is era-specific), Ferdinand Bruckner’s Pains of Youth is set in Vienna five years after the ‘Great War’ has ended and fifteen years before the next World War, against Hitler’s fascism, begins. Commentators have suggested that in the process of depicting post-war medical students devoid of a moral compass, and so unable to get their bearings let alone plot a course ahead, Bruckner has shown how the seeds of fascism are sown. In his programme note, director Shane Bosher identifies the syndrome as “anomie: an instability which results in the breakdown of standards or ideals.” (Those who know Martin Crimp’s The Country will see why he was drawn to this work.) 

Set in a rooming house or student hostel, the design elements comprise a conscious mish-mash of clothes, furniture and props: a wind-up gramophone; a Pump water bottle; random chairs as in any student flat … We are privy to the quarters occupied by earnest middle-class Marie (Olivia Mahood), who is about to graduate and is cleaning the room in preparation for her celebration, and aristocratic Desiree (Ella Hope-Higginson) who still has two years to go and is cramming for a test when she’s not succumbing to ennui or threatening suicide. “Only childhood’s worth having,” she opines. “Everyone should kill themselves at 17,” which is the age at which she ran away from home. She persists in calling Marie her sister’s name which adds incestuous overtones to the bisexual behaviour to which Marie is resistant, at first.

They have a maid, Lucy (Kalyani Nagarajan), who seems to be more answerable to Marie than Desiree. Indeed Marie has been financially supporting working-class Petrell (Justin Rogers) through med-school and is clearly attracted to him and assumes she deserves reciprocation. But he is attracted to Irene (Miryam Jacobi) who is of his class, has no time for the privileged lot and has little compunction in saying so.  

The evil genius in the mix is Freder (Shane Murphy) whose preoccupation and sport is to use and abuse people by way of proving how easy it is to manipulate people. If the definition of fascism is treating people as objects, he is the poster boy. He has a fuck-buddy relationship with Desiree who likes sex with him because it’s dangerous and brings her face-to-face with death. But Lucy is a more interesting challenge. Can he persuade a shy and dutiful maid with a fiancé back in her home town to become a thief and prostitute through blind love for him? At the same time he wants Marie to marry him on the grounds that “when the right moment comes one should consciously embrace bourgeois existence.”

One might think that working towards a career in medicine would bring their capacity for empathy, compassion and serving others to the surface but there is only a void where all that should be: these are the hollow people. In counterpoint, the appropriately-named Alt (Taufa Fisiinaua) has been disbarred for administering a palliative and lethal dose of morphine to a terminally ill child instead of the prescribed camphor treatment. He moons about as a sort of observational but impotent conscience figure.

If I have made Pains of Youth sound like a soap opera, fear not. Each actor totally inhabits their role and their physicality is always dynamic, building (or degenerating?) into visceral realms of abandonment. Because director Shane Bosher has ensured the characters and their ever-changing relationships are entirely credible we are forced to confront the reality – or at least the possibility – of their spectacularly self-destructive actions.

As with Woyzeck, the resonance with contemporary life, politics and values (or the lack thereof) is palpable. My only gripe is I could have done with a cup of tea between the shows – but most people, it seems, attend on separate nights. As a double bill, however, it’s a powerful night of dynamically dramatic theatre.


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