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The Alchemist revisited 400 years later


The Alchemist revisited 400 years later

The Alchemist, written by Ben Johnson early in the 17th century, will be brought to life this month by 300-level Victoria University theatre students. Under the direction of The Trial of The Cannibal Dog librettist, John Downie, and Master of

Theatre Arts student Adam Donald, this classic text has been re-worked with a contemporary, cutting-edge setting.

The action takes place in a house that appears to be a television studio set—or is it really a television set that appears to be a house?

Four hundred years after the play’s original setting in the city of London, this 21st century production revolves around a crowd of young people living in Wellington. “Alongside standard classroom research and presentations, the 300-level theatre students, or ‘Company’ have had 12 weeks to develop a collective vision for this production. From learning lines, to hands-on set construction these students have come to grips with the many tasks facing a theatre company,” says John Downie, Victoria University senior lecturer in theatre.

The plot

Before the hobbits and after a financial epidemic called ‘subprime’ three opportunists set up a series of scams. Word has got out there is a skilled alchemist in town who can apparently turn any given substance into gold.

The all-too-trusting locals are drawn to the house, and have convinced themselves that what lies within will provide each of them with all the riches and salvation they can imagine. But buyers beware—all that glitters is not gold.

Under the glittering lights of Studio 77’s stage, the students have used the text as a vehicle for personal confessions and desperate dance acts, bound together by frequent audio and visual interruptions. These elements work together to expose the framework behind numerous reality television shows currently on air.

Booking details

The Alchemist by Ben Johnson

• Directed by John Downie and Adam Donald

• 7.15pm arrival for a 7.30pm start • 28-31 May 2008 • Studio 77 • 77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn • Tickets are $12 waged and $8 unwaged •

To book phone (04) 463 5359 or email


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