Literary heavyweights presented in gifted light

JO HILLS
Last updated 07:35 29/08/2013

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Like an exquisite piece of art, the play Gifted is honed to near perfection.

It tells of the 16-month period when Janet Frame moved into the old army hut in Frank Sargeson's garden to write.

Most of us know both names as being iconic New Zealand writers, but this beautifully scripted version written by Patrick Evans fills in many gaps most of us have in our knowledge of them. It sparks amazing literary conversations amongst many you may never have thought would even open a book.

A lot in the audience were surprised to learn that Sargeson was gay. No doubt like me they were heading home to google or read up on both writers to check the facts.

That's the sort of play Gifted is. It informs and inspires you while giving you a thirst to learn more. It's also like seeing a new release movie before the rest of the world because Gifted only had its world premiere in Christchurch last week. That's hard to believe when you see how polished the performance is.

From the moment you enter the theatre, you are impressed by the set which comes with an amazing hedge. Taking you back to the 1950s, it is simple but authentically detailed. The only fault is the old army shed looks too new. The costuming is also very effective. The roman sandles Sargeson wears are a perfect fit for the era.

The typewriter has pride of place as you would expect in a literary work, but it is also involved in a delightful typewriter duo between Sargeson and Frame.

Andrew Laing is captivating as Sargeson. We hang on his every word - and there are many. It is a demanding role which he portrays with a natural flourish. The clever script has him chatting to the audience and sharing his innermost thoughts with us.

Sophie Hambleton is exactly how we expect Janet Frame to look. With great skill she shows us the many sides of Janet from shy, eccentric, humorous, terrified to confident and successful.

The trio is completed and complemented by the delightful characterisation of Harry by Simon O'Connor.

The script itself is a gem of literary delight.

It has Sargeson and Frame playing with words and defining writing. It is full of clever humour, with many delighting in the reference to Sargeson's back passage. It is also full of intense emotions wrapped in tenderness and intimacy.

It only plays again tonight. I highly recommend it.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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