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NZ Coming-of-Age Story Sydney Bridge Upside Down


Thu 13 Jun 2013, 7:00pm–9:00pm
Fri 14 Jun 2013, 7:00pm–9:00pm

Where: Lawson Field Theatre, 7 Fitzherbert St, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay / Gisborne

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Adult: $25.00
  • Concession/Child 13+: $18.50
  • Additional fees may apply

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Listed by: SWPR Ltd

There was an old man who lived on the edge of the world and he had a horse called Sydney Bridge Upside Down. He was a scar-faced old man and his horse was a slow-moving bag of bones, and I start with this man and his horse because they were there for all the terrible happenings up the coast that summer, always somewhere around.

The terrible happenings take place at the abandoned meatworks in Calliope Bay, a forbidden and dangerous place, where the cries of animals being slaughtered can be heard in the wind. It’s a place where young Harry finds himself drawn, a place where accidents happen. A place where people die.

Sydney Bridge Upside Down - a sinister love story, a darkly comic coming of age fable told from the perspective of a deteriorating mind. Taki Rua Production’s adaptation of David Ballantyne’s classic novel will be theatrical morbidity at its very best.

Sydney Bridge Upside Down is at Lawson Field Theatre, Gisborne on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 June as part of a four-centre New Zealand tour.

Often compared to J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Sydney Bridge Upside Down was first published in 1968 and reprinted only in 2010. The story is set in the small coastal village of Calliope Bay and follows teenager Harry Baird through a fateful summer.

Told through Harry’s eyes, the events of the story unfold at an abandoned meat-works – a forbidden and dangerous place; a place where Harry Baird finds himself drawn, a place where accidents happen. A place where people die.

Taki Rua Productions’ artistic director James Ashcroft picked up the book in 2011 on the recommendation of a friend and has since read it “at least 20 times. It’s fair to say I’ve become a tad obsessed with it,” he says.

“I’ve read many similar ‘types’ of stories before but I have never responded to a book in this way. In many ways I felt that the author was writing implicitly about my childhood just using different names, places and events. The tone and feeling however were exactly how I remember those stages of growing up.”

James felt he had to bring the story to the stage and has written the adaptation together with the creative ensemble. “I love stories. I passionately ingest films of all descriptions, genres and languages. I love epics. Most of all I love hearing people’s stories first hand as well as sharing my stories with them too. This will be a highly theatrical and provocative work.”

Collaborating with James on Sydney Bridge Upside Down is set designer Kasia Pol, composer and sound designer John Gibson, lighting designer Nathan McKendry, audio-visual and multi-media designer Robert Appierdo with a cast including Claire Van Beek, Maaka Pohatu, Holly Shanahan, Tim Carlsen, Rob Mokaraka, James Tito and Aaron Cortesi.

Sydney Bridge Upside Down is at Lawson Field Theatre in Gisborne on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 June. Tickets are available through TicketDirect 0800 4TICKET (484 253). For more information visit

Alongside the development of the new play, Taki Rua has sent 300 copies of Sydney Bridge Upside Down around New Zealand to be read from the top of the North Island to Stewart Island. ‘Harry’s Hikoi’ started as part of New Zealand Book Month and readers share their thoughts on a special Facebook page and the progress of each book is tracked from reader to reader.

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