29 August 2011

Four Flat Whites in Italy: incisive insights and loads of laughs

Just before launching into his fifth performance as Adrian in Roger Hall’s Four Flat Whites in Italy, actor Stuart Devenie tells drama on the waterfront about how it feels to return to this audience favourite Hall comedy.

DOTW: What is the basic story of Four Flat Whites in Italy? What can you tell us about your character?

SD: Adrian and his wife, Alison, two librarians, are about to embark on their first overseas holiday for decades when their old friends are unexpectedly unable to go. Harry and Judy, two similarly aged but vastly different personalities become the reluctant travelling companions. Secrets, lies and old habits die hard as the hapless four attempt to negotiate Rome, Venice and Tuscany and have compromise forced upon them.

Adrian has led a regimented and frustrating life and his buttoned down view of life is sorely challenged by Harry and Judy. But as he says, “the holiday that didn’t go according to plan turned out better than either of us could have hoped for.”

DOTW: I understand that this is your fifth production of Four Flat Whites; what is it like to return to this production yet again? Does it change for you each time?

SD: I’ve performed Adrian in Auckland, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Napier, and now Wellington. The play always unfolds in a different way with new actors and directors and of course the different venues, and for this reason it remains fresh and enjoyable to work on. It’s been great re-connecting with Darien Takle, my first Alison in Auckland and Viv Bell who played Judy with me in Palmerston North. It’s also the first time I’ve worked with Ross Jolly in theatre. We did a lot of work together on television in the 70s and 80s, most notably, Gliding On and Market Forces. We’ve all had a lot of fun in rehearsal and I’m sure our audiences will as well.

DOTW: Nearly everyone on the cast (except Heather O’Carroll) has performed in this play before – was it challenging bringing together all the different experiences into one cohesive production?

SD: I think because of everyone’s familiarity with the piece it’s allowed us to explore lots of different options with the play. As we all understand the substance of the play we are free to hone the style specifically for the new space.

DOTW: Although you directed and starred in many productions in the original Harris Street building – including directing the very first production in that space, The Italian Straw Hat – this is your debut in Circa One. How does it feel to return to Circa after so long? How does the current building compare to the old?

SD: Well, it’s been a long time coming and I always love having an opportunity to be in Wellington for a while. The main difference between the buildings is that Circa is no longer performing theatre on a postage stamp and there are no decomposing pigeons in the air vent!

DOTW: Finally, getting back to Four Flat Whites in Italy, what can audiences expect from this production?

SD: As with all of Roger’s comedies, and this one has been his most popular, the audience can expect some incisive insights and loads of laughs. I’m looking forward to our opening night.

Four Flat Whites in Italy opens in Circa One on 3 September and runs until 7 October. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

22 August 2011

EIGHT: Cast VS. Characters

The cast of Eight sounds off on their characters, telling drama on the waterfront exactly what they think of Andre, Astrid, Bobby, Danny, Jude, Miles, Millie and Mona (which might help you with your voting decision at www.eight-circa.com!).

Jessica Robinson - Millie/Bobby

"Millie is so much fun to play. Her outrageous beliefs couldn't really be further from my own which I think is half the reason I love playing her, that and her incredible use of language, quick wit and simmering madness. I wish it was half as much fun to be me!
Millie (dressed by Madame Hawke)
When I first read Bobby's monologue I immediately felt sad because I didn't think I would ever get cast in the role but I loved the character and her story. I was so happy when I found out Simon had cast me in the role and I always feel overjoyed as I slip into Bobby's hot pink, velour tracksuit. She's funny, feisty and full of heart with a story that's very easy to relate to."

Bobby (shops at the local op shop)
Jonathan Kenyon - Danny/Miles
"What marvels me most about my two characters (Miles, an American business man and Danny, a young gym enthusiast working in a morgue) is how they both sit on completely opposite ends of my personality. I'm a 21-year-old male living in a world were 'pleasure' is easily accessible: I drink alcohol with friends on the weekends, if I wanted I could get hold of almost any party drug within a few hours - not to mention, I also enjoy the company of the opposite sex. Imagine a world where this was your lifestyle seven days a week? Miles is a man who holds no modesty when engaging in such pleasures, he goes so far as to boast about them: 'Men marvelled at me, and women wanted me'. The opportunity that Miles gets to run away from his 'normal' life and pursue a world of sex, drugs and rock and roll - although far-fetched for the sake of telling the story theatrically - is an unconscious lure that I am sure sits within myself and occasionally touches the surface, and scarily reminds me that in this day and age, 'I could if I wanted to'.

