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Couch Soup: A Mini-Festival of One Page Plays

Urban Vineyard Theatre Trust

Is Proud to Present

Couch Soup

A Mini-Festival of One Page Plays

Hamilton, Feb 21st-25th And
Wellington. 28th Feb - 4th March

Couch Soup - On the boil

A team of five Hamiltonian theses are coming to fringe and they're dragging a swag of new plays along with them. Couch Soup is a mini-festival of one page plays running the gamut from manic Mamet-esque to surrealist folly... a night of interesting, eclectic theatre... a fresh and entertaining new theatrical experience... the entertainment equivalent of a quality chocolate sampler-box.

We select only the choicest ingredients for couch soup, via an open call for scripts, and this year we have wattled our biggest number of applicants ever down to 30 trim, slim and sexy plays by 17 playwrights, of all ages and levels of experience from hamilton, and all around nz.

This year those playwrights are; Albert Belz, Addrienne Jervis, Jo Pattison, Barry Lakeman, Sally Sutton, Diane Spodarek , Craig McCullock,
Thomas Sainsbury, Michael Nanada, Deisiree Gezentsvey, BJC III, Ross
McLeod, Caroline Hastings, Pip Smith and Stephanie Christian.

We believe that this is the longest running one-page theatre festival in new zealand, having run every year since '97 bar one (2004), and we would like to see it become as much a part of wellington & fringeNz. as it is a part of hamilton and the waikato. The opportunity it provides for playwrights with very little experience to see their work on stage, its vigour and novelty, its ability to showcase a verity of different and emerging voices, all are unique.

Some reactions to last years couch soup from satisfied writers:

"I just wanted to send you and the crew an email to say thank you for a great show. I was very impressed! ...Good work and I hope to work with you again . ''
Marolyn Krasner

''A belated note to say WOW and well done to you the cast and crew and everyone else involved in Couch Soup ... congratulations on pulling off such a great show! Was very satisfying to see my piece 'up there in lights'"
Gina Garvey

Couch Soup - 30 plays , four actors , no waiting !

Hamilton - 2lst-25th Feb, 8pm @ Meteor, 1 Victoria St.
Wellington - 28th-4th Mar, 8pm @ Bergman Theatre, The Paramount.
Bookings via the paramount or from our website.

ENDS

http://urbanvineyard.orcon.net.nz


Potted Production History

The full-text of all available reviews is included on the following pages.

Skin Game, Hamilton 2001 PG. 3

“I’m sure local writer director David Foote won’t mind...being compared to Samuel Beckett."

Hilary Falconer, Waikato Times

Skin Game, Wellington 2002.

“The exotic grot of the Paris Metro is evocatively contrasted with the wilderness of New Zealand’s deep south west coast...There is a rich imagination at work here no doubt about that. David Foote has a facility for verbal and spoken language that cannot be dismissed."

John Smythe, National Business Review


Bone-China Staircase, Hamilton 2003

‘Strong performances all round kept the plot engaging and the situation sinister...Ambitious and imaginative. I hope to see more of this ilk in 2004 – good stuff.’

Etta Harrie, Nexus

‘Both clever and disturbing...the play has the audience holding its collective breath...Wonderful characters with all the malevolence of any nineteenth century children’s story.’

Gail Pittaway, Waikato Times


Inviting Caroline, FringeNZ 2004

“The direction...and choreography was hard, fast and quick, much like Caroline, the heroine of the show. The cast, held together by Tim Heal, did a stellar job of ensemble performance, especially as it demanded both physical prowess and excellent elocution and enunciation."

Felicity Thomas, The Package


Inviting Caroline, Hamilton 2004

"A nutty, clever view of the classic Kiwi party, with all the sexual whimsies and social expectations of a group of inexplicable mates, Ross MacLeod’s play is a must for a younger audience."

Gail Pittaway - Waikato Times


Good as Gold, Fuel Festival 2004

"A posse of talented local innovators in the theatre has been corralled for this colonial spoof...An evening of old time frolic, with a bit of popular culture thrown in for laughs."

Gail Pittaway - Waikato Times


Couch Soup, Hamilton 2005

“As a show Couch Soup runs fast and tight; totally entertaining and often very funny… Above all the simplicity of the concept…works because of the strength and vigour of the team of four actors and their director."

Gail Pitaway, Waikato Times.


