Trick of the Light is an award-winning theatre company from Wellington, in Aotearoa / New Zealand, founded by Hannah Smith and Ralph McCubbin Howell. We like to make theatre that is playful, inventive, thought-provoking, and that speaks to the here and now. Our previous shows have ranged from intelligent cross-over works for adults and older children to biting political satire, but are unified by their attention to narrative, integrated visual design, and belief that theatre should resonate with the wider world.
Our first production, The Engine Room, explored the impact of the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour protests upon the New Zealand political landscape. It premiered during the 2011 Rugby World Cup Festival and was nominated for five awards at New Zealand’s Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards (including Best New Director for Hannah Smith), winning Outstanding New Playwright for Ralph McCubbin Howell and Best Supporting Actress for Erin Banks.
Our second production, The Road That Wasn’t There, was a dark fairytale set in Central Otago. It premiered at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, and toured New Zealand in 2013. The play won an Auckland Arts Festival award at the Auckland Fringe Awards, as well as Chapman Tripps for Outstanding New New Zealand Play, Most Promising Director, and Production of the Year. It returned to Circa Theatre in July 2014.
In 2013 the company was chosen for the hotly contested STAB commission to develop a new work inspired by issues around fresh water and irrigation in Canterbury. Broken River premiered in November 2013, and won Lighting Designer of the Year for Marcus McShane and Sound Designer of the Year for Tane Upjohn Beatson at the Chapman Tripps.
The Bookbinder premiered in a back room of Arty Bees bookshop in Wellington, and went on to win Best Theatre, Best in the Fringe and the Tiki Tour Ready Award at the NZ Fringe Awards. A dark fairytale about a bookbinder's apprentice, the show was an inventively staged one-man storytelling piece combining music, puppetry and prop manipulation. It has since toured around NZ, Australia, the UK, and USA, receiving an International Excellence Award at the Sydney Fringe and BDO Children's Theatre Award at Fringe World in Perth. In 2015 it was the first NZ work to be invited to perform at the Imaginate Festival in Scotland, and in 2016 it will have its New York premiere at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
BEARDS! BEARDS! BEARDS! was commissioned for the Capital E! National Arts Festival in 2015. An irreverent, madcap musical romp, it told the tale a little girl who sets out to grow the world's most magnificent beard. It received the award for Best Theatre at Dunedin Fringe Festival, and has since toured around NZ and the UK.
The Devil's Half-Acre was a dark and fantastical work about two con-men in the slums of gold-rush era Dunedin who find their sleight of hand coming up against what seems like real magic. After a sell-out season as part of the NZ Festival in March 2016, the show toured to the devil's half-acre itself for a return seasons at the Fortune Theatre as part of The Dunedin Festival of the Arts.
Tröll is the story of a coming-of-age-tale set during the dial-up days of the 90s, and was first staged at the foot of a staircase in an old house in Aro to an audience of only twelve people as part of NZ Fringe 2017. It has since been reworked and toured around New Zealand, and to Fringe World in Perth where it received the Children’s Weekly Award and a West Arts Editor Weekly Award.
WHO WE ARE
Hannah Smith has an honours degree in English and Theatre from Victoria University of Wellington. She designs sets and puppets and masks. She has worked extensively since 2008 with theatre companies including Theatre Militia, Three Spoon Theatre, Full.Stop.Theatre and Playground Collective. She also writes reviews for Theatreview, the New Zealand Listener, Broadway Baby and The Wireless. She received a nomination for Most Promising Director at the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for her work on The Engine Room, and received the same award in 2013 for The Road That Wasn’t There. Her work has been presented across the world in the U.K., U.S.A. Canada, Australia and South Africa.
RALPH MCCUBBIN HOWELL
Ralph McCubbin Howell is a theatre maker from Wellington, New Zealand, and co-director of Trick of the Light. He was a member of the NZ Young Shakespeare Company and completed a BA (Hons) in Theatre and English at Victoria University, Wellington before training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the UK. He was a founding member of Three Spoon Theatre, and has performed extensively as an actor and improviser throughout New Zealand. He received the award for Outstanding New Playwright at the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for The Engine Room, and Outstanding New New Zealand Play for The Road That Wasn’t There in 2013.He won the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award in 2014 and received a Masters of the Arts with Distinction in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington in 2018.
Ed Watson - Poster Design - ER, TRTWT, BR, BB, BBB, DHA, T
Tane Upjohn Beatson - Music and Sound Design - ER, TRTWT, BR, BB, DHA, T
Marcus McShane - Lighting Design - TRTWT, BR, BBB, DHA, T
Nick Zwart - Set Construction - ER, TRTWT, BR, BB, BBB, DHA
and the great and glorious BATS Theatre - ER, TRTWT, BR, BB, T
THE TRICKSTER WHĀNAU
Erin Banks, Alex Greig, Paul Harrop, Harriette Cowan, Oliver de Rohan, Elle Wootton, Paul Waggott, Thom