BED • Auckland Theatre Company

Based on the play ‘The Card Index’ by Tadeuz Różewicz.

Our Hero is stuck in bed and won’t get up. Maybe if everyone would stop asking him what he’s going to do with his life and just leave him alone….but the powers that be have different ideas and the pressure is building. A surreal adventure featuring a cast of thousands. 

design notes

to be updated…

press and reviews

‘We get Russian soldiers, a talking dog, a song about beer, a talking sausage, and a chorus of men and women in suits who eye ball us through openings in the set. There is so much imagination and inventiveness in this piece.’

‘The technical aspects of the night, led by Christine Urquhart (set and costumes) and Rachel Marlow (lighting) are outstanding as usual. The working bathroom sets in The Basement upstairs, and the more abstract space downstairs for Bed and Inky Pinky Ponky couldn’t be more different, but are both very strong design statements.’

– James Wenley, Theatre Scenes


The Basement is an intimate venue normally, and this effect is only multiplied by the outsized cast and constant entrances and exits. Several times during the play, cast members descend to the stage on a rope hung from the ceiling, while at other points, actors burst out from spaces in the walls or reveal themselves suddenly from their hiding space under bedsheets. The costuming and set design live up to these precedents – the production comes across as the work of a Russian Terry Gilliam, more than anything else.

– Andrew Winstanley, What’s Good NZ


There are extraordinary visual threads throughout the work and reference is made to what Lewis Carroll would call ‘cabbages and kings’ but, in Henson’s Daliesque world, these become dogs, coffee, booty and acorns. These threads are woven into a whole by both the trench-coated chorus and the recurring characters who quite literally pop out of the woodwork; emerge from under, in and behind the colossal bed of the title and even down through a person-hole in the roof. It’s an extravaganza of sublime absurdity that makes perfect sense and is a delight on each of its gazillion levels. 

The set and costumes (the sublimely talented Christine Urquhart finally given some real resources to play with) are characters in themselves. The massive sloping bed, in which our many-monikered Hero (a suitably bemused Devin Grant-Miles) spends the entire play, is perhaps the most inviting setting  I’ve ever seen. The desire to climb in, have fights with the numberless pillows, become entangled with the huge sheets and find the rare and exotic creatures also living in this rare space is almost too much to handle, especially since almost every person in the nineteen-strong cast ends up in there at some time or other.

…The structure of the set is a director’s dream with an abundance of sliding windows, excellent ramped entrances and easy access to the foyer for the myriad quick changes. There’s a sense of 1950s Cold War communist Russia in the posters that bespatter the walls and in the Red Army militarism of some of the observer minion’s costumes. They are evocative, in their own unique way, of the emotionless totalitarian control best typified in the writings of Gorky (The Lower Depths), Kafka (Die Verwandlung [The Metamorphosis]) and even Orwell (‘1984′ and ‘Animal Farm’). The overall impact is profound and provides a visual anchor to Henson’s ongoing emphasis on the pointlessness of life and Hero’s insistence that ‘indifference’ is the only answer. 

Bed has resonances from so many varied sources it would take days to reflect on them all but it is in no way a copy of any of them. It owes allegiance to playwrights from Ionesco to Genet to Simpson to Stoppard and to Beckett but, in saying that, it actually owes nothing to any of them. In the same way there are visual recollections sourced from Dali, Ernst, Bosch, Miro and Tzara but Urquhart’s work is uniquely and preciously her own.

– Lexie Matheson, Theatreview


direction Virginia Frankovich
light Rachel Marlow
company Auckland Theatre Company
venue The Basement, Auckland