Monday, 24 September 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

A play within a play

By Stephan Bosman

The lights dim. Two actors, husband and wife, are on stage, purportedly the guests at a dinner party. In the background two other actors, the host and hostess, can be heard fighting. The fighting couple move into view. The hostess’s mother arrives, taking the fact that her daughter and son-in-law are heading for a messy divorce in her stride.

Then things turn funny. The host has seemingly forgotten his lines. That’s immediately followed by him accusing his real-life wife, one of the dinner party guests, of having an affair with her on-stage husband.

The penny drops. As the audience walked into the intimate Coghill Theatre in Whitianga to experience the latest production of Whitianga’s Offbeat Theatre Company, “Kindly Leave the Stage” by John Chapman, the ushers warned them it was “a play within a play” and they had to read the synopsis in the programme to follow what was going to happen.

The transition from “play” to “real life” is almost seamless. A laugh a minute follows. From the one actor hiding in a trunk to escape the wrath of another actor with a dangerous looking letter opener in hand and a nurse admitting she never in her life had to treat a knife wound to yet another actor reciting the best, and worse, of Shakespeare while loudly proclaiming he’s an alcoholic.

The cast switch effortlessly between “play” and “real life.” They are mesmerising. It’s hard to believe they’re on stage in a small town, they’re all amateurs, they all have fulltime jobs and they all had to learn their lines and rehearse after hours. 

When the (imaginary) curtain drops, the audience translates their appreciation into applause. The past week and a half, the Offbeat Theatre Company has performed Kindly Leave the Stage six times. All six times the sell-out audiences’ applause was thunderous. The cast - Graeme Thornber, Emma Bishop, Jaimy Goble, Rob Hart, Svargo, Shannon Okey, Josephine Martin and David Wilson - cannot be happier. Their hard work has paid off.

Once again the Offbeat Theatre Company has shown that quality and complex theatre can come out of a small community. All that’s required is a group of passionate people.

“I chose Kindly Leave the Stage because it fitted with the restrictions of our performance space, but I had no idea of the complexities behind the script,” says production director, Sharyn Morcom. “The team - actors and crew - have worked incredibly hard to pull this play off. Full houses every performance and the feedback has been amazing. I’m so proud of everyone involved.”

It’s more than that. The Offbeat Theatre Company made everyone who attended a performance of Kindly Leave the Stage proud to call a small town home.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.