A Time Like This goes to Wellington

THE COLOUR OF BLOOD: In rehearsal for his role as World War 1 veteran Douglas Chapman’s younger self in a Wellington theatre production of Gisborne novelist-playwright Jackie Davis’s play A Time Like This is Davis’s son, Simon Davis. In this scene from the play that moves smoothly through reflection, dark humour, melodrama, shock and pathos the war artist as a young man holds the body of a dying comrade played by Ryan Buchanan.
Picture supplied

The lure of the big city was irresistible to Gisborne novelist-playwright Jackie Davis in the wake of Unity Theatre’s successful production of her play A Time Like This.

A quick decision to move to Wellington paid off though. Wellington’s BATS Theatre welcomed her offer to stage her play about an 88-year-old World War 1 veteran’s recall of his experience in the field as a young war artist. BATS has a reputation for staging a mix of established and experimental work.

“I contacted them and sent them my script and CV,” says Davis.

“They jumped at the chance. They’ve been really supportive. It’s lovely to revisit the play and see it evolve in a slightly different way.”

She found her cast through a Facebook actors group. Some of the actors have experience in professional theatre, film or television, the rest are untrained actors.

“It’s a lovely mix. They ask me questions that make me come up with different ways of looking at the play. It’s quite a collaborative process. It’s good to have the confidence to know what works. I wasn’t brave enough to make changes to the show in Gisborne.”

In A Time Like This, old Douglas’s recall of his wartime experience comes to life before him. Time switches between 1984 and 1918, where young Douglas was a war artist, stationed in France, and then back in New Zealand after his return from war.

In the BATS production, young Douglas is played by Davis’s 23-year-old son Simon who recently completed a degree in film and theatre. While living in Gisborne, young Simon was involved with Unity Theatre.

“It’s really cool to have him in the show. He’s a really good actor. He has this amazing face, that with tiny changes, he can change his whole expression through parts of the play that are very quiet.”

Old Douglas is played by semi-professional actor Barry Mawer who shone in his audition for the part.

“The piece he read from the script almost made me cry,” says Davis.

“He’s doing it differently from Mike.”

Mike is Mike Costello who she described as extraordinary in the Unity Theatre production.

“Initially I had to stop myself from saying ‘that’s not how Mike did it’. It was a challenge to step back and give him rein. Directing this production has been a steep learning curve in allowing the cast to bring themselves to the play and turn it into something different.”

By chance or synchronicity, the only available time slot BATS could offer for the show was Anzac Week.

“It feels like it was meant to be,” says Davis.

“The play feels like it’s going to another level. It’s such a privilege to get to do it again.”

The lure of the big city was irresistible to Gisborne novelist-playwright Jackie Davis in the wake of Unity Theatre’s successful production of her play A Time Like This.

A quick decision to move to Wellington paid off though. Wellington’s BATS Theatre welcomed her offer to stage her play about an 88-year-old World War 1 veteran’s recall of his experience in the field as a young war artist. BATS has a reputation for staging a mix of established and experimental work.

“I contacted them and sent them my script and CV,” says Davis.

“They jumped at the chance. They’ve been really supportive. It’s lovely to revisit the play and see it evolve in a slightly different way.”

She found her cast through a Facebook actors group. Some of the actors have experience in professional theatre, film or television, the rest are untrained actors.

“It’s a lovely mix. They ask me questions that make me come up with different ways of looking at the play. It’s quite a collaborative process. It’s good to have the confidence to know what works. I wasn’t brave enough to make changes to the show in Gisborne.”

In A Time Like This, old Douglas’s recall of his wartime experience comes to life before him. Time switches between 1984 and 1918, where young Douglas was a war artist, stationed in France, and then back in New Zealand after his return from war.

In the BATS production, young Douglas is played by Davis’s 23-year-old son Simon who recently completed a degree in film and theatre. While living in Gisborne, young Simon was involved with Unity Theatre.

“It’s really cool to have him in the show. He’s a really good actor. He has this amazing face, that with tiny changes, he can change his whole expression through parts of the play that are very quiet.”

Old Douglas is played by semi-professional actor Barry Mawer who shone in his audition for the part.

“The piece he read from the script almost made me cry,” says Davis.

“He’s doing it differently from Mike.”

Mike is Mike Costello who she described as extraordinary in the Unity Theatre production.

“Initially I had to stop myself from saying ‘that’s not how Mike did it’. It was a challenge to step back and give him rein. Directing this production has been a steep learning curve in allowing the cast to bring themselves to the play and turn it into something different.”

By chance or synchronicity, the only available time slot BATS could offer for the show was Anzac Week.

“It feels like it was meant to be,” says Davis.

“The play feels like it’s going to another level. It’s such a privilege to get to do it again.”

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