Couch Soup, Wellington 2005

“Couch Soup pushes what can be done with theatre but remains accessible; it is perfect for those with a love of theatre and a short attention span. Or those who are just after a nutritious evening out."

Jennifer Lawless, Salient


Good as Gold, Hamilton 2005

“The level of audience interaction is what distinguishes this play from many…some very polished performers and standout performances… This is a fun and charming local production”

Lucy Reed, Waikato Times


Skin Game, Hamilton 2001

Written and Directed by David Foote.

I know it’s a cop-out to compare one playwright with another, but I’m sure David Foote won’t mind his first play being compared to Samuel Beckett. There are many similarities; conversations going nowhere in opposite directions, tragicomedy, metaphors on life and death...ladders. You get the idea this is “new” theatre straight away – newspaper on the floor (stage) irrelevant suspended objects – but at the same time this owes a lot to “new” theatre half a century ago. Tw3o seemingly separate stories are told in tandem, both confuse truth, dreams and reality, both ask what is death and what is life. The Peggy/Eden story is more successful, maybe because Kathleen Christian and Aimie Cronin ase such a light touch to convey a lot of emotion, maybe because their characters grow and involve storytelling. Stephanie Christian (Morrigana) and James Wilson (Ygg) have a harder job as their characters are abrasive their dialogue is often predictable and Morrigana, the “do I make you nervous?” type, involves multiple personalities. For a wordy play it is excellently performed by talented actors and there are moments of theatrical whimsy and dry humor which lighten the socio-psychological soup.

But my worry with this play is the self-indulgence. It is interesting but heavy going, it asks for intellectualizing rather than just sitting back and enjoying. Is this the kind of play that will drag Hamiltonians out in the cold ands flocking to the theatre?

Hilary Falconer, Waikato Times, 11/07/01


Skin Game, Wellington 2002.

Written and Directed by David Foote.

“This Game is too elusive to get under the skin” Someone could write a really thick thesis on David Foote's Skin Game. They could deconstruct the post-modern mix of influences from the existentialists, absurdists and poetical playwrights, then analyse it in terms of Howard Barker's notions of catastrophic theatre and the poststructuralist philosophy of Jean Francois Lyeotard. Meanwhile, I'll attempt to capture something of the live theatre experience offered by Foote with actors Suraya Singh, Ella Watson, Adam Jones, Clare Kerrison and Kinloch. The white-draped washing line, newspaper strewn ground, wooden ladders, chopping block, brazier and clothing redolent of pioneer farmers combine to evoke a remote hinterland. Of the mind, I suspect, but I'm not sure whose.

The only word I can confidently apply to this play is "elusive." Just as the confusion seems too great, something recognisable happens. A lost motorist asks to use the phone. Sexual tension arises between total strangers (or are they?). A knowing yet innocent child subverts an old woman's folk tale. A young man with a head full of knowledge but little wisdom resorts to ritual and self-mutilation. An adolescent girl is more at home with the Marquis de Sade (in a book) than her own family ... The exotic grot of the Paris Metro is evocatively contrasted with the wilderness of New Zealand's deep south-west coast. Many visual images are memorable. The themes of guilt, loss and recovery permeate the action and seem to bind the disparate parts. Not that they add up to a coherent whole. There is a rich imagination at work here, no doubt about that. David Foote has a facility with verbal and visual language that cannot be dismissed. He and his actors create rich characters with strong wants, needs and concerns, and authentic speech patterns. Even so, the play and production fall short of connecting and communicating, with me, at least, to a level of satisfaction. Let me hasten to add that "satisfaction" for me may well include leaving the theatre disturbed and/or confused and searching, or simply knowing I'd witnessed some sort of "truth" without being able to define it. But Skin Game is just too elusive, obscure and discursive to inspire the trust I need to feel, to willingly suspend my disbelief and engage with this view of the human condition.

John Smythe, The National Business Review, 18-Jul-2002


Bone-China Staircase, Hamilton 2003

Written and Directed by David Foote.

