Theatre Scenes: Auckland Theatre Blog (Reviews, interviews and commentary)

REVIEW: Poor Boy (Auckland Theatre Company)

Oo hoo hoo hoo… [by James Wenley]

Poor Boy

Finn McLachlan and Rima Te Wiata

Poor Boy is a song written by kiwi music royalty Tim Finn and released in 1980 on Split Enz’s True Colours album. The lyrics ‘My love is alien, I picked her up by chance / She speaks to me in ultra-high frequency’ are apparently about a ‘poor boy’ who falls in love with an alien, who he can only hear through radio interference. Righty. It seems a strange choice then for this song to become the title and main musical theme of Poor Boy, a play that makes much use of Tim Finn’s music, about a man killed in a traffic accident who returns 7 years to the day of his death in the body of a 7 year old boy.  

Poor Boy, the play, begins surreally. A tricycle moves seemingly by itself. A man walks in wearing a large Zebra mask. This is Danny (Roy Snow) the dead man who will inhabit the body of Boy (Finn McLachlan at my performance, who alternates the role with Mitchell Hageman). He sings the titular track in an almost low key way, the music never quite bursting into the full Split Enz version that we know. An intentional choice.

Poor Boy, a collaboration between playwright Matt Cameron and composer Tim Finn, had seasons in Melbourne and Sydney in 2009 where they apparently aimed to replicate closely the original versions of Finn’s songs, which include Into the Water, Ghost Girl and Unsinkable. In Auckland Theatre Company’s version, under director Raymond Hawthorne and Musical Director John Gibson, the songs and play have been re-jigged. Gibson’s versions adhere less strictly to the originals, a decision, along with removing the interval and tightening the play, I imagine strengthens the experience considerably (John Gibson says they felt the songs needed to be bought more into the world of the play), especially since the connections between some songs and plot is tenuous at best, though points for making Poor Boy’s thematic impossible love and radio references work.


Radio Review! ATC’s Poor Boy

Lauren Porteous, Andrew Grainger and Finn McLachlan in POOR BOY.

My lovely theatre scenes co-reviewer Sharu Delilkan got on National Radio's Arts on Sunday to review Auckland Theatre Company's latest offering Poor Boy, featuring music by Tim Finn.

Find out what she told Lynn Freeman about the production here.

I'll be seeing the show on Tuesday, so will have a print review for Theatre Scenes post show.

I am very curious about this production. While it uses many of Tim Finn's hit songs, Sharu says it is not a musical, but rather theatre with song.  It has been performed in Melbourne and Sydney, and we are finally seeing it here.

Dionne Christian wrote an excellent primer in the NZ Herald for the production, which reveals director Raymond Hawthorne has taken a unique approach for the kiwi premiere.

- James.