Gifted: The stuff of dreams

19:18, Aug 22 2013

REVIEW: Gifted, Fortune Theatre. Rudolf Steiner Hall, August 22. Reviewed by Alan Scott.
 
There could not have been a more fitting opening to the Arts Festival than this play by Patrick Evans, a play which covers the period in which Janet Frame resided at Frank Sargeson's home in 1955.
 
It is the stuff of dreams: the meeting of minds of two of the great figures of New Zealand literature with the promise of insight into the nature of art and writing.
 
I expected to be enthralled, but instead I was taken completely by surprise. For what stuck with me at the end was not Sargeson's or Frame's work, or any view of it at all. Rather it was the sheer quality of Evan's script itself that I carried away with me into the night.
 
Here was a story superbly rendered; a drama, both funny and moving, even whimsical, which told an engaging tale in a language both poetic and prosaic. It was a theatergoer's play when character and plot and dialogue cohere with such force and finesse that it seems a steal for the money paid.
 
Yes, it told us something about two great writers, but it also said a lot about the well-made play as it captured so acutely and so accurately a certain period in New Zealand literary history and a certain facet of New Zealand life.
 
The production lifted Evan's work even higher. The acting was of the finest quality. Andrew Laing, carrying the brunt of the dialogue, characterised Sargeson masterfully. His work was a joy to watch and Sophie Hambleton and Simon O'Connor, as Frame and Harry Dunlop, inhabited their characters compellingly.
 
Conrad Newport's direction was spot on and delivered to the audience a polished and engaging production of a play which enlarged both our knowledge and our lives.

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