Miles (dressed by Mandatory)

But then there's the side of me that hasn't been tempted by what I see on MTV or encouraged by the 'dark pleasures' of the enviroment around me. There's a side of me that nature combined with nurture has made me become. This rings true with my other character Danny. Being six foot six inches tall, I often get the feeling people see me as one thing, while I feel quite the opposite. The word intimidating gets used a lot -  I do not feel like an intimidating person; I'm incredibly un-violent and apart from the occasional crass comment, like to think I'm a pretty approachable and an easy guy to get along with. This is where I feel  Danny's disjointedness lies, a guy who lost his father early on, feels like he needs to look after his mum: he's big, so therefore must be strong, right? He goes to the gym in order to get bigger to become that which people expect of him. But does there become a point where you want people to stop placing you as a person based on what you outwardly show, and start seeing you for who you are on the inside?

I remember a past girlfriend of mine about three months into our relationship once said to me that she saw me so differently now to what she did when we first met. I asked her how so, to which she replied: 'Well, before I spoke to you, you always seemed intimidating, everyone thought you were 'too cool' for everyone else', to which I replied by giving her a big ol' squishy cuddle-wuddle and saying 'It's funny what just walking into a room can do for your reputation'. "

Danny (dressed by Workshop)
Chelsea Bognuda - Mona/Astrid
"I enjoy playing Astrid because the dialogue is very comic and full of bravado but has many layers underneath. So, she has been a difficult one to work out. But with an audience, the relationship makes her come alive. The hair, clothes and make up reflect her disheveled, tragic, but trying to keep it together personality. She is fun to play to an audience.
Astrid (dressed by Lonely Hearts)
Mona is the polar opposite to Astrid. She is dark and poetic - the writing is beautiful in this piece. She tackles having a Bohemian mother with her rebellion against those values, which is reflected in her dark, heavy costume and make up. The dramatic lighting let's me find a magician-type quality to her. The audience is invited to make of the "king of men" what they want."

Mona (dressed by Nom*d)
Paul Waggott - Andre/Jude
"I think Jude is someone that is really easy to associate with, and really easy to get along with. He's just so loveable! I think it's also interesting that he is a real innocent in the play when compared to some of the other characters.

Jude (dressed by his mum)
Andre is an astoundingly intelligent man, and his brain just seems to work at a million miles an hour. I think it's really interesting to see how someone like Andre deals with such a startling situation as that which he is faced with at the beginning of his monologue.

Andre (dressed by Marvel Menswear)
Eight runs until 3 September in Circa Two. To book tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz. Once you've booked, visit www.eight-circa.com to vote for your cast!

15 August 2011

When the Rain Stops Falling: "It is an absolute joy to work on this play"

drama on the waterfront chats with actor Jude Gibson about When the Rain Stops Falling, particularly what it is like to share a role with another actor, how it feels to return to a production with a different cast and crew (Jude starred in the Silo Theatre production in Auckland last year) and how theatre is the family business.

DOTW: What can you tell us about your character in When the Rain Stops Falling?

JG: I don’t want to give too much away, or it will spoil the audience’s pleasure in putting the puzzle of this play together. She is a 50 yr old woman called Gabrielle, who lives in Adelaide with her husband of 25 years Joe. If I say any more I will have to kill you!

DOTW: You share this character with Sophie Hambleton; how did the two of you work together in order to play different ages of the same character?

JG: At first we just worked through the processes of our own character (albeit the same person) and then we began watching each other closely for personal mannerisms, physicality and vocal patterning – much of which was already there in the script, or starting to happen in rehearsal– probably as a result of our shared “history”. Then, it was just a matter of refining it in an economical way.

Jude Gibson (back) and Sophie Hambleton. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: You have performed this play before, at the Silo Theatre in Auckland; how does the Circa production differ? What is it like to return to the play with a whole new cast and creative team? 

JG: Well, for a start, the general shape of the auditorium at Circa is completely different.  It is very wide and open, and the set at Circa reflects this, with a very wide playing space.  The audience is straight out front, whereas the Herald Theatre where the Silo production was housed was much more compact – like a box. There, we played in the thrust, with audience on 3 sides. This of course helps it to feel like a whole new experience for me.  The music is different too – and composed specifically for this production - as is the A/V – although strangely, magically, they seem to me to tell the same story as the Silo production. My character is costumed differently as well – so I feel like a whole new person/character, which is great.

It is an absolute joy to work on this play – I love the script so much – and with a whole new team of creative people working on it, I was once more swept up in a wave of enthusiasm and curiosity about the depth of the piece.

As an actor, it is exciting to play with different actors on the same piece. Every actor is a unique being with unique qualities they bring to their role. Their voices are different, their bodies move in different ways, their inner rhythms are different. They help to create my character by the way they react to me, and vice versa – we don’t do it alone. So of course I will react – in the moment – to what is coming at me from them, and because they are different people my responses will be slightly different too. It’s an organic, spontaneous process resulting in the audience receiving exactly the same story night after night.

