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Foreskin's Lament

Sky City Theatre


Andrew Bancroft


Greg McGee's passionate, ballsy play gets a fine outing in the Auckland Theatre Company's latest production.

Its characters have that magic mix of being instantly recognisable and larger than life. There are plenty of laughs and, despite a few plodding moments in the staging, the actors maintain a terrific suspense.

Under Paul Minifie's direction, a sense of menace grows right from the start. This divides the characters more than it unites them in the first half, which loses realism and doesn't quite fit with the camaraderie in the script, but it does make things a lot more tense.

Foreskin's Lament is not just about rugby. It embodies a new, cosmopolitan questioning in resolutely provincial New Zealand, and hints at the huge courage it took for McGee to put his society (and himself) under the spotlight in 1980. So how much has changed?

Admittedly, two decades of feminism have made McGee's critique of masculinity a little less groundbreaking.

After all, we do now have an urban intelligentsia.

But Foreskin's Lament sticks it to the pack-mentality of pseudo-intellectuals with the same gusto.

So where do we turn to create an authentic New Zealand voice?

McGee asked that question in this play in 1980. Yet in the 20 years since then, the lack of professional productions of the work of New Zealand writers has meant that audiences have been denied the theatre as a forum.

On the other hand, if it is true that, as they say, New Zealanders don't want to see New Zealand plays, then how much have we really changed?

Foreskin's Lament is a good show by any standard.

Michael Lawrence is electrifying as Clean, and Roy Billing's Tupper is at once endearing and tragic. And in the title role, Karl Urban does excellent work in a part with more angst than action, and his long climactic speech is a trip.

Special mention is also deserved by designer John Verryt for his angled sets and his precise, economical choices.