A mutt-see show

Evolution Theatre Company’s production of AR Gurney’s comedy Sylvia.

Evolution Theatre Company’s production of AR Gurney’s comedy Sylvia.

THE APARTMENT: Matt Hatten’s stage design for Evolution Theatre Company’s production of Sylvia sets the scene for the comedy directed by Dinna Myers. Picture supplied
MAN’S BEST FRIEND: “Having a dog in the home is too much like having another person,” American humorist Roy Blount Jr once observed. Financial trader Greg’s wife Kate would agree but when Greg, played by Hugo McGuinness (right), finds the stray dog, Sylvia (Tirzah Russell), he finds an escape from the frustrations of his job and the unknowns of middle age. This picture and the following pictures in this gallery by Dinna Myers
Opposable thumbs are one characteristic that distinguishes man from other animals but various unmentionable dog behaviours do the job just as well. The less groady of such behaviours includes using furniture as a backscratcher — which Tirzah Russell as Sylvia, the street savvy labradoodle, enjoys with unselfconscious luxury in Greg and Kate’s apartment.
THE DOGBOX: Having found Sylvia, Greg (right) wants to keep her but his wife Kate (Suzan Anderson) is not so keen. The couple agree Sylvia can stay for a few days before they decide whether she can stay longer. But as Greg spends more and more time with Sylvia, tension increases between Greg and Kate.
ANALYSE THIS: Psychiatrist Leslie (Elizabeth Boyce) gives Kate advice about what to do with Sylvia.

Simplicity and elegance are key to stage designer Matt Hatten’s set for Evolution Theatre Company’s production of AR Gurney’s comedy Sylvia.

A dog found in New York’s Central Park, and taken back to empty-nesters Greg and Kate’s apartment, is at the heart of the play. Greg’s own heart is filled with Sylvia. Kate’s is not. Played by Tirzah Russell, Sylvia could be a metaphor for “the other woman”, the young actor told the Guide.

Director Dinna Myers’ innovative set design for A Christmas Carol is a hard act for Hatten to follow but he has managed to create a minimalist New York apartment with a floor to ceiling window that looks across the Big Apple’s high rise skyline. He’s got the park in there as well.

Hatten has long been involved with local theatre but as a performer. He designed the set for Our Town, Evolution Theatre Company’s first major production. Now he’s been bitten by the stage design bug he plans to study the art at New Zealand Drama School — Toi Whakaari.

“Analysing the script, finding meaning beyond the words and creating the magic you see on stage,” are some of the components in stage design, says Hatten.

The magic he has drawn out of Gurney’s play, drawn up and built, include Greg and Kate’s apartment and the park where Greg finds Sylvia. The design includes the smaller areas, largely defined by lighting, of an airport and a psychiatrist’s office.

“It’s a minimal set, simple but elegant with different levels,” says Hatten.

“There is a cyclorama behind the skyline. The skyline is made from MDF panels that are glued together and cut into a high-rise outline. The panels are painted in three tones of blue to create a sense of depth and distance.”

Hatten almost groans as he recalls drilling more than 1000 small holes into the panels. Tiny LEDs inserted into each hole light up to present a night view across the cityscape from the apartment.

The apartment is slightly elevated while the park area is at ground level.

“I wanted the skyline to be in view wherever the action takes place,” says Hatten.

“I’m really happy with how it all turned out.”

  • Sylvia opens tomorrow night at 7.30pm at the Evolution Theatre, 75 Disraeli Street. Tickets $24 youth 17/u, $29 senior, $32 adult from www.evolutiontheatre.org.nz. Door sales available if not booked out. The season: March 8-9, 14-16 and 21-23 at 7.30pm. Matinees March 10 and 17, 2pm.

Simplicity and elegance are key to stage designer Matt Hatten’s set for Evolution Theatre Company’s production of AR Gurney’s comedy Sylvia.

A dog found in New York’s Central Park, and taken back to empty-nesters Greg and Kate’s apartment, is at the heart of the play. Greg’s own heart is filled with Sylvia. Kate’s is not. Played by Tirzah Russell, Sylvia could be a metaphor for “the other woman”, the young actor told the Guide.

Director Dinna Myers’ innovative set design for A Christmas Carol is a hard act for Hatten to follow but he has managed to create a minimalist New York apartment with a floor to ceiling window that looks across the Big Apple’s high rise skyline. He’s got the park in there as well.

Hatten has long been involved with local theatre but as a performer. He designed the set for Our Town, Evolution Theatre Company’s first major production. Now he’s been bitten by the stage design bug he plans to study the art at New Zealand Drama School — Toi Whakaari.

“Analysing the script, finding meaning beyond the words and creating the magic you see on stage,” are some of the components in stage design, says Hatten.

The magic he has drawn out of Gurney’s play, drawn up and built, include Greg and Kate’s apartment and the park where Greg finds Sylvia. The design includes the smaller areas, largely defined by lighting, of an airport and a psychiatrist’s office.

“It’s a minimal set, simple but elegant with different levels,” says Hatten.

“There is a cyclorama behind the skyline. The skyline is made from MDF panels that are glued together and cut into a high-rise outline. The panels are painted in three tones of blue to create a sense of depth and distance.”

Hatten almost groans as he recalls drilling more than 1000 small holes into the panels. Tiny LEDs inserted into each hole light up to present a night view across the cityscape from the apartment.

The apartment is slightly elevated while the park area is at ground level.

“I wanted the skyline to be in view wherever the action takes place,” says Hatten.

“I’m really happy with how it all turned out.”

  • Sylvia opens tomorrow night at 7.30pm at the Evolution Theatre, 75 Disraeli Street. Tickets $24 youth 17/u, $29 senior, $32 adult from www.evolutiontheatre.org.nz. Door sales available if not booked out. The season: March 8-9, 14-16 and 21-23 at 7.30pm. Matinees March 10 and 17, 2pm.
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