Review: THE BOOK CLUB PLAY at Howick Little Theatre

If you're looking for an outstanding well-written contemporary comedy, with well-timed humour guaranteed to get you laughing, head along to Howick Little Theatre.

By: May. 07, 2023
Review: THE BOOK CLUB PLAY at Howick Little Theatre

The book club play by Karen Zacharias

Reviewed by Glenda Pearce

"Turn the page of your book and start a new chapter"

When you think of a book club, what do you imagine? Highly literate types? Probably retired? Keen readers? Outdated? What does a book club offer? What kind of books would be read? Is reading about life the same as living your life?

The contemporary comedy by Karen Zacharias (2012) is based, not surprisingly, from her own experiences as a member of her book club for fourteen years. She says, "When you talk to other people at book clubs, they share these amazing stories. It's about people getting together to talk about how literature affects them. But really, it's an excuse to share your life and connect with other people. So book clubs can become a really wonderful social gathering place, that also can become a Petri dish for feelings and things going wrong as well."

And this is so true.

Directed with flair, with an eye for integrating detail, with well-positioned stagecraft and with a real sense of the potential for humour, by Deb Lind, (and mentor Sho Okumoto) this play is a must see. Excellent work as always from the creative team at Howick Little Theatre.

The play is beautifully structured through the lens of reality show footage being filmed about this book club - as book clubs are, apparently, the biggest social club in America. . This element conveniently positions the action and the revelations in the forestage area. Not everyone obeys the rules of not addressing the camera, for instance! And not everyone remembers that their words and actions are being filmed! The structuring even extends to the musical design (Stephen Moran) and video screen reminding us that this is all being filmed!

The play's scenes are also structured through the five books chosen in turn by the participants to read. Each of the books unexpectedly trigger a reader to realise something vital about themselves. Indeed, this is the power of literature. "Reading the right book at the right time turns your life upside down and it ends the right way up." NO SPOILER ALERTS....Suffice to say, the realisations create humour and mayhem!

And bringing it all vividly to life - are an extremely talented cast. All of them have mastered the skill of delivering those superb one-liners that make us laugh! "How can this book be popular - it's so long". "Book Club is like Lord of the Flies with wine and dip" They all know how to pace the humour employing builds of volume and well-timed pauses. Facial expression and use of dramatic space and movement brings every moment and nuance vividly to life.

Julia Kellet plays Ana Smith the over-achieving hostess, willing to provide food and a venue, as the activity of reading ranks between fun and obligation. She likes to take the credit for thinking up the idea of a book club and is the self-appointed leader. On the other hand, her preppy athletic husband, Rob Smith Jnr, says "book clubs sort of happened to me" and they are a good excuse to eat and just hangout socially. He never reads the books - just watches the films. Rama Boisson is superb in this role, convincingly capturing a wide set of emotions. "Have I missed my flower of life?" Senica Calder brilliantly brings to life the colourful, confident, passionate and rather sensuous Lily Jackson, who can find erotic subtext in every book, including "Moby Dick"!

Erin Parkinson plays Jennifer "Jen" McClintock who is full of love and heartbreak because her romantic notions have hurt her in the past but who really needs her Heathcliff so she can have a baby. AJ Johnson as the cultured curator with an effeminate edge, William Nothnagel, is outstanding. We totally believe that he loves the chance he gets to share the books he likes with the people he likes. His extremes of emotion entirely ring true. Equally so, another first-class performance from Mark Snoad, as Alex, the well-spoken, resonant voiced, professor of contemporary literature, who gate-crashes the book club, because of his love for "Twilight". In support roles are Jazmyn Astill and Lou Van Jaarsveld who ably deliver a range of other characters!

As it turns out, a book club offers much more than one would first expect. Especially this one!!

Don't miss out! The season for this brilliant comedy runs May 6 - 27.

Book online ot phone 09 361 1000 or HLT.NZ/BOOK

Glenda Pearce


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From This Author - Glenda Pearce

Glenda Pearce is a highly experienced public speaking specialist # dynamic speaking #bodyworks #body communication # effective communication .  She  facilitates the development of confident,... Glenda Pearce">(read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Switzerland
ASB Waterfront Theatre (9/19-10/08)

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