Director Lynn Bushell. PHOTOS/LUCIA ZANMONTI
A collective of Wairarapa performers, production crew and visual artists are set to showcase their talents at one of the capital’s most beloved theatres.
In February, BATS Theatre in Wellington is hosting the Six Degrees Festival – featuring plays, a dance workshop, and live podcasts produced by students from Victoria University.
Part of next year’s line-up is the New Zealand premiere of Ugly Lies The Bone: a play by American dramatist Lindsey Ferrentino, exploring the impact of war and trauma on human relationships.
In the director’s chair is Greytown theatre stalwart Lynn Bushell – who chose to stage Ugly Lies The Bone as the final project towards her master’s degree in fine arts (creative practice) through Victoria’s Film and Theatre School.
Helping bring her directorial vision to life are nine other Wairarapa thespians and theatre enthusiasts: two of whom appear on the BATS stage in leading roles, the others in the production team.
For her project, Bushell recruited several co-workers from the Wairarapa community theatre circuit: Victoria Stevens Ross (from Greytown) as one of the leads, Greg Webb (Carterton) as assistant stage manager, and Rita Ann Penhale-Cashmore (Masterton) as wardrobe manager.
Representing “the next generation” (and studying in Wellington) are Kuranui College alumnae Florence Cater and Jessica Buckham, choreographer and stage manager respectively, and Rathkeale old boy Jacob Osborne also joining the main cast.
Wairarapa visual creators Kieran Tankersley and Lucia Zanmonti are also lending their hands: Tankersley providing special effects makeup and Zanmonti the photography for the programme and promotional material.
The youngest crew member is Kuranui student Connor Hislop – responsible for creating an immersive audio-visual experience.
Bushell, who has been involved in Wairarapa theatre for the past 18 years, said her creative team are excited to work at such a celebrated performance space, alongside industry professionals.
BATS is Wellington’s premier theatre venue for emerging artists and has been responsible for launching the careers of various actors, technicians and designers.
Bushell said she hoped appearing in a BATS production could present opportunities for her Wairarapa colleagues to one day work in performing arts.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to work in a professional space – but also allows me to pay it forward, especially for the next generation,” she said.
“BATS is such a well-known venue – so this gives them the chance to be noticed and seen by people in the industry.
“Plus, they can bring the skills they’ve learned from this experience back to Wairarapa.”
Ugly Lies The Bone takes its name from the quote by Albert Einstein: “Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone; beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own”.
It tells the story of Jess (played by professional Wellington actor Harriet Prebble), a US Army veteran, who has returned home to Florida after serving in Afghanistan.
While in combat Jess sustained severe burns – depicted on stage by Tankersley’s special effects makeup – and has developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Throughout the story, Jess struggles to navigate the changes in her various relationships – with her ailing mother, sister Kacie (played by Stevens Ross), disagreeable brother-in-law, and ex-partner Stevie (played by Osborne), who has gone on to marry someone else.
Bushell said she was drawn to the script as it provides a woman’s perspective of the reality of war – something often missing from military stories.
“It doesn’t glorify war, but it definitely focuses on its impact on relationships and families.
“Jess finds that life has moved on while she was in Afghanistan – the people she loves aren’t the same.
“In her pain, she rejects and judges people. But then she realises she’s made mistakes herself.
“The play has a big emotional impact – but there are also some delightfully funny moments.”
Ugly Lies The Bone also captures Jess’ recovery from trauma, by way of virtual reality exposure therapy which, in reality, has been found to reduce PTSD symptoms in veterans.
At BATS, Jess’ therapy is captured on stage through several different mediums: audio-visual backdrops by Connor Hislop, various sound effects, an original score by Wellington music student Morgan Finlayson-Smith, and dance – choreographed and performed by Florence Cater.
“Florence plays Jess’ avatar on stage – portraying the workings of her mind through movement,” Bushell said.
“It’s definitely a collaborative process. The actor, dancer, music and AV all have to move together seamlessly – it takes a lot of co-ordination.”
Bushell said it has been “amazing” to work alongside seasoned professionals – including some of the cast members and set designer Lizz Santos – and with industry standard technology.
“I asked our sound engineer for an explosion sound effect, and he came up with something amazing just by pressing a few buttons.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the whole team – they’re all so talented. It’s been an exciting journey.”
Ugly Lies The Bone will be performed at BATS Theatre from Tuesday, February 1 to Saturday, February 5. You can book tickets online at https://bats.co.nz/whats-on/ugly-lies-the-bone/.