Simple story of child’s family experience scores highly

Sara Georgie rehearses as Eloise in Eloise in the Middle in her classroom at St Peter Chanel...
Sara Georgie rehearses as Eloise in Eloise in the Middle in her classroom at St Peter Chanel School. PHOTOS: LINDA ROBERTSON
Eloise is 7, and she’s telling a story about herself, perhaps as a ‘‘What I did in the holidays’’ exercise. She cares passionately about things that matter to 7-year-olds: things like pyjamas, and what there is for breakfast, and whether apple juice is nicer than orange juice.

The story is simple. Eloise, who lives in Dunedin with her mum, Karen, flies to Wellington to see her dad, Dennis, who has another lady living in his house. Things go well, sort of, until the strangeness gets to be too much and Eloise comes home early.

Into this minimal plot and a running time of of less than an hour, playwright Emily Duncan packs a great deal. Eloise is a likeable, articulate child, developing independence but anxious about making mistakes, aware of but not understanding adult quarrels and animosities. Both parents are recognisably average New 

Barbara Frame.
Barbara Frame.
Zealanders, and the play focuses on the difficulties of getting by from day to day, the bitterness that wells up when things don’t go happily, the disappointment of unmet expectations and the sheer hard work of it all. It’s also a celebration of the goodness of family life, and the everyday joy of being a parent.

Sara Georgie plays both Eloise and Karen. Through voice, movement and gesture she very successfully communicates the ways in which children experience the world, and provides a sympathetic interpretation of Karen’s devotion and necessary toughness.

The set, designed by Simon Anderson, depicts a school classroom where Eloise tells her story.

Although Eloise in the Middle is about a child, it is not for children. Directed by Jordan Dickson and presented by Prospect Park Productions, it reaches a high standard, and I hope to see more work from this very capable company before too long.

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