The Pitchfork Disney: A Grim and Gothic Fairytale

The Pitchfork DisneyFilled with disturbing imagery that you would only find in your nightmares, The Moving Theatre Company’s adaptation of Philip Ridley’s debut play is a visually stimulating and wondrously visceral stage production.  Contrary to the title, this is definitely not a Disney fairytale.

The Pitchfork Disney plunges you in to the grim and fantastical world of Hayley and Presley Stray, a pair of adult twins who, in the wake of an unexplained apocalyptic event and the mysterious disappearance of their parents, have been living in solitary confinement.  The siblings live a very childlike existence, surviving off chocolate and narcotics in a derelict and abandoned space where they share stories under a tent that contains a constructed tapestry of their dreams and fears.

Under Sophie Roberts’ accomplished direction, this contemporary classic with a macabre twist is brought to life by an extremely talented and absolutely stellar cast.  Michelle Blundell and Todd Emerson play Hayley and Presley with staggering conviction; Michelle perfectly embodies the easily anxious, childlike innocence of the character while Todd’s charismatic stage presence makes him an effortless and captivating storyteller.

Leon Wadham’s portrayal of the sinister Cosmo Disney is unnervingly believable – the subtleties in his facial expressions in particular make his portrayal of the sick and twisted nightclub entertainer truly terrifying and sent shivers up my spine.  Sam Snedden rounds up the cast as the frightening Pitchfork Cavalier and although he only gets limited time on the stage, he still manages to invoke a formidable presence with startling effect.

Visually, the set (which goes beyond the performance space – a brilliant touch!) is impressive – an artistic masterpiece.  The stunning and fascinating set design by Daniel Williams along with the superb sound and lighting by Sean Lynch and Jennifer Lal work in perfect tandem to create a genuinely eerie atmosphere.  In this dreamlike alternate reality, you easily forget the real world and subsequently, like the twins, begin to fear what lies beyond.

The Pitchfork Disney is a deeply poetic, deliciously dark and hauntingly surreal theatrical experience.  Prepare to be swept away and completely immersed in this chilling and gripping tale.

The Whimsical Banana rates The Pitchfork Disney: 5/5 chocolate-coated bananas!

The Pitchfork Disney is at the Loft at Q until June 29th.  Click here for the full synopsis and to book tickets.

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Private Lives: The Original Rom-Com

We have all at some point known of couples who are stuck in the vicious cycle of break up – get back together – break up – get back together.  Rinse and repeat.  What is it that makes them keep going back for more even though they are clearly not right for each other?

Written in 1929 by the late Noël Coward, Private Lives explores this particular brand of temperamental, mismatched love.  Elyot and Amanda are happily divorced and five years on they are now honeymooning with their new spouses.  Little do they know that as rotten luck would have it, both couples happen to be doing so in the same hotel right next to each other.  Awkward.

I really enjoyed the first act.  It sets up not only the tone of the play perfectly but through Sibyl and Victor’s incessant questioning, we also learn of Elyot and Amanda’s volatile relationship filled with narcissistic egos and constant bickering which ultimately ended due to alleged infidelity.  A lit line in the middle of the stage marks the two balconies of their adjoining hotel suites and the scene goes back and forth between the couples seamlessly, with their conversation bouncing off each other in an uncanny mirrored symmetry.

Against the stark white backdrop, music forms the heartbeat of the play and the friendly banter between the two new lovers takes a turn when Lou Reed’s dreamy and melancholic Perfect Day starts playing.  When Elyot and Amanda finally set eyes on each other, all hell breaks loose and what unfolds is nothing short of chaotic comedic mayhem.  Although Elyot has an overwhelming “sensation of impending disaster”, this is ignored completely for the irresistible pull they have towards each other and subsequently they run off together, abandoning Sybil and Victor.

Act two sees the couple “living in sin” in Sydney.  Unsurprisingly the reasons as to why they eventually divorced in the first place begin to rear its ugly head again.  Their use of the code word “sollocks” to impose a time out seems to put them at bay for a while but they soon realize that the undeniable chemistry they share which brings them together is also the thing that makes them completely unsuitable for each other.

As the story unfolds, their love-hate relationship unravels; their quarrels increasingly intensify and eventually it all culminates to an explosive crescendo.  This could be seen as repetitive but the ever-present comedy which is sharp, witty and dripping with linguistic irony keeps things fresh and entertaining.

