In the hot seat with Shortland Street's Roz Turnbull

By Dionne Christian

Andrew Laing and Roz Turnbull star in The Red Chair.
Andrew Laing and Roz Turnbull star in The Red Chair.

Shortland Street's Roz Turnbull is in the hot seat. Turnbull, who played biker chick Cat Gibson on the soap, has returned to her first love to star in cabaret show The Red Chair.

Along with performers Will Barling, former Shortland Street actor Andrew Laing and Melissa Nordhaus, Turnbull sings and dances her way through music from the likes of Noel Coward to Boy George.

She says The Red Chair producer-director Aaron Tindell and musical director Robin Kelly impressed her from the moment she walked into the audition with their enthusiasm for the show. Tindell devised it partly to look at how audiences respond to having performers among them rather than on a stage in front of them.

Specially lit red chairs are positioned at various tables among the audience and the performers work from these.

Tindell says red symbolises and unites many of the themes in the cabaret - obsession, confessing secrets, romance and passion - while the Broadway show songs were chosen because they also explore ideas about obsessive emotion and relationships.

"The whole show is rooted in New York-style cabaret and Broadway music, but we wanted songs that hadn't been 'done to death' or ones we could bring something new to. It was also important to work with a mix of performers because Auckland is rich in talent and we wanted something where we could showcase emerging performers as well as the more established."

The Red Chair returns Turnbull to her performance roots. She trained in musical theatre at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and spent time after graduating touring in a number of shows including Ben Elton's Popcorn.

When she returned home to New Zealand, Turnbull found herself making back-to-back TV and film appearances in shows like Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons and, this year, Shortland Street. Though she sings regularly at smaller gigs, the last musical she appeared in was Auckland Theatre Company's Into the Woods 11 years ago.

"The Red Chair was an opportunity to step back into it, so I took it and quickly realised I'd gotten lazy. It's not burlesque at all, but a very character-driven piece which really tests me to use skills I haven't used much in recent years. With TV you learn the lines, you record it and then you throw it away but with theatre, you remember it and every night it is a little bit different."

While Turnbull hopes the show will lead to other theatre work, Tindell is using his experiences as producer to complete his masters in arts management at Whitecliff College of Art and Design.

"Essentially, I am investigating the day-to-day experience of producing. This research project is unique in that there are very few studies looking at theatre producing from the inside, in fact, there are few ethnographic studies on theatre-making in New Zealand, full-stop."

What: The Red Chair
Where & When: Q Loft, to October 6

- NZ Herald

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