Article Title:Review: Wine Lips
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:27th August 2014 - 09:44 am
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Story ID:15628
Text:Chelsea McEwan Millar as Brit Wine LipsWritten and directed by Sam Brooks Starring Chelsea McEwan Millar and Nic Sampson Basement Theatre, Auckland 26 - 30 August Tickets here While a lack-lustre and semi-professional 'boylesque' show plays out on stage an actor and stage manager meet up for what may well be the last time. The actor has risen just slightly above 'profit-share' - ie. no money, doing it for the experience - productions at the likes of the Basement Theatre. She has been paid actual money for big-time acting and has some profile on TV. She is now short-listed for something bigger in Melbourne. Will she go? The stage manager is floundering and on the verge of quitting the performing arts. He's disillusioned and some part of him yearns for stability and a real adult home life. Throughout their romantic relationship he has encouraged and helped her as she has risen through the ranks. But as she has modestly prospered her success has placed more and more obstacles amongst their ability to continue as a couple. Already the relationship is fragile, but is it damaged beyond repair? Set in the real green room of the real Basement Theatre, Wine Lips, written and directed by gay Auckland playwright Sam Brooks, benefits from a cosy, intimate setting, heaps of early name-dropping and NZ theatre-scene references to get the audiences on side. As actor Brit and stage manager Scotty skirt around the real reason they are meeting up the dialogue is crisp, endearing and bitter-sweet. But as the cheap wine is knocked back and souls are bared we start to feel their angst in a compelling and disturbingly real way. We want Brit to gamble all on becoming a big success and, like Brit herself, fear for the consequences if she fails. We want Scotty to be both her soulmate and to build his own low-risk life. Brooks has created something very fine, a gentle but tense situation handled with finesse and grit. His writing is real and lacking in artifice, and if there is a gay sensibility threaded through Wine Lips it is evident in the humanity of the three characters... Scotty is an ok kiwi chap, no posturing or macho theatrics. Brit is sometimes unsure of herself but is putting on a brave front. And the third character, Boylesque performer Max, who appears from time to time between stints on stage, is sweet, earnest and eager, as yet unformed but maybe he has what it will take. As Britt, Chelsea McEwan Millar seems to move effortlessly through her role as a young but no longer that-young actress with a splendid attention to detail and character. Nic Sampson is likewise spot on as Scotty, a kind of everyman who has yet to find himself. Geordie Holibar as Max is sweet and naive and like the other two performers he doesn't miss a beat. Brooks has directed with flair, ensuring that even though the audience is close enough to reach out and help ourselves to a glass of cheap plonk, we become unaware that this situation we are privy to is a remarkable naturalistic performance. That's a significant achievement, a credit to both his writing and his directorial skills. Even the re-creation of the unseen, but definitely heard, 'onstage' show is handled well A few bits of business located in the door between the stage and the green room are a tad difficult for many audience members to see and appreciate, but that's the only small quibble. Wine Lips is fun, tender, real and compelling. It may be set in a theatre but it opens up and exposes many of the fault lines running through any relationship, those moments when two people who love each other very much find themselves at the brink and when everything is on the line. - Jay Bennie Jay Bennie - 27th August 2014    
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