Wine Lips, a new show by Sam Brooks, opened last night at the Basement. During a rehearsal break I sat down with Sam and his 3-person cast to talk show business.
It’s not even midday and things have already gone awry. Our lead actress, Chelsea McEwan Millar, is nursing a cut finger after “plunging her hands into a garbage bin”, as her co-star Nic Sampson puts it. Nic has a plaster on too, after an incident when cleaning his turtle tank. I’m assured that this isn’t a joke- he really does have a turtle. The final cast member, Geordie Holibar, concludes, “we can’t do anything practical without hurting ourselves”.
As self-deprecating as they are, the combined credits of these guys are nothing short of impressive. Sam has written 8 shows in the past 2 years, and is a consecutive winner of Playwrights b4 24 in 2012 and 2013, and was shortlisted this year. If you didn’t see Chelsea at The Basement in any one of her 7 shows over the past four years, you may remember her from Under the Mountain, or more recently in Go Girls. Nic’s been on the Go Girls bandwagon too, or you might have caught him in this years Comedy Fest, or better yet as the Yellow Mystic Power Ranger back in the 2000s- and if you’re still unacquainted, you’ve almost certainly laughed at his writing for Jono and Ben at Ten. Last but not least, this round up wouldn’t be complete without Shortland Street, where Geordie is a mainstay as Phoenix Raynor. This recognition has its pitfalls. Nic recounts that only this morning, as they costume shopped in Save Mart, fans spotted Geordie whilst he was wearing a dress
Their latest venture, Wine Lips, is a literal behind the scenes look at acting. “It’s very meta”, says Chelsea. Nic elucidates further, “it’s about the goings on in the back room of a theatre between a director and an actress, who’s on the verge of becoming quite famous, and they were in a relationship, and it’s all while there is a show happening in the theatre, so it’s in the green room, and they’re drinking wine and rehashing their relationship. And it’s about the perceived dream of being an actor and what that costs you and how it affects your life... It’s really funny and a bit sad.” Chelsea follows up, adding that it’s a view of the “non-glamorous side” of acting, before laughing at herself and confessing that if there is a glamorous side, she hasn’t found it yet- “It’s the reality of what it [acting] is like… how you have to live your life, or the sort of things you have to give up in order to chase the dream.”
Sam wrote the show with Chelsea in mind, and the two then got together to decide the most suitable actor for the character of Scotty- Nic demands to know how far down the list he fell, but Chelsea is quick to reassure him that he was “top of the list mate. You were top of the list! But you know we were like- Ah Nic, he’s all busy and too good for us, you know, might be doing other things...” These guys are lovely, and funny, and they clearly get along. Chelsea tells me that Nic and her have worked together before,“ we just constantly play people who are breaking up with each other. It’s great! We’re real good at breaking up with each other; we’re real good at not being in love anymore!”
Finally, I set everyone the ultimate task- to collectively compose a haiku (a traditional Japanese poem- the template is 3 lines, with 5 syllables, followed by 7, ending again with 5) about Wine Lips. I’m not sure they know what they’re in for as they opt for a haiku each, but Nic leads the way-
“Wine wine wine feelin’ fine
If you come to see this show
Chelsea will smooch ya”
(Disclaimer: Chelsea will not smooch you. Irrespective of the binding contract of the Japanese that Nick kindly pointed out)
Up next Sam takes a swing at the haiku-
“It starts off really
Funny then it gets… (Sam ponders the choices the last two syllables afford him) sad face
It’s a Sam Brooks play”
Now Chelsea takes a stab-
“I like to Wine Lips…”
I question whether Wine Lips is actually a verb- Sam tells me it isn’t.
“Yours is worse, already” says Nic.
“I quit!” yells Chelsea.
Chelsea calls on Geordie to step in as she recalibrates-
“This play makes me scared-“
(Chelsea can be heard muttering in the background, “delicious…” Simultaneously, a debate breaks out over whether ‘scared’ is one, or two syllables. Chelsea has the answer, “if you say it quickly enough it’s one syllable! That’s how syllable’s work, right? Just speak faster!”)
“This play makes me scared-
Do I really want to be an actor?”
(Geordie sites creativity as an excuse for his extra-syllable misdemeanor)
“Wine wine wine wine wine”
And now Chelsea is ready for hers-
“I like to spill wine
Into the hole in my face
Geordie is awarded the title of worst haiku, concluding the interview.
Wine Lips play from August 26-30 at The Basement Theatre. With two shows each night, you have 8 more chances to get along. Don’t miss out, find your tickets here.