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July 13, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Stealing Games


Theatre for children runs a very fine line. While they, of course, have to be milder than theatre aimed at adults, any air of condescension or theatrical baby talk will automatically turn their target audience off. Children like being talked down to almost as much as they like acid baths. Stealing Games with its highly complex (for children’s theatre) and rather political (for children’s theatre) themes and plot runs this risk more so than most other children’s theatre.

Luckily and rather wonderfully, Stealing Games is a master work of the easy expression of compex ideas to young audiences without a whine or stressed syllable on either end of the equation. Gary Henderson’s script is a delight in both lucidity and pace. Every single one of Stealing Games’ fifty minutes is packed with action and interest. Murray Lynch’s direction simmers with velocity and mood, clarified crystal perfect by designers Brian King, Phil Blackburn, Murray Hickman, Nic Marshall and Andrew Shaw.

The story is about the ominous sports equipment manufacturer PlayTime and their nefarious attempts to monetise the games children play. After riling up the public with exageratted reports of children harming themselves, they set up “safe” Play Parks and charge children to attend. We see the effects this has on one particular group of friends. Bit of a spoiler but—things don’t go well.

The cast are wonderfully watchable, all four of them dealing more than ably with rapid switching between a multitude of characters, none of whom ever feel like placeholders or sketched in mono-dimensional distractions. They express the wide scope of the story with ease and flair. They work markedly well as a team and never upstage each other.

This is a marvellous work of clarity and energy that makes interesting points in very interesting ways. It’s only an odd lapse in storytelling at the end which removes some sense of closure or catharsis, that stops me from recommending it unreservedly. This really is a fine work by a fine group of artists, and anyone with 8 – 12-year-old biting at their ankles could do little better than take said bite anklers along to Stealing Games.

Stealing Games
Written by Gary Henderson
Directed by Murray Lynch
With James Conway-Law, Laurel Devenie, Rawiri Jobe and Suzanne Tye
At Capital E, Touring throughout New Zealand throughout 2009
Details at


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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