Review: Sunday Roast
That it’s taken this long for a collaboration between critically lauded, endlessly prolific Auckland playwright Thomas Sainsbury and Silo Theatre is beyond baffling. The pairing makes so much sense.
According to the show’s programme, Sunday Roast - which was originally written and performed in Wellington as part of the 2010 Fringe Festival – is, in fact, Sainsbury’s first professionally programmed production in New Zealand.
Given his shows are usually presented on the smell of an oily rag in whatever little hovel Thomas himself can rig, thanks should be given to Silo’s new Artistic Director, Sophie Roberts, for giving us the rare opportunity to see a Sainsbury work really soar with a full and rigorous production process.
Sunday Roast introduces us to the Giles’, a rural family of seven, all portrayed by Toni Potter and Adam Gardiner, and all wretched in their own way. Each family member seemingly embodies one of the seven deadly sins. The central conceit here is that the family has chosen, ostensibly as some inexplicable act of charity, to adopt a young South Auckland naïf named Rupert. Starting from the day Rupert joins the household, Sunday Roast charts the ways in which he’s pulled into the family’s folds in the lead-up to their traditional monthly family dinner.
Dressed in their finest rugby clubroom prize-giving chic, Gardiner and Potter do an admirable job of flitting energetically through this litany of characters, pushing their vocals and their physicality in all sorts of bizarre directions. Potter shines through her depictions of the prideful family matriarch Luanne, complete with hilarious Remuera lockjaw, and as the lusty thirteen-year-old Tamsin, who brings the house down with a terrifically bad dance routine. A couple of Gardiner’s characters, the slothful Anthony and vain Francois, felt as though they were drawn a little too broadly for him to get a complete grip on them but his performance as the gluttonous patriarch Philip is absolutely on point (Gardiner’s vocal and eructation work here is amazing) and as the innocent Rupert, Gardiner has the audience in the palm of his hand.
Looking half-way between a slaughter house and an S&M dungeon and paired with some ingeniously rustic lighting solutions, the marriage between the play’s visual design and it’s thematic content becomes stronger as it unfolds, and the work of Daniel Williams (set and costume design) and Jane Hakaraia (lighting design) are to be applauded.
Sainsbury never misses an opportunity for a punchline and his dialogue often jags off in charmingly unexpected directions. Director Sophie Roberts keeps the play ticking along at a quick pace and she uses the full scope of her stage and lighting options to help differentiate between the characters and move along the plot.
I’m sure Sainsbury’s script could be defamed as offensive, but the opening-night audience was easily able to read the proper satirical intent of the work and rarely was a joke not greeted by guffaws throughout.
As her inaugural production as Silo Theatre’s new Artistic Director, Sophie Roberts has made a bold statement. This iconoclastic New Zealand work speaks to the both the company’s detractors who have often rallied against Silo’s lack of homebrewed content, and it’s core audience who will no doubt be pleased to see that Roberts, the director and the programmer, isn’t afraid to bite in the way only a Silo show does.
Sunday Roast is a brash and energetic romp, which smiles as it skewers that beloved national pastime: Eating. It’s a bit naughty, and certainly brimming with a youthful energy which is all but lacking in the mainstream comedies programmed by other professional theatre companies. Definitely worth a watch.
As an aside it’s nice to see Sainsbury’s voice and talent vindicated by one of the country’s professional theatre companies. Congrats to Tom, and to Silo.
Sunday Roast plays at The Loft at Q Theatre from 6 – 28 June
Tickets available through Q Theatre