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February 10, 2010 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Vernon God Little


There is a lot to love about the Long Cloud Youth Theatre company. Headed by Willem Wassenaar and Sophie Roberts, they are young, they are hungry, and boy can they pull off a southern accent. Long Cloud is a company geared towards the development of the bright, young hopes of the Wellington and New Zealand theatre scene. For the past two years or so, Long Cloud has been on a consistent upward trajectory, each production bettering their last (with the slight blip of their most recent show Titus). The actors, ranging in ages from 15 to 22, noticeably growing in skill and confidence with each show. Each time they seem to peak and I am left coming away with the conclusion that they couldn’t possibly get any better than this. Vernon God Little, their latest work, once again proves me wrong. Once again, they have bettered themselves.

Vernon God Little

With Vernon, Long Cloud takes a big step up into the hallowed cavern of Downstage. It would have been simplicity itself for them to shudder and fall under the increased weight of expectation that come with this more professional of environs. But they’re just too damn good to let it get to them. They fill that space as if they were born on it. Wassenaar and Roberts’ direction takes many cues from the epic theatre and then delights in twisting them into many thoroughly modern and dashingly fresh ways.

Vernon God Little is an adaptation by Tanya Ronder of DBC Pierre’s Booker Prize Winning Novel of the same name. It tells the story of Vernon Gregory Little, a 15-year-old trapped very much in the most middle of America. His best friend, Jesus (not that one), has just perpetrated a school shooting leaving sixteen people dead. Including himself. With the child who did it dead, the public turn on Vernon in their search for someone to blame. Things then tend to get a little bit worse. And then a lot worse.

Anthony Young is Vernon Gregory Little

Anthony Young is Vernon Gregory Little

Vernon God Little is a play about all the conflicting emotions of youth. It is a play about the desperate need to express oneself and how totally that can be balanced by all means of pressures around you.

The only real criticisms of to be made are that at 165 minutes it is a mite too long, and the ending feels just a shade drawn out. It also needs to be noticed that so much is made of the returning Long Cloud students and their undoubted talents, that it is easy to ignore the new arrivals (something made easy by their notable positioning in the smaller roles of the play). These new arrivals do as markedly wonderful a job as the old hats.

The set and costume, designed by the endlessly multi-talented Andrew Foster, find the garishness and tarnish of modern youth without ever being gaudy. Glenn Ashworth’s lighting is very good, with one lighting effect towards the end that totally blew my mind.

It is the cast’s commitment and energy, along with the wise words of the script modulated perfectly through Wassenaar and Roberts’ directorial voices that makes Vernon God Little the best show I’ve seen so far this year.

Vernon God Little
Written by Tonya Ronder
Based on the novel by DBC Pierre
Directed by Willem Wassenaar and Sophie Roberts
With Tai Berdinner Blades, Anna Harcourt, Joe Dekkers-Reihana, Anthony Young, Jack Buchanan,Ben Crawford, Vanessa Cullen, Felix Borthwick, Hayden Frost, Richard Osborne, Michael Boyes, Isabelle Stewart, Ingrid Saker, Freya Sadgrove, Michelle Ny, Tim Macdonald, Nathan Mudge, Corine Knorr, Betty Chung, Michael van Echten and Fran Olds

At Downstage
4 – 13 Feb 2010


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.

Comments (1)

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  1. Nathan says:

    Your review was a delight to read. As one of the “new arrivals” at Long Cloud, it is encouraging to hear that we haven’t gone unnoticed in our smaller roles. Thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed the show :).

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