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.

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.