April Phillips is a well-known playwright in New Zealand. Her work (STiFF, Death & Taxe$, Killing Me Softly, Blue Eyes) has been performed across New Zealand, Australia and into London, since 2002. So, naturally I was delighted to attend the double-bill of ‘SNiP’ & ‘Bonking James Bond’, produced by Phoenix Theatre, at the Rose Centre, Auckland.
The production notes highlighted that both plays, were directed by first-time directors: Rob Holland and Mandy Kavanagh. Phillips’ plays were both 4 handers – 2 female and 2 male cast for each play – this felt deliberate to (possibly) balance the gender war.
‘SNiP’ opened with Frank (Gavin Lewis) and Jenny (Melissa Roberts) in bed. They appeared to be the ‘average’ married couple with 3 children, the youngest was still waking in the night. Jenny gave Frank an ultimatum, that he needed a vasectomy, if he wanted any more sex. He struggled with the decision to ‘snip’ his manhood, talking to the audience about his dilemma. Then in walks the ‘Don’ (Justin Grannall) who challenges Frank about relinquishing his virility. Don Corleone was obviously ‘The Godfather’, renown to most of us – voted one of the best films of all time.
Frank then meets with Dr Sam Smith (Debbie Mueller) to perform the procedure.
Engaging with the characters was difficult – due to all the blackouts. Frank (Gavin Lewis) lacked credibility, as he did not manage to share his inner turmoil, that he was experiencing. Losing our ‘reproductive organs’ is a life-changing event, that I did not share with Frank – on this occasion. Jenny (Melissa Roberts) is a strong-minded, unsympathetic woman, that will not take ‘no’ for an answer. She screams with emotion, when (probably) saying nothing at all – may have moved me more. Don (Justin Grannall) followed Frank around the stage, which looked awkward, however he had some great one liners, ‘You are more than the Godfather, you are a good father’. Dr Sam Smith (Debbie Mueller) could have been amazing, with more polish.
The (minimal) set doubles for both plays – a simple table, 2 chairs stage left, a double bed in the middle that represents the bedroom and a clothes rack. The sound was predominantly ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Walk the Line’ soundtrack. The lighting needs some work: less is more. I prefer lights up, for most of a performance, even set changes. Keeps it real – and interesting.
With more some tweaks, ‘SNiP’ has the potential to be a brilliant comedy.
‘Bonking James Bond’ opens with Betty (Helen Litterick), Jeffery (Ralph Duggan) her husband, and Penelope (Kate Regan) his mistress, talking in monologue about their physicality, their fantasies and their lives. Betty becomes aware that her husband is having an affair with Penelope. Betty speaks and works through all the hypothetical scenarios, of what she could do – or not. Jeffery is head-over-heels in lust, with Penelope who has big boobs, tiny waist and wears’ short skirts. Typically – he is having a mid-life crisis – after 20 years of marriage with Betty.
Betty then decides she will dapple in ‘reverse psychology’ (notes the program) to win her husband back. In the process, her imagination runs wild and we meet James Bond (Pedro Silva), who is her fantasy. Betty explores her womanhood: what her marriage is or not – and makes some radical discoveries.
There is a lot of comic timing in ‘Bonking James Bond’ that is executed fairly well. Betty (Helen Litterick) gives a brave performance, stripping on stage and (nearly) bears her soul.
Her husband, Jeffrey (Ralph Duggan) needs to be more charismatic and assertive, who is committing adultery, and in love with ‘Angelina Jolie’. Dreams are free.
Penelope (Kate Regan) appears confident, voluptuous and happy to be the ‘second’ woman. The affair was unbelievable: the connection was skin-deep. James Bond (Pedro Silva) walks about the stage rigidly and awkwardly, without any ‘Bond’ finesse. His attire is more convincing – and with more assured self-importance- Silva would be home and hose: mimicking Bond.
All in all – the direction of ‘SNiP’ and ‘Bonking James Bond’ evidently screams lack of experience. With more depth of character, both of these plays would be laugh out loud.