DOTW: What new challenges did you discover in the role or the play itself while working on this production?

JG: I guess in a way this question also relates to the one just asked.  When you have already played a role and then return to it with a different cast, you have to find a way to escape the rhythms of your previous performance – if they still linger – and come to the work as a blank canvass. Concentration is an essential ingredient of this task – I have to listen even more intensely to what my fellow actors are saying, doing and projecting to me. This helps to break any previous patterning in the work and find fresh responses to what is happening in front of me. As a consequence, I think my work in the role has grown, deepened and expanded.

This time around I was also responsible for the choreography of the piece – which was a whole new challenge. The script calls for certain choreographic work at times from the ensemble of actors – and while it is not dance that’s required, some of it is fairly complicated – my fault - and demands precision in order to achieve the desired effect.  Luckily, it is a very generous cast, and everyone committed wholeheartedly to the undertaking, helping to find solutions to problems for themselves and each other.

Christopher Brougham and Jude Gibson. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: I understand that theatre, particularly at Circa, is a bit of a family business for you, with daughter Lauren Gibson having performed in Blackbird and August: Osage County and partner Iain Cooper doing the set construction for most Circa shows. How is it to have the whole family involved in the same industry and, sometimes, working in the same building?

JG: It’s brilliant actually – even though it probably sounds like a potential nightmare.  Dinnertime conversation has often involved the theatre and current projects.

My daughter Lauren has lived alongside – and in – my life in the theatre since she was born. I guess that was the norm for her – the same goes I suspect for families of lawyers and doctors etc – a genetic predisposition plus constant exposure – nature and nurture finally reconciled! Lauren does her thing – without any involvement from me – and I do mine – and we support each other and talk freely about our work when we get together – mother and daughter – friends and colleagues. I am proud of the work she’s done so far – as a parent and as a fellow actor – and look forward to seeing her future work – whatever that may be – she has her whole life ahead of her. I haven’t worked with her onstage yet myself – but would relish the opportunity should it arise.

My partner Iain was working as a tree surgeon when we met – and when we moved to Wellington he got work on The Lord Of The Rings in the Green’s Department – dismantling huge macrocarpas and putting them back together on set – creating swamps of glue, etc Along with various television jobs, ie. The Tribe, he worked on King Kong creating New York city out at Seaview, Avatar, and the ill-fated Kingdom Come.  By then he’d started to work on theatre sets in Wellington and really enjoyed the constant change of monthly theatre production. It was great to come home and discuss the day’s work over dinner – especially when we were both working on the same show and had sets in common – him building and me having to perform on them! 

I guess we all have a certain empathy for each other’s work and a kind of shorthand when talking about our own. We have yet to all three be working in the same building at the same time! But I certainly wouldn’t be averse to that should it arise.

The cast of When the Rain Stops Falling. Photo by Stephen A'Court. 
DOTW: Finally, how have audiences been reacting so far to When the Rain Stops Falling?

JG: The response has been amazing! It seems to touch people very deeply. They generally start out enjoying the setup of the “mystery” and the seemingly random humour, and as the play’s story and mystery deepens they become really absorbed – listening so carefully. Then as the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place, I can hear them gasp or sigh, and by the time the end of the story approaches we can hear them sniffling. Some people are literally sobbing by the end, but also feeling really uplifted and hopeful. Afterwards, in the foyer, many people have approached me to say how much they enjoyed it and how satisfying it is as a piece of theatre to experience, how moved they were. I take this to mean that they have experienced a catharsis of some sort – which in my experience is the most satisfying experience one can have in the theatre – not just to have been taken on a journey, but to have experienced something so deeply that you feel changed in some way – or better for it.

The critics too have been unanimous in their very high praise of this production – as you can see on www.theatreview.org.nz. However, as always we are dependent on word-of-mouth as an important form of advertising for this production – which is of course the best form – so if you do come and enjoy it, please spread the word!

When the Rain Stops Falling runs in Circa Two until 27 August. to book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

08 August 2011

Wharfside Restaurant: August 2011

Enhancing your dining experience

This blog post is about enhancing your dining experience at Circa. As discussed in our last blog, Daniel, our Chef,  has recently released his new menu, and I must say I’m pretty impressed with it. The food looks and tastes great and we are getting it to you, our patrons, in a timely manner.  