David Foote’s new play, Bone-China Staircase, is both clever and disturbing. Touching, as it does upon the abduction of a child (Anwen) by an “uncle” figure (a ranting cranky Mark Houlahan) the play has the audience holding its collective breath waiting for nasty business to occur, but the mostly innocent actions of the play mark deeper nastiness; control and imposition, mind games, fantasy turned bad, imagination vomiting itself up – as in one of Uncles particularly vivid speeches. What if, this play seems to say, a child is abducted, imprisoned in a basement and never allowed to climb the Bone-china staircase out of this cell? A common horror story. But what if the child grows into a rebellious teenager with a head full of alteregos? Does the bone-china staircase lead to rescue, after all? Foote provides both a complication and a resolution in having two Anwens, played with equal charm and conviction by Aimie Cronin and Kellie Burke. Burke and Glen MacLeod also play Anwen’s tawdry parents and her imaginary friends, an Italian speaking white-rabbit, a rollicking but distracted Niskie King and the soothsaying Black Virgin; wonderful characters with all the malevolence of any nineteenth century children’s story. Technically the production is very sound although the voiced narrative is often unclear because of the deliberate distortions and the stage needs to seem more confined.

Gail Pittaway, The Waikato Times, 20-09-2003


Bone-China Staircase, Hamilton 2003

Written and Directed by David Foote.

Now the storylines revolves around the warped perceptions and nursery-rhyme fantasies of adolescent girl Anwen Duffy, inadvertently kidnapped from a shopping centre aged 3. Her captor Reynard, a mentally unbalanced janitor, has kept her completely isolated from reality, ensconced in the insular world of her own imagination. Anwen’s primary input is from the books she’s given to read, and consequently fairy-tale personalities from these become her “companions”. It’s thoroughly laden with nightmarish style symbols, of course. Big bad wolves and witches. Mummy and daddy mysteriously vanish. Don’t venture up the bone-china staircase or something nasty’ll kill yo ass. Occasionally felt a little laboured – a coupla scenes that possibly didn’t need to be there? – but overall cleverly structured, building to a climax and all-is-revealed. Strong performances all round kept the plot engaging and the situation sinister – Reynard was particularly well played, creating a complex and even tender as opposed to a clichéd psychotic. A visually impressive play, with scenery, lighting and projections creating an evocative texture. This combined with the sound effects really made the whole atmosphere work. Crucial for suspending ones disbelief in this kind of production, Obviously a team effort but they managed to pull it off. Ambitious and imaginative. I hope to see more of this ilk in 2004 – good stuff.


Inviting Caroline, FringeNZ 2004

Written and directed by Ross MacLeod

“A show about a party. A party that ends in bitch fights, claws, and screaming. A show about the silly things we do when fucked up and horny and angry about being eighteen. “ Or nineteen. I never thought I’d hear 8 Foot Sativa at BATS Theatre, but there you go, the silly things we do when fucked up and horny. Written and directed by Ross MacLeod, who is rumored to be the Next Big Iconic Kiwi Cult Writer, Inviting Caroline, is a fast-paced exploration and expose of the social conventions, conformities and cons of everyday life. A thick veil of words halted this show from reaching its full effect. Some parts packed a bogan punch; others felt like a wet spewed-upon carpet. Which is also what this play is about. Aspects of a shiny performance shone through the heaviness of the script. The direction (assisted by Caroline Hastings) and choreography was hard, fast and quick, much like Caroline, the heroine of the show. The cast, held together by Tim Heal, did a stellar job of ensemble performance, especially as it demanded both physical prowess and excellent elocution and enunciation. No particular performances stood out in this team effort- the actors were in good support of one another. Lighting and set design transformed the stage into a slice of student life and stubbies, a life that I’d sooner forget than remember! Overall, seeing this show was a fun way to spend an evening. Especially when my own birthday party is around the corner. I won’t be Inviting Caroline.

