The Fortune Theatre's 2013 programme is an exciting
and ambitious line-up, pushing artistic and organisational
boundaries, reports Charmian Smith.
A national tour of a world premiere, a New Zealand premiere
of a New York musical, a gritty play to challenge the
audience, a play with a rotating cast, a joint production
with Taki Rua, the national Maori Theatre company, and a
children's mime show, as well as a new Roger Hall play and a
Christmas farce are in the Fortune Theatre's 2013 line-up.
For her third season, artistic director Lara Macgregor is
pushing the company to extend itself artistically and
organisationally within the boundaries of its resources, she
''We've had a very successful year as far as support from our
patrons and our sponsors. They seem excited and confident
with our company. We've developed some really good support
networks throughout the city, so our job is primarily to
contribute to the spiritual wellbeing of the community, and
in doing that we have to remain exciting - a dynamic place
for people to come, a fun place for people to come.
''In order to do that, we have to retain those kinds of
people within our organisation too, so all of us need to keep
raising our artistic bar and excite ourselves as artists and
push ourselves as artists in order for it to be exciting on
The season opens with Michael James Manaia, by John
Broughton of Dunedin, a joint production with Taki Rua. The
play, which burst on to the New Zealand theatre scene about
20 years ago, has had a lot of recognition in festivals in
the past couple of years, she says.
''It's the story of Michael James Manaia, who has recently
returned from the Vietnam War and is basically at odds with
his own culture, his history and his memories. Things have
shifted through his experiences during the war. In a
nutshell, it's a journey through his childhood, family, love,
grief, violence, conflict and passion. It's a dynamic piece
of theatre.'' Macgregor says.
To coincide with iD fashion week in March, the Fortune is
staging the New Zealand premiere of Love, Loss and What I
Wore by the late Nora Ephron and her sister Delia Ephron.
It's a long-running off-Broadway production about the
memories clothing and accessories trigger throughout women's
esides Claire Dougan and Rima Te Wiata, who will anchor the
three-week season, each week they will be joined by three new
cast members drawn from the country's finest actresses,
including Dame Kate Harcourt, Jennifer Ward-Leyland and
Alison Quigan, with others to be confirmed, Macgregor says.
''I really wanted to keep putting our bar up as far as the
quality of our performers. Naturally, they are very busy and
can't always come to Dunedin for two months to do a
full-blown production, so this is an ideal opportunity to
have them grace our stage and give audiences something
different each week.''
The play is to be aligned with the Dress for Success global
charity, to which business women give their business clothes
to assist women to get back into the workforce.
Roger Hall's latest play, You can always hand them
back, will be staged in April and May. It's funny,
touching and one of his best, according to Macgregor. A play
with music, it's about new grandparents Maurice and Cath who
are attempting to luxuriate in their newly found retirement
but find themselves doing a lot of babysitting, dealing with
dirty nappies and suffering from sleep deprivation. Music and
lyrics are by Peter Skellern.
Macgregor is excited about the introduction of a new ''True
Grit'' series next year. It will be part of the main bill but
will be staged in the studio because it will feature a
contemporary, edgy work that may be a bit too much as far as
subject matter and language go, she says.
''It will be interesting to see how it goes down there - you
will be right up next to the action and you won't be able to
get away from it even if you want to. It will be gripping.
''I found in my reading for the programme that there were so
many really great plays that were about subject matter you
just couldn't put on the main stage because it's too
challenging for our regular audience, but some of our
audience like to be challenged so why not give them a
Next year's ''True Grit'' play is a ''blistering domestic
drama'', Tribes by Nina Raine which premiered at the
Royal Court in London in 2010 and received an Olivier award
for best new play as well as a couple of awards in New York
''It's about a fiercely intelligent, idiosyncratic academic
family who have a deaf son, Billy, and it's the story of how
he fits into that family and how he gains attention through
this very bombastic-natured family. He has a girlfriend
called Sylvia who is going deaf herself, and she becomes a
catalyst of sorts for him to communicate with his family,''
''They are so busy in their own lives, they are such an
energetic, in-your-face kind of family and busy making so
much of their own noise that this deaf character has
difficulty communicating his own needs and they don't even
notice. It's not that they don't care - they love him to
pieces. It's just he's there and he's Billy and he's doing
his thing. It's about a young boy's attempt to connect
through a disability to be heard even in his own
It has roles for four young actors in their late teens or
early 20s, which also excites her as there's a plethora of
talented actors in this age group in Dunedin who need more
Following the success of Avenue Q last year, the
Fortune is staging another musical, the New Zealand premiere
of Altar Boyz, an award-winning show which has been
running off-Broadway for several years.
''This is going to be so much fun. It's about a group of five
small-town boys who try to save the world one screaming fan
at a time. They are a struggling Christian boy band, so it's
a tongue-in-cheek look at religion as well, without being too
offensive,'' she says.
''There's loads of music, lots of dance, five very
good-looking men - the characters are Matthew, Mark, Luke,
Juan and Abraham. They are on the last night of their `Raise
the Praise' US tour and they are determined to get to the Big
A national tour is a new venture for the Fortune, but
Macgregor wants to raise its profile in the New Zealand arts
sector, so has chosen its world premiere production of
Gifted, based on the novel by Patrick Evans. The play
is set in 1955 in Frank Sargeson's garden when Janet Frame
comes to stay and changes his world and that of his partner
It will open in the Christchurch arts festival and then tour
to the Taranaki, Tauranga and Nelson festivals before opening
at the Fortune on September 14. After the Dunedin season, it
will tour Otago and Southland. Circa Theatre in Wellington is
keen to have it to open its 2014 season, she says.
The tour will extend the company, as some of its staff will
travel with the show leaving the rest to manage the musical
and the Christmas show on either side.
The Christmas show is a 1960s farce, Boeing Boeing
that won a Tony award four years ago for its Broadway
''It's silly Christmas fun about an American architect living
in Paris who juggles three fiancees, all airline hostesses
but from different countries. His best friend comes to visit
and everything falls apart,'' she says.
Besides the seven major productions, Dan Bain, who staged
A Paintbox of Clowns last year, brings the children's
show Why are my parents so boring? during the July
school holidays. There is no dialogue, but physical comedy
unfolds in the style of a silent movie about a girl who can't
get her parents to play with her in the holidays so she runs
And there will be a fortnightly late-night comedy show by
Improsaurs and two late-night Fringe Festival shows in March,
the young playwrights' initiative in December and a visiting
show, Bombshells by Joanna Murray-Smith, in November.
''We really want this company to be the best in the country.
We want people to come to Dunedin because there's good
theatre, great theatre here. We want it to be on their radar
as part of the tourist attraction in and around serving the
immediate community,'' Macgregor says.
For more information visit www.fortunetheatre.co.nz or
pick up a brochure.