Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Theatre’s season designed to entertain

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Howick Little Theatre is hoping to follow on from a successful 2021 season, which included the staging of the hit play The Girl on the Train, pictured. Photo supplied Andrew Johnson

Howick Little Theatre’s 2022 season features romance, comedy, mystery, drama, intrigue and a touch of murder.

Artistic advisor Alison Mudford is part of a small group of people who decide which plays the theatre stages each year.

“We look at a huge range and we read a lot of scripts during the course of a normal year,” the Howick resident says.

Mudford says the theatre tries to select plays it thinks will attract as wide an audience as possible.

A recent example is its 2021 production of The Girl on the Train, which she says “sold its socks off”.

“That appealed right across the board so that’s what we’re aiming for.”

The theatre’s 2022 season starts with the staging of the play My Cousin Rachel.

The Gothic romance is based on Daphne du Maurier’s mystery romance novel of the same name and adapted for the stage by Joseph O’Connor.

It’s directed by Howick Little Theatre veteran Terry Hooper and runs from February 26 to March 19.

The play tells the story of a countess who travels from Italy to the UK home of her recently deceased husband, where her presence unleashes drama.

“This is a brand new adaptation that toured in 2019 and was supposed to tour last year but got canned,” Mudford says.

“We’re really excited about it and, as far as I know, this is only the second adaptation that’s been done.”

That’s followed, from May 7-28, by a production of the classic noir thriller The Maltese Falcon, written by Canadian David Jacklin and directed by Matthew van den Berg.

The story was made famous by the 1941 film starring screen legend Humphrey Bogart, playing fictional private investigator Sam Spade.

“People will remember the Bogart movie and it’s just a chance discovery on my part as I didn’t know there was a play [of the story] available,” Mudford says.

From July 9-30 the theatre stages the comedy The Book Club Play, written by Karen Zacarias and directed by Tracey Holdsworth.

Mudford says life, love, and literature collide as a book club’s members become the subjects of a documentary and are forced to accept a new member who causes their group dynamics to take a hilarious turn.

“This play has been a massive hit in North America and book clubs are big here so we figured it will probably have good appeal.”

The fourth play for 2022 is contemporary drama Shepherd, penned by award-winning Kiwi playwright Gary Henderson and directed by Nathan Hey.

It runs from September 10 to October 1 and is described as a “provocative vision of New Zealand, but not the country we know”.

“We’ve done a number of Gary Henderson’s plays before and they’re always innovative and really interesting,” Mudford says.

“This one’s a little different. It’s set in New Zealand but it’s not a New Zealand people will recognise.

“It’s very intriguing and I think people will get swept up saying, ‘what’s happening here?’”

The theatre’s final play for the year is the Norm Foster comedy Hilda’s Yard, directed by Penel Keegan and running from November 12 to December 3.

It’s set in the “swinging 1960s” and centres on married couple Sam and Hilda who are enjoying life on their own until their unemployed son and newly single daughter arrive for an unscheduled stay.

“We’ve done a few of Norm Foster’s plays before and audiences always love them,” Mudford says.

She says the theatre is grateful to the many people who supported it through 2021’s Covid-19 lockdowns.

“A lot of arts organisations have been particularly hard hit.

“We’re so appreciative of the support people have shown toward the theatre in terms of donations.

“We rely on ticket sales as our main source of income and if people are looking to be supportive as well as have a great night out, that is what we are offering.”

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