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Colliding with theatre


The fab five are (back l-r)Tanea Heke, Luanne Gordon, Ross Gibbs, (front l-r) Rhys Morgan and Shane Bosher

George, Anne, Julian, Dick and Timmy are the Famous Five that we know and love, but Wellington now has it own fivesome (only with out the dog) and they are destined to become famous.

They are Tanea Heke, Rhys Morgan, Luanne Gordon, Shane Bosher and Ross Gibbs - Toi Whakaari class of 1997. Since then their lives have collided several times and once again they have found themselves hopelessly intertwined in series of upcoming productions.

Bosher says their lives are inextricably linked. “We just seem to keep colliding with each other.” They are all working on a variety of projects leading up to Christmas and each of them seems to have a foot in some in else's project as well as their own.

Bosher has his finges in all the pies acting as the publicist and promoter, but his main project is his one man show A Star is Torn. It is an incredibly camp show set in small town New Zealand about an an absolutely talent-free man called Richard Head (read “Dick Head” ) who thinks he’s gods gift to theatre. Bosher penned the show for the Fringe Festival and it went on to win the Hot New Things award. Gibbs has had his hand in this project from the out set. He designed the set for A Star is Torn way back in February.

Gibbs’ other project is set design for Bats production A Hand Job. The play is set in a nail salon and caustically exposes the dynamics of true friendship while satirising everything from religion and race relations to marriage and amateur theatre. Heke plays main character Christine who suffers from a “nail emergency”.

Heke was also set to play the lead in Serial Killers - a play about script writers writing a script for a television hospital series suspiciously similar to Shortland Street (all the references are there). Heke pulled out of Serial Killers when she picked up the role in A Hand Job. This is where Gordon fits in to the scheme of things. She is now playing the one of the lead roles in the play.

This begs the question - where exactly does Morgan fit in to this group, other than the fact he attended drama school with them . Well he recently starred in Stickmen with Gordon, so that’s one link, tenuous though it may seem. He was also originally cast as Richard Head in A Star is Torn but left that to take up the role in Stickmen. This time round Morgan has a role in Downstage production Blue Smoke, which Bosher is doing the publicity for.

Blue Smoke is set in time of the “six o’clock swill” and revolves around three friends from the sticks who try and make their way in the big smoke (Wellington).

Blue Smoke, A Hand Job, Serial Killer and A Star is Torn are all New Zealand productions and the group says they are extremely happy to be working with home grown plays. Gordon says it getting easier to stage New Zealand productions: “People are starting to get over the cultural cringe. Blue Smoke was hugely popular at the Fringe festival this year. People were cashing in on the nostalgia of the 50s and loving it.”

All of them agree, with out a doubt, that Wellington is the place to be. “We are supporting four theatres, you just don’t get that in Auckland, they only have one [the Silo],” says Morgan.

“Also there is just a lot more happening in Wellington with things like The Tribe, Stickmen and Lord of the Rings” says Gordon.

Productions such as these keep the actors gainfully employed and out of mischief when they are not on the stage. Even so: “Sometimes you have to swallow you pride and do other things,” says Bosher. He has spent time as a stage manager, he also does a lot of promotion and publicity work.

Gordon, who works as a casting agent for Xena, says even though there are a lot of theatre and films productions at the moment, no one can afford to be picky. “You get stressed and tired but you can’t say no because in month or two there might not be any jobs out there.”

Having to find other ways to bring in the money can be hard and realistically they would all like to be involved in theatre all the time, however they agree that taking on other roles has its uses. “It’s good to have as many strings to your bow. It means that we have a good sensibility about our jobs and an appreciation for what other do.” says Rhys

This year the group of friends have been have been lucky enough to have almost continuos work in theatre and who knows when their live will collide again and what they will be up to.

By Rebecca Thomson

Blue Smoke - Starts November 10@Downstage.
Serial Killers - Starts November 18@Circa
A Hand Job - Starts December 1@Bats
A Star is Torn - Starts December 7@ Bats

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