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Bliss On Stage In Christchurch

Bliss On Stage In Christchurch

Bliss will be on stage at Court 2 in Christchurch from August 8 thanks to English theatre directors Mike Friend and Adrian 'H' Rawlins.

Part love story, part lament, part rock opera, Bliss is a powerful drama that tells of a young couple's obsessive desire to reach the sea and freedom.

Jimmy and Maddie are crazily in love. They run away, steal a car and head for the coast. Their mistake is to stop for a hitchhiker.

Following in the film industry's steps, New Zealand theatre is now attracting the interest of foreign directors looking to work with local cast and crew instead of bringing work pre-packaged in from overseas.

"I've staged Bliss twice before, in England and at the Edinburgh festival, but it has remained for me an unfinished project. Now in New Zealand, I hope to do full justice to this remarkable love story, I believe it will, there's a freshness and energy here for theatre which is exciting" says director Mike Friend.

The Bliss script was commissioned by the National Theatre London in 1999, Friend was commissioned to direct the world premiere season at the Edinburgh Festival in 2000 and the British council commissioned a production of Bliss for Manila. Local writer Joe Bennett has adapted the script for the New Zealand production.

"It's simple and it's universal. Everyone knows the zest and the pain of first love. But at the same time this play is eerie, funny, and tragic. It doesn't preach and it's utterly down to earth," he says.

On his role in the production he says, "all I've done is to tidy up some of the plotting, fiddle with bits of the dialogue and rewrite a couple of Jimmy's monologues. Any further work will happen when the show's been cast. The text is so simple and flexible that it can be altered to suit the actors. The music is haunting. The lyrics may change."

Adding, "we haven't yet decided the extent to which we will locate it in New Zealand. At present the action takes place simply on the way to the coast. It could be anywhere. We may keep it that way," says Bennett.

Friend and Rawlins will be accompanied by London based musical director Andy Duerden for the Christchurch production.

Rawlins was recently nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award for his role in the film Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself, and has just finished filming on the latest Harry Potter film, where he plays Harry's father.

Friend now lives in Australia where he spent a year travelling the outback with his wife Breeze making a documentary on Aboriginal life and art. He is keen to pursue his directing and teaching career in Australia and New Zealand.

Emily Blunt who's first professional role came in Bliss was catapulted to the west end and a season with Dame Judi Dench in The Royal Family immediately following the premiere season of the show. She is now in demand as a film and theatre actress in Europe.

The team plan to tour the production in other centres in New Zealand before taking the production across the ditch to Sydney and Melbourne.

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