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Playing Miss Havisham

Media Release

Willow Productions present

Playing Miss Havisham

NZ Fringe 2006

Helen Moulder had a brain-wave as she was sitting in the wings at the Court Theatre in a tattered wedding dress. The award-winning actress was waiting to go on as Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and was searching for ideas for her next project. Now, three years later, the premiere season of her new solo show, Playing Miss Havisham is about to open in Circa Two as part of the NZ Fringe 2006.

Supported by Creative New Zealand and complete with wedding dress and cobwebs, Playing Miss Havisham is an intimate comedy with music, song and an array of endearing characters.

“The show is about Claudia, an ordinary woman who has a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something outrageous,” says Sue Rider, the show’s dramaturg and director. “When Claudia answers an ad to audition for the film role of Miss Havisham, she starts on a mad-cap journey which transports us from the flatness of the Canterbury Plains through the wilds of Africa to life as a film star in Wellington.”

Helen is well known for her comic creation Cynthia Fortitude in The Legend Returns and she won the Chapman Tripp Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Sylvia in Meeting Karpovsky with Sir Jon Trimmer. In Playing Miss Havisham, she takes on new challenges.

“This time it’s just me and the audience,” says Helen. “I’ll be totally self-contained. I’ll be playing the characters and at the same time deciding when I need a bit of wind, thunder or a mysterious lighting change. It’s going to be fun. Of course, I might just get totally mixed up! And you don’t need to know Great Expectations to enjoy the story. Even Dickens would be astonished by its twists and turns!”

Concert pianist Richard Mapp will be recording the music for the show and playing live in the Circa season. “I was delighted when Helen asked me to play for the Fringe shows,” Richard says. “It’s something quite different for me, I’m really looking forward to it. Helen and I have known each other since I was about 16, so it’s great to be working together.” Richard will be playing a selection from his own repertoire including Bach, Schubert, Granados and Debussy and a new piece written especially for the play by Gareth Farr.

A wedding dress that is more of an installation is being designed and made by young designer Julie Lawrence, who majored in Costume at NMIT. “This costume has been a real challenge,” says Julie, “but as soon as Helen started talking about it, it set my mind racing. I got right into it. It sounded ambitious, definitely exciting and I felt privileged to be part of the project. I liked the fact that it had to be Victorian but with a contemporary twist. And when the show tours, it’s going to be seen by a wide audience throughout New Zealand. It’s a very special job for me.”

Audience members are encouraged to come to the show as if for a wedding. “A button hole, a hat, a veil, or the full finery,” says Helen. “We want there to be a certain celebratory flavour to the evenings.”
Discussions about the play with the audience will be held following the performance on the two preview nights, February 15 & 16 and the following Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Feb 21 & 22, Feb 28 and March 1.

Anyone who has seen Helen’s work from The Legend Returns or Meeting Karpovsky knows they are in for a treat. Playing Miss Havisham promises to be a very different work of mystery, music and surprise.

Playing Miss Havisham
A solo play for small spaces
With Helen Moulder as Claudia
And Richard Mapp live at the piano
Directed by Sue Rider
Costume by Julie Lawrence
Lighting by Phillip Dexter


February 17 – March 4, 2006

Tuesday – Saturday 7pm, Sunday 4.30pm
Tickets: Circa Theatre (04) 801 7992
Prices: Full: $28 Concession $22 Fringe $20
Supported by Creative New Zealand


Willow Productions
Supported by Creative New Zealand, Willow Productions was formed in 2002 by Helen Moulder, Sue Rider and Sir Jon Trimmer for the creation of Meeting Karpovksy, which opened at the Court Theatre in November 2002. This was followed by a season at Circa in 2003 and a tour of New Zealand in 2004. Willow Productions also tours The Legend Returns with Helen Moulder as the fading opera diva Cynthia Fortitude and Rose Beauchamp as her long-suffering accompanist, Gertrude Rallentando.


Helen Moulder – Performer
Helen has been working as an actor and singer for 30 years in NZ, the UK, Australia, Japan and the USA. Her recent theatre roles have included Madame Giry in Ken Hills’ Phantom of the Opera, (tour of Japan) Virginia Woolf in Vita and Virginia, for which she won an Accolade for Outstanding Performance in the 1999 Wellington Theatre Awards, Vivian Bearing in Wit, for which she was awarded Actress of the Year in 2000, the eccentric opera singer - Cynthia Fortitude in The Legend Returns, Miss Shepherd in Lady in the Van, Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, Sylvia in Meeting Karpovsky, devised with Sir Jon Trimmer, for which she was awarded Actress of the Year, 2003, Jean in Mum’s Choir, Mrs Venable in Suddenly Last Summer and Jean in Taking Off. Helen’s film and television credits include Close to Home, Pictures, Country GP, Erebus – The Aftermath, The Wall, Abberation, The Dark Knight and The Lost Children.

Sue Rider – Director/Dramaturg
Sue is an award-winning director, writer, actor and dramaturg with a special interest in the creation and development of contemporary theatre. She has over a hundred productions to her credit in NZ, Australia, Vietnam and the UK, covering mainstream theatre, opera, community theatre, theatre for young people and theatre in galleries. Sue has received eleven performance writing commissions and has won Matilda Awards for writing and direction of The Matilda Women and Dancing on the Walls of Paris and for her directing work with Queensland Theatre Company, Queensland Performing Arts Trust and La Boite Theatre, Brisbane, where she was Artistic Director from 1993 to 2000. Sue co-wrote and directed the award-winning Meeting Karpovsky with Helen Moulder and Sir Jon Trimmer. Other NZ directing includes Milo’s Wake at the Court Theatre, Christchurch in 2003 and the NZ premiere of Vincent in Brixton, also for the Court, which won The Listener 2004 Best Production. Sue is currently Adjunct Professor at Queensland University’s School of English, Media Studies and Art History.

Richard Mapp – Pianist
Richard is one of NZ’s leading pianists and is senior lecturer in piano at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington. Since returning to NZ in 1991 he has performed as a concerto soloist with all of the major orchestras in this country, at the International Festival of the Arts, as a guest pianist with the New Zealand String Quartet and in tours for Chamber Music New Zealand. He has recorded a CD of works by Granados, as well as CDs with flautist Amanda Hollins, the New Zealand Piano Quartet and the NZSO.

Phillip Dexter - Lighting
Phillip’s NZ work includes productions for the Court Theatre, Downstage and Auckland Theatre Company. His UK work includes productions for the Donmar Warehouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opera Conservatory Royal College of Music, the Hampstead Theatre and the Palm House at Kew Gardens.

Julie Lawrence – Costume/Set
Julie is a young designer with flair and innovation. She is a graduate in Art and Design, majoring in Costume from the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. She has worked in fashion design, window dressing, festival parades with masks, the Wearable Arts and in the wardrobe of the Royal NZ Ballet

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