Our focus in the restaurant is to create a dining experience that provides quality food and service that you would expect in a lot of Wellington restaurants, while addressing the time constraints we are under in order to get our patrons to their shows on time. The main problem we face is people not booking in early enough; nearly everyone who dines with us is going to the show, and we need to be able to get all through their meals and into the theatre at the same time. The kitchen gets busier and busier the closer it gets to the show start time, and we need all the time we can get in order to ensure everything runs smoothly. This can be difficult when there are 200-300 people in the building and a full restaurant - particularly if those dining haven't arrived early enough. It is therefore imperative to give yourself plenty of time when booking and/or casual dining before a show, in order to fully enjoy your dining experience. After 17 years with Circa, we have tried everything and feel we have got things running as smoothly and as efficiently as we can in the environment.

A few tips to take into consideration therefore:
·         1. Make a booking. We recommend arriving for dinner about 2 hours before show time; if the show starts at 8pm, then it is best to make your booking for 6pm.

·        2.  If you are wishing to dine casually rather than book, please still allow the two hour window for dining otherwise we may be forced to turn you away due to a full restaurant or limited time remaining before the show. 

      3. Look at pre-ordering dessert/coffee/wine before the show to enjoy back at your table during the interval or after the show.  If it is a short show with no interval, you can:
o        Have a drink on arrival
o        Pre-order for after the show before you go in
o        Come out at the end of the show with your meal coming to the table a few minutes after you sit down

We currently have two shows on at Circa - When the Rain Stops Falling and EIGHT - with no interval, which make dining after the show a very reasonable option, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the shows both go in and come out early.

With the Rugby World Cup coming up, the favourite Four Flat Whites in Italy is playing a 6.30pm on most evenings. We are open for dining, and with it being an early session dining after the show and watching the waterfront from our conservatory would be a great way to finish up the evening. Please note we are only open for after show dining if bookings are received pre-show.

So please make use of us to enhance your Circa experience.
I look forward to seeing you there.
Martin Halliday
Owner, Wharfside Restaurant

01 August 2011


Exclusive fashion and dynamic character – 
choose your perfect night out!

Eight is all about firsts for Circa Theatre; it is the first time that the outcome of each performance depends solely on the discretion of the audience, who have the opportunity to vote for their cast ahead of time at www.eight-circa.com or at the theatre before the show, when volunteers will collect votes using an iPhone application.

It is also the first time that a Circa production has partnered with a group of New Zealand’s leading fashion designers, bringing together two creative industries in a way not often seen in Wellington theatre. Each designer was carefully selected for a particular character, and was given that character’s monologue in order to become well acquainted with him or her. The wardrobe was chosen to both remain faithful to the script and showcase the designer’s brand. The result is an innovative partnership between fashion and theatrical character that works well within the play’s unique concept.

 “The play gives voice to a generation that has grown up in a globalised world where the internet has allowed for cross sector collaboration in many different contexts, so such a partnership seemed a great fit for this production. When we came up with the idea to partner with fashion designers to give audiences another level of clarity when making their choices we could never have imagined the insights the application of their creativity has given us into the characters and the project as a whole.” – Simon Vincent, Director.

Below are some quotes from some of our designers describing their collaboration with Eight:

Madame Hawke (Millie)
Millie is a typical Madame Hawke girl; confident and charming, powerful and playful, modern yet with a classic touch. Working with Eight continues the process of collaboration with other creative talents that Madame Hawke values so greatly.” – Eleisha Balmer, Brand Manager, Madame Hawke www.madamehawke.com

NOM*d (Mona)
It’s great to be involved and contributing to other creative collaborations! Individual style has much to do with personality and confidence, which can be defined by the clothes one wears. Mona is a NOM*d girl.” – Margarita Robertson, Creative Director, NOM*D www.nomd.co.nz

Mandatory (Miles)
Simon Vincent is an exciting director and he has certainly brought a fresh project of many layers with this play. We have been working in one tight component of the overall play, but how much will Miles be seen? That’s out of our hands. As we get closer to opening night, anticipation grows about seeing the other stories.” – Clare Bowden, Designer, Mandatory www.mandatory.co.nz

Lonely Hearts (Astrid)
"We're really excited Eight wanted Lonely Hearts to be involved and can't wait to see the play!" – Keya Matthews, Sales & PR, Lonely Hearts www.loneleyheartslabel.portableshops.com

Marvel Menswear (Andre)
“I received an information pack on the play Eight alongside the usual pile of emails both useful and useless, this is always a chore to go through and the temptation to press delete for all quite strong. However, with Eight, the concept grabbed me straight away and upon reading Andre’s monologue it proved too well written and intriguing; I was hooked! It is always exciting for us to be involved with the Theatrical Arts community as we feel a natural camaraderie with the creative industries in general. Can’t wait to see the play although we might have to go every night considering it’s going to be such a moving feast!” – Linz Ariell, Director, Marvel Menswear www.marvelmenswear.co.nz

Eight opens on 6 August and runs until 3 September. Tickets are available by calling the Circa Box Office at 801-8137 or going online at www.circa.co.nz