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October 24, 2010 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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The Birthday Boy

Carl Nixon’s new play The Birthday Boy falls very much into that classic Kiwi theatre tradition of making the middle-class laugh at themselves and then getting a bit heavy-handed and anvilicious with the navel-gazing and ‘Life is hard, eh?’ at the end. It knows what it is and it knows what it is doing and it does it well.

It is a play about the friendship between two married couples – David (Peter Hambleton) & Kathy (Geraldine Brophy) and Stuart (Phil Vaughan) & Elizabeth (Jude Gibson). When David and Kathy reveal that they’e having a child a rift develops between the two couples and it is the charting of that rift and the cracks that appear in the couples’ own relationships over a couple of decades that provides the meat of the drama.

The long term time frame of the play plays some interesting structural games which allows for good exploration of the long term effects of people’s actions. But there is also a lot of really rather lazy ‘satire’ about what the future is like which is the only part of the comedy that fails and could really afford to be dropped. When the humour is much more rooted in the characters and their story it is hilarious. This is a play with which you can properly laugh. Director Jane Waddell is a master of getting great comic performances and this cast of five (with Donna Akersten as David’s mother) all do outstanding comic and dramatic work throughout the piece.

It is only towards the end that it becomes slightly unfocused as a work. It seems unsure how to transition between tones and stories towards the end. Also, the final scene strikes one as much more as an unnaturally contrived dialouge following a unforgivably massive coincidence than a natural conclusion to the story. But this is no major issue and you should still go and see The Birthday Boy.


The Birthday Boy
At Circa theatre, 9 Oct – 6 Nov

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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  1. John Smythe says:

    ‘with Donna Akersten as David’s father’ – Did I miss the cross-gender moment? Or was it just cross-dressing? A woman playing a man in drag? Either way it puts a whole new slant on his behaviour.

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