Matthew, Mark, Luke & Joanne

Matthew, Mark, Luke & Joanne –  11-15th September, The Playhouse, Church Street

Directed by Kevin Foley

There is something quite special about getting to sit in on a rehearsal during hell week. The elements coming together and merging into the vision of the director and the team they lead. As a reviewer I prepare to observe the work the actors, crew and production team bring forth, their well-prepared offering.

The pink wash over the white set on the black stage creates a peaceful ambiance, lulling us into a mind of contemplation as we wait for things to begin.

Kevin Foley’s direction allows us to focus on hearing the story as it unfolds and the cleverness that is found in the words of writer Carl Nixon. This story gives an opportunity to look at life and the issues around the values we choose to live by, what influences these, and what happens when our choices and values cause a rub against our friends and families.

The choice of an unchanging set (David Draffin) and minimal and well-chosen props (Pat Allen, Jess Liddy and Mary Clarke) ensured the focus remained on the characters and their stories. This works well with the subtle and beautiful lighting (Robert Horsburgh), and the clever sound effects (John Barton and Mark Sollis) working in tandem to add to the world of the play.

From the moment we meet Matthew, (Jon Harris), with his blue suit, red supermarket basket, as he faces us and reaches for coffee in the gluten free, organic and ethnic food aisle with his opening monologue we are engaged, and eager to hear more about his earnest life changing meeting with Jesus – epiphanies can happen anywhere. We want to hear what happens next. Jon Harris brings a naive and genuine feel to the character of Matthew which stood out in a moment as he stands with blankets and talks of helping people.

His best friend Mark, (David Mortimer), self-serving, materialist is ‘creeped out’ by the change in his friend. David Mortimer plays this part with zeal and an appetite that cannot be satisfied as Mark searches to fill a void. Matthew’s wife Joanne, (Lizzie Dawson), is angry and feels abandoned by Matthew’s conversion to Christianity. Lizzie Dawson, plays Joanne’s confusion searching for the answers to a happy life with dexterity and flair as Joanne searches for the answers in yoga, relationships and dealing with her past.

Both struggle with Matthew’s new life choice, and how it impacts them and their worlds. He no longer fits in their boxes, as they are unable to see that they too hold strong beliefs and put their faith in other things like expensive cars, money, yoga and even echinacea pills. With some ‘zig zagging’ and a twist at the end, this play leaves us having recognised situations, recalling people we know and sayings.

In conclusion this is a thoughtful and interesting story told with many laugh out loud moments and earnest performances by three talented performers.

Make sure you are a witness to this clever story and book your tickets from I-ticket, Newman’s MusicWorks, Timaru Information Centre and Parker’s Stationery Waimate.

Reviewed by Kimble Henderson MTA (Merit)

The Darling Buds of May

The Darling Buds of May  – Review

Take a reasonably well-known story, set 60 years ago in rural Kent, England, and people it with eccentric yokels, and you have the makings of an engaging comedy. The Larkin family apparently have a legitimate business, farming, but it brings in an amazing if undeclared income, thanks to the machinations of the adult members. Pop, played here by Dave Mortimer in a stand-out performance as a shifty yet open entrepreneur, is ably assisted by the equally amoral Ma, played delightfully by Annette Farr, but the story-line centres on eldest daughter Mariette, the lovely Isabella Wilkie, falling in love with the oh-so-earnest ‘Charley’ the tax investigator, played by Alec Muir. Their roles enliven the play, starting with mere flirtation on the part of Mariette, through a fight with a rival, Pauline Jackson (Molly Callaghan), a scheme to have a baby, then to set up house to make everything ‘perfick’. The main characters, ably assisted by the young Larkin siblings (April Manson, Trey Cosgrove, Maddison Frame, Ruby Ballantyne, Lucy Flynn), also have interactions with village identities, including Jon Harris as the brigadier, Shelley Casey as the amorous Miss Pilchester , Lizzie Dawson as Angela Snow, the Bluff-Gore couple (Jeff Mill, Angela O’Reilly) and Mark Richardson as the befuddled tax inspector.

Director Gail Tatham relies upon a minimal set, loads of miming, and excellent sound and lighting effects; the costuming of the 1950s is spot-on, the characters move and position themselves (especially the children), and all in all the TV show known to so many comes alive again in this very good production. Congratulations , then, to all involved in this sparkling comedy. It is a treat, well deserving of our support.

– Gordon Prowse

Variety A Kiwi Comedy

Variety, a Kiwi Comedy is certainly a unique musical, and the Mill Theatre section of the South Canterbury Drama League is to be congratulated for putting on such a rollicking show. Written and directed by Catherine May Smith, this pre-Christmas production has an eclectic atmosphere – there’s almost a feel for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, plus slapstick and vaudeville. Ms Smith has obviously trained her cast and backstage to make this a fast-moving and highly colourful comedy. The plot is whimsical, with two competing prima donnas in a quasi-political local milieu creating the sparks to generate the song and dance routines that enliven the stage.

And here is the flair of Matt Deavoll, as music director. To have a dozen actors belting out such numbers as Poi-e, Hit me with your best shot, and I see red, is quite an accomplishment, particularly when tight choreography is involved too; the resultant items come with good volume, clear enunciation, and relentless movement. Stealing the performance are Molly Callanan as ambitious Moira, and Ben Donaldson as the sultry Shirly Templesmith; each has a commanding stage presence and voice, and their acolytes reinforce their dominance. Yet the supposedly lesser characters have their own important parts to play –Stevie Gallagher, Bethany Cootes, Miranda Burrell and Victoria Chappell give lustre to Ben, their lord and master, while Vanessa Fleming, Annette Farr, Viv Leslie, and Maree Casey similarly endow Molly’s status. Andrew Robb as Moira’s partner grows in stature, and Nathan Butler is once again a real trouper, set against Shirly.

The ensemble is exceptionally well costumed, and the wide stage setting, with multiple doors and clever lighting, gives them all scope to display their talents. An appreciative opening-night audience, with whom there was occasional interplay, roundly applauded the efforts of Ms Smith’s work. This is a light-hearted comedy, suited to all, and fully deserving Timaru support.
– Gordon Prowse, reviewer

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