In 2017 (the man who played Shortland Street’s Dr Michael McKenna), Paul Gittins, decided Auckland was missing the opportunity to see theatre at it’s most powerful: performed in small spaces, so intimate the audience and actors could almost touch.
Together with David Aston, Paul Gittins formed Plumb Theatre, an independent company producing a small number of works per year, working with New Zealand’s best actors, with an emphasis on the craft of acting.
At Auckland’s Pitt Street Theatre from Wednesday 23 November to Sunday 11 December, Plumb’s latest offering Snowflake will be staged, directed by Gittins himself. Written by Mike Bartlett (Cock, King Charles III, Doctor Foster) Snowflake is a festive tale that focuses on boomer vs millennial generational conflict, told through the lens of an uneasy reunion between a father and daughter.
express sits down with Paul Gittins to discuss Snowflake, polarising times and the power of intimate theatre:
Snowflake is an exploration of the differences between ‘Boomer’ and ‘Millennial’ mindsets, set in England. Why do you think the issues raised will speak to an NZ audience?
The issues Mike Bartlett talks about in Snowflake are the same issues that the younger generation in NZ are discussing. Gender & identity, racism, the environment. These are universal themes right now amongst millennials. On the other hand, NZ boomers as represented by Andy in the play, will identify with his struggle to accommodate all this. Brexit is just one bone of contention that separates the generations in the play but even in NZ we are very well aware of Brexit and its implications. The current chaos in England has been front page news here for some time.
Does the play make you feel more or less positive about society’s divisions and why?
Ultimately it holds out hope. Reconciliation is not easy but if there is a real willingness to listen and by that Bartlett means actually hearing what the other person is saying, not just waiting for them to finish speaking before you hit them with your own opinion. There is a good deal of extreme polarization happening at the moment and cancelling out of what you don’t like. Snowflake doesn’t provide any easy answers but within the father daughter conflict of the play he shows what could be possible. Setting it on Christmas Eve certainly helps set the scene for a positive ending. Maybe!!
Plumb Theatre’s productions specifically place a focus on emotionally and intellectually engaging work, and the craft of acting. What makes Plumb Theatre a special space to perform in?
I would say it was creating a space of genuine intimacy. What we always strive for, is a deeply engaging experience for our audience. We choose intimate environments that allow us the best possibility of achieving this. For our actors it can be scary to be so close to the audience but it also can be the most rewarding actor experience when you feel the audience is right there with you.
Plumb Theatre’s plays are reminiscent of the plays SILO used to produce when Shane Bosher was Artistic Director. Was this intentional and based on a perceived gap in the market?
While I admire Shane’s work he certainly wasn’t in our thinking when we set up Plumb. We did perceive that there was a gap in the market though for the well-crafted play produced in an intimate setting to a high standard with talented performers. Our main driver has always been trying to find plays with substance that would allow us to fully engage an audience to the point where they left the theatre still carrying the play with them.