Backstage story – Le Sud by Dave Armstrong


Auckland Theatre Company do a really cool “meet the creative team” thing before their plays.  The one for “Le Sud” was on last week.  Now I have to confess I wasn’t entirely sure about this play.  It’s a political satire and I don’t really keep up with what the pollys are doing. (Nothing worse than going to a comedy and not getting the jokes. That just leads to drinking and we all know where that leads…) Apparently though the cast have been sending suggestions to the writer and he has been tweaking the play so that it now has lots of Auckland based jokes (e.g. Supercity!*) so I can be sure to laugh at something. 

The director Raymond Hawthorne said that it must be hell on the actors to have the changes made so quickly and so often.  He’s worked with the play from the very beginning and he sounds impressed with the structure. They talked a lot about the rhythm of the play which of course completely changes when the audience is introduced.  Jennifer Ward-Lealand said that the “audience is the missing link for us. It’s like riding a completely new rhythm.”  Preview shows are very important for a play like this.  It’s contemporary but the writer has to make sure that the jokes are still relevant.  Sometimes jokes based on situations that might seem dated are still relevant to the audience.  Hawthorne said that we will laugh at the “recognition of us”.

The team was well represented with the director, the full cast and a couple of the designers on hand to talk about what they were up to.  In fact I think the only person missing was the writer.  They were constantly referring to him (“impressively fast turnaround for scripts”) and complimenting him (“best work ever!”) so it was almost as if he was there.  There was also a guy who I think is the ATC Artistic Director acting as the MC/Chair for the night.

It was neat to watch the dynamics between the cast.  They looked like they were having fun with each other and with the play.  They say that they all crack up in rehearsal everyday.  ‘Political correctness goes out the window with such broad characters but it’s never offensive.’  I personally found the designers interesting.  They talked about their influences and how what they ended up with (my words) the essence of the thing.  In other words the set and lighting design didn’t have to be exact but had to support the play without overwhelming it. Phillip Dexter said ‘Can’t be too realistic otherwise the audience  won’t believe; need to suggest.’  I wasn’t that surprised to see how many different influences there were on the look and feel of the play – once I stopped to think about it.  For example, here are my notes about Tracy Grant-Lord “starting point was landscape. fancy french places, hall of mirrors versaille. lots of different influences, oval office, hotels in paris, opulence scenic wallpaper, neoclassical style.” That wasn’t all of them either.  The costume I’m most keen to see is Miriama McDowell‘s one which is a ‘cross between Malibu Barbie and Tame Iti.’

A French colleague in Wellington tweeted me this morning to say “it was really funny” so it’s not just the NZers who will have fun with this.

I’ll leave the last words to the director.

“Don’t bring your children.”

Le Sud by Dave Armstrong
Maidment Theatre 11 February – 06 March

* Exclamation mark is mine. I’d add *ironical jazz hands* too but that might be excessive.

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