Felicity Thomas, The Package, 13-03-2004


Inviting Caroline, FringeNZ 2004

Written and directed by Ross MacLeod

Look at yourself. You are Inviting Caroline’s target demographic. Joining the ever-growing legions of plays, films and books aimed firmly at the hedonistic 20-something, Inviting Caroline is the story of the build-up to, reality and consequences of narrator Scott’s 20-somethingth birthday. The premise is good, if somewhat generic – the stage lights come up on a flat living room filled with fighting people. After a few seconds of cacophony, the other characters pause and Scott looks up. “In retrospect,” he muses to the audience, “inviting Caroline was probably a bad idea”. From here, of course, the script takes us back a week to discover why inviting Caroline was inevitable, and terrible, what her relationship is to Scott’s other friends and how the party winds up in bloodshed. The greatest strength of this play lies in its script. Scott is a lyrical young man prone to spouting modern philosophy in his frequent asides. These are, in general, hilarious, and offer some pertinent insight. The best of Scott’s aphorisms are those followed by enactment. For example, the line “The ‘ish’ suffix is the destroyer of the modern absolute – but also an effective loophole” is followed by an uproarious little scene with a couple at a café, in which the man is only late-ish, the wine is red-ish and the bread fresh-ish. Technical effect is also well employed. Scott’s realisation that “I would have to invite... Caroline” is met with an ominous thunder clap. Unfortunately, while the script is excellent and the direction seamless, Caroline’s cast of young actors let the material down. I use the word ‘young’ deliberately – there is a lot of promise here, but right now I think that these guys are suffering from lack of experience. Tim Heal, as Scott, is amiable but a little forced. He struggles through several of his lengthy prose passages and seems generally miscast. Chris Tan, playing intellectual Sebastian, loses some great lines through speed and lack of volume, while Zoe Timbrell, as beautiful dream girl Hillary, has a tendency to descend into flouncy melodrama.

The best acting is seen, unfortunately, in the least rounded character. Rob Jerram is hysterical as bogan Chris, managing to deliver lines like “Baby, we’re made for each other – you’re fuckin’ amazing and I’m an amazing fuck” without a hint of irony. There is definitely enough in this play for me to recommend it – it’s funny, fast-paced and visually engaging. And I wish all of the actors best of luck in their future endeavours, but don’t think that they’re quite up to it this time.

Emily Braunstein, Salient, Issue 03 2004


Inviting Caroline, Hamilton 2004

Written and directed by Ross MacLeod

After a season at Bats Theatre in the Wellington Fringe Festival, Inviting Caroline made a welcome return to Hamilton. A nutty, clever view of the classic Kiwi party, with all the sexual whimsies and social expectations of a group of inexplicable mates, Ross MacLeod’s play is a must for a younger audience, especially pre-party (who can’t remember the pointless cleaning preparations – a fresh surface for ground in beer, chips and nuts? Agonies over food to serve – when all will be regurgitated?). Scott, the narrator ( a natural, engaging performance by Tim Heal), examines ridiculous conventions. Directed and timed (by Ross MacLeod with help from John Davies) to superb physicality by all the cast, the play shows the consequences of Inviting Caroline to Scott’s party, when everyone hates her. Kristen Burns’ Caroline is suitably identity challenged; her mix of innocence and menace, a pure recipe for conflict. Above all it’s a play about contemporary stereotypes, not consequences, and these are admirably played, especially Rob Jerram as Chris and Lesley Walker as Fiona.

Gail Pittaway, Waikato Times, 22-03-2004


Good as Gold, Fuel Festival 2004

Concept by David Foote & Ross MacLeod, Directed by David Foote A posse of talented local innovators in the theatre has been corralled for this colonial spoof.

Good as Gold is an interactive show, borrowing from music hall, theatre sports, Playstation and Benny Hill. Directed by David Foote with original music and sound by Jeremy Mayall, produced by Fabian Takiari, with a cast headed by the manic Ross MacLeod, this is indeed as it promises: an evening of old time frolic, with a bit of popular culture thrown in for laughs. Once the lovely gypsy host, Hob Toogood (Maria Quigley) trains the audience on its role in the evening, a conventional tale unfolds. Returning war hero Liam Finn (no relation) played with lilt and luck of the Irish charm by Tim Heal, with off-sider Keefe Theriouth (Ross MacLeod), finds his family home is to be taken in lieu of money owed to the fiendish German baker (Ross Peart). Add to this two saucy girlies, an Irish mother, even more villainy plus the vagaries and whims of each nights audience and who knows what will happen? The players don’t, at least until the audience picks a path for them at certain points of the play. The show will not be the same on any of the three nights of the season. It’s a fun, lively idea and one that works in this spare staging; simple lighting, backlit screen and comic costuming.

Gail Pittaway, Waikato Times, 16-02-05


Couch Soup, Hamilton 2005

Written by 13 local and national playwrights. Directed by David Foote.

William Blake suggested we try to see the world in a grain of sand. Urban Vineyard Productions expand on this and get us seeing the world from above, around and within a couch.

Twenty-seven one page plays, each employing a couch, form the organizing scene and core of this entertainment, developed from the pens of 13 writers.

As a show Couch Soup runs fast and tight; totally entertaining and often very funny.

