The Gift is the latest production from Auckland Theatre Company . Written by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith, this wonderfully funny, exciting and challenging piece explores many of life’s questions around life, love, money, relationships and parenthood.
Sadie narrates us into the story on a stylistic and cleverly designed white cubed set. This couple who have gone from ‘in love’ to ‘in like’ are at ease with each other and one gets the impression they have somewhat accepted their place in the universe.
While holidaying at a luxurious Pacific Island resort they meet the young, artistic and bohemian Chloë (Laura Hill) and Martin (Simon London). Chloë, a journalist, and Martin, a conceptual artist, captivate Ed and Sadie who seem to find them utterly fascinating and charming.
The two couples drink, laugh and chat until sunrise and it really is a joy to watch. The conversational pace is perfect and natural. The one liners come thick and fast without you feeling performed to and you become truly enthused with this developing friendship. The other couple act as almost a mirror of youth, admiration and fresh ideas for Ed and Sadie.
But the story turns to near devastation which results in Martin saving Ed’s life. For this Ed and Sadie are beyond grateful and desperately want to show gratitude for this gift of a new life. So they offer Martin and Chloë the chance to request a gift by way of recompense but what transpires it beyond the expected, and creates a very complex moral dilemma.
Sarah Peirse is the actor that first lures the audience into this original tale. Her character, Sadie, is like many women you may have met. This witty, intelligent women somehow still feels she is incomplete and jests that she ‘facilitates his greatness’ when commentating that she no longer works. Sarah is highly skilled at captivating the audience in a colloquial and relaxed way. She displays natural warmth and depth of character that make Sadie so much more than the quirky lady we first encounter.
Marshall Napier really hits the nail on the head with his portrayal of Ed, a man who perfectly epitomises the baby boomer generation entrepreneur. He’s smart, quick witted and knows his stuff but he’s not all that interested in other peoples ‘stuff’. It feels as though Marshall is really enjoying Ed and gets to have some fabulous exchanges with his fellow cast. I again enjoyed his breadth of character as well as his obvious talent for delivering those delicious one liners.
I had recently seen Simon London in Silo Theatre’s The Pride so looked forward to his performance. He plays the relaxed and free thinking Martin, a articulate character who is the key to opening the eyes of both Sadie and Ed into an honesty that takes them all by surprise. His chemistry with on stage wife Chloë echoes young love. Again this character exceeds your expectations and Simon is faced with some of the tougher monologues of the play, which he delivers with true emotion.
Introduced to us by Ed as the girl with the great legs, Chloë, played by Laura Hill, represents all that a modern women is to aspire to be. She is beautiful, graceful and funny, with a career as well as being a mother. Laura too displays the ability to deliver highly emotive material incredibly well. She has some great fun exchanges too, especially with Ed.
The set complements the sleek production and the use of the audio visual backdrops add theatrical sophistication to the modest stage.
The true star of this show is it’s words. It’s so cleverly written that you don’t notice the 90 minutes fly past. The pace of natural conversation can often feel rehearsed with theatre, but this script hypnotises its audience into the lives of these characters.
The Gift asks us questions. Questions about life, love and friendship.
Martin asks Ed to ‘suspend doubt’ when looking at art and this is the message we are left with after the play. It allows us to discuss and ask questions around something many of us would never have spoken about.
This surprisingly provocative play lures you in with fantastic one liners and repartee and it will leave you debating and arguing it’s message for hours afterwards.
The Gift is at Maidment Theatre until 6 October
Written by Joanna Murray-Smith
Sarah Peirse – Sadie
Marshall Napier – Ed,
Simon London – Martin
Laura Hill – Chole
Colin McColl- Direction
Rachel Walker – Set Design & Costume Design
Philip Dexter – Lighting Design
Adrian Hollay – Sound Design