It’s hard to believe Private Lives was penned over eighty years ago as, tweaks aside, it still manages to feel modern and as relevant as though it were written yesterday.  It has been revived many times over the years but with this production in particular, what really brings this play to life are the actors.

Matt Whelan was the star of the show for me.  He plays the superficial and caddish Elyot to perfection, providing a great comedic physicality to the character and delivering a plethora of excellently written and brilliantly timed one-liners with great ease.  Mia Blake’s stage presence is electric and perfectly complements Whelan’s performance as the sexy and sophisticated Amanda.

Fresh off The Pride*, Silo’s previous production, Sam Snedden is a natural fit for Victor, the sensible moral compass of the group and antithesis to Elyot.  He once again showcases his remarkable ability to fully embody any character that he is given.  Finally there’s Sophie Henderson who portrays the young and naïve Sibyl wonderfully, giving Whelan a run for his money delivering some great comedic moments too.

Shane Bosher, who previously directed TRIBES**, triumphs again as director in this production.  He is clearly an actor’s director for he has succeeded in bringing out the best performances in these actors making it an absolute delight to watch.

Private Lives is an exceptionally written story that transcends time and is romantic comedy at its best.  It will have you hooked from start to finish and leave you wanting more.

The Whimsical Banana rates Private Lives: 4/5 bananas!

Sexy, risqué, ridiculously fun and absolutely hysterical – Silo Theatre have done it again!

Private Lives is playing at the fabulous Rangatira at Q until 29 September.  To book tickets, click here.

*Read my review of The Pride here.

**Read my review of TRIBES here.

It’s all about The Pride

On leaving the Herald Theatre last night, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of great pride (no pun intended!) at the fantastic theatre scene we have here in Auckland.  Makes me very proud to be a part of this big little city!

Silo Theatre’s The Pride hits the nail on the head on all accounts – outstanding cast, exceptionally written, simple but innovative set design and perhaps most importantly, a play that succeeds in being both entertaining and thought-provoking.  The play is performed by a mere cast of four under the superb direction of Sophie Roberts and depicts two different worlds that are fifty years apart.  In 1958 we witness the shame and anguish from a forbidden love between two men whereas in 2008 the two men are openly together but their love is riddled with betrayal and lust.

The characters may have the same name but they are not the same person.  They are, however, intrinsically linked; their actions indirectly affecting the other, and the “bigger picture” through time.  Through the clever moving of the glass panel backdrop and simple relocating of the set, the narrative transitions between the different times seamlessly and the actors swap between their two characters effortlessly too.

I was thoroughly impressed by Simon London’s portrayal of both the darker and troubled 1950’s Phillip and the more carefree and evolved Phillip fifty years later.  The subtleties in his performance – the nervous twitches, the inflections in his voice, differing postures and body language – are remarkable and really showcase his skills as an actor.

I felt there was not too much of a leap between the two Olivers but still a solid performance from Kip Chapman.  His excellent facial expressions and animated delivery of his lines (particularly as the 2008 Oliver) were what stood out for me.  I had last seen Kip in Black Confetti (my review for that can be found here) where he played quite a dark character so it was quite refreshing to see him tackle something completely different.

Sylvia takes up the third spot in the complicated love triangle that unfolds in this story and she is played brilliantly by Dena Kennedy. Through her expressive and highly emotive performance you can’t help but just root for her in both worlds.  The chemistry that the three share when together on stage is just amazing, especially the awkward social exchanges in the beginning.

Sam Snedden is the fourth and final cast member and although he is what you would call a “supporting act” his skillful performance of three very different characters demands your attention and is absolutely top notch.  And while he may not be a part of the central trio, the characters he plays are integral to the story because they represent the views of society on homosexuality and how they’ve changed.

The play tackles a whole lot; love, desperation, oppression, freedom and loneliness so I left The Pride feeling pretty emotionally spent – but in a good way!  It is an extraordinary play with bite and a lot of depth because it is also a thinly veiled social commentary about the changing attitudes towards homosexuality over the span of fifty years.  Every character embarks on an emotional journey and we are right there not only to see it all happen but we are swept away with them too.

Thank you, Alexi Kaye Campbell for writing this superb and important theatre piece and thank you, Silo Theatre for bringing us this simply incredible production!

The Whimsical Banana rates The Pride: 5/5 Bananas!

At times intense and confronting, but also incredibly engaging and uplifting with an extremely talented cast.

The Pride plays at the Herald Theatre until September 1st .  For more information and tickets, click HERE.