The plays range from ranting monologues to domestic realism, through slapstick to homage to Mamet and Beckett, coarse acting shows and mysteries. It will appeal to a wide audience.

Above all the simplicity of the concept (a black stage, a velour couch) works because of the strength and vigor of the team of four actors and their director David Foote, who also wrote several of the zanier pieces. Each performer is given a memorable scene or character. Tim Heal’s Smile Guy (by Marolyn Krasner), Caroline Hastings storytelling (in) Smile Guy (by Jan MacKenzie), Maria Quigley’s silent girl in Flower Day (by Mike Downey)) and to be honest, most of the manic characters played by Ross MacLeod, especially those written by himself or David Foote.

Linked by cyclic keyboard rhythms, composed by Jeremy Mayall and Tim Heal, this menu is a great opportunity to see a huge range of local talent.

Gail Pittaway, Waikato Times, 18-06-04


Couch Soup, FringeNZ 2005

Written by 13 local and national playwrights. Directed by David Foote.

Take four actors, twenty-seven mini-plays and one really big chunk of lounge suite.

Brew for approximately one hour.

What Urban Vineyards came out with was an eclectic mix of tasty morsels, ranging from poetic, farcical and hilarious through to unintelligible. Starting as a festival of mini plays in Hamilton in 1998, Couch Soup challenged thirteen playwrights to create original, presentable theatre built around one running theme, the ever-present prop, set-piece and fifth actor, a moulding brown couch.

The plays explore in miniature; conflicts, personality clashes, exceptional and exceptionally weird people and situations; they include new-age religious rants and a travel guide to hell.

Keeping with the minimalist theme, practically the only props used were costumes.

These were symbolic rather than realistic but effective nonetheless. Blackouts and slightly creepy atmospheric music signalled each new round of action.

Ross Macleod, who also wrote a third of the plays, gave a painfully realistic portrayal of Brian, the villain bad flatmate in parts one and two of Operation Settee Freedom. Impassioned by pseudo-ideological laziness, “It's not a couch, it's a Freedom Seat!!” one couldn't help but admire his odious determination. Maria Quigley said much without speaking a word in her poignant piece Flowerday, which was about living with a crippling shyness.

My major qualms were that the energy wasn't consistent and that the absolutely minimalist set and sound were taxing on performance. My attention did waver during some of the quieter monologues, which were not improved by the venue’s acoustics. The dialogues were not seamless either but this was usually less noticeable thanks to the fast-moving plots.

The big questions managed to get sandwiched between the surreal (Santa's good couch elves and Jane Austin ninjas) and the comic (a beginner’s guide to domestic murder). Death, relationships, and the “what the hell are we all doing here anyway?” question are all addressed.

One could be tempted to overanalyse; in Soup-bones the couch is out of place and the actor subsequently gets “broken”. One must ask what is really essential to the theatre. But then again it finished with the actors becoming monkeys and chasing each other off set with sticks.

Basically you can take what you want out of it; there was something there for almost everyone. Couch Soup pushes what can be done with theatre but remains accessible; it is perfect for those with a love of theatre and a short attention span. Or those who are just after a nutritious evening out.

Jennifer Lawless, Salient Issue 03, 2005


Good as Gold, Hamilton 2005 Concept by David Foote & Ross MacLeod, Directed by David Foote Good as Gold is pick-a-path theatre.

The play has been cleverly devised by David Foote and Ross MacLeod, so that at poignant moments the audience decides what happens next.

Set in the Goldfields of Central Otago, it has hero Liam Finn return from Waikato Land Wars to his home town of Butchers Gully.

During his absence, the evil baker Ernst Von Strudelmeyer, played by Sean Lynch, has taken over the town. His credit-lending business has many locals including Finn’s mother in danger of loosing their homes.

Meanwhile, Finns former sweetheart, merely a girl when he left, is now an attractive distracting young woman.

Will he get the girl? Will he save the town? The audience decides.

The plot is driven by the host, gypsy traveler Hob Toogood, played by Pip Smith.

The level of audience interaction is what distinguishes this play from many, and at times feels like an Adult pantomime.

Smith is an engaging and likable rogue, who carries this difficult role well.

Good as Gold feature some very polished performers and standout performances. Ross MacLeod plays a wonderful Keefe Theriouth and Lynch has the audience in hysterics.

A minimalist set and use of props and lighting work well.

This is a fun and charming local production.

Lucy Reed, Waikato Times, 16-06-05

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