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The First Time is theatre that doesn't play pretend

Wednesday 7th June 2017

Playwright Courtney Rose Brown goes for reality.



Characters from The First Time.
Characters from The First Time.

Photo: Supplied

The first time you have sex is probably fumbling, all limbs, but after you’re sweaty and done you’ll whisper that you love each other - or so the hetrosexual fairytale goes.

But what if you’re queer, and you’re not sure what counts as your first time? What if your first time is drunk and over in five seconds and you’re not sure if "yes" did actually slip from your lips? What if the other first times in your life are actually so much more important than the first time you have sex?

Courtney Rose Brown explores those questions with five women in her play The First Time, showing at Wellington's Circa Theatre this month after a successful season at BATS.

Picking who the characters were was a political decision, says Brown.

"Coming from the Hutt [Valley] myself, I thought it was really important to create work about not-straight white men. And they’re also just the people in my life,” she says.

“We had a lot of people who cried, and who, I think, walked out the theatre feeling understood. Feeling understood is so rare …That’s what I love about theatre, and what it can do.”

Brown wrote the play, wrhich is mostly monologues, in three days. 

“I write from voices … Like, I wanted people to use a lot of Hutt slang so I went with that and then I made them interact with characters who used more intellectual language, especially in regards to feminism.”

Actor Iris Henderson says the play is so close to real life that audiences members have asked cast and crew members if the script is based on interviews from real people. 

“Courtney has a real gift for writing characters that don’t sound like her and yet sound really distinct.

It’s for that reason, as well as Brown winning a highly commended for The First Time in the Playmarket's Playwrights b425 competition, that Circa Theatre have booked the show.

The traditionally white and stuffy venue has been trying to rustle up a youth audience with shows that debuted at BATS, like the now showing White Man Behind a Desk: Live.

To make the ticket prices as accessible as possible for a young audience, another actor in the show, Ingrid Saker, has set up a sponsor a seat scheme called "Play It Forward", where online ticket buyers can choose to buy a seat for a audience member who could not otherwise afford it.

They also have ticket prices at the lowest range Circa permits, and had to fight to not have an intermission breaking up their 60 minute show.

“Because of the bar sales, they really wanted it,” says Henderson.

“We had to really push, but we got there in the end because it was really important to us to have the tickets cheaper. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise.”

*The First Time, Circa Theatre, 21 June - 1 July.

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Annabella Gamboni is a freelance journalist based in Wellington. In her spare time she makes theatre shows, elaborate dinner and sometimes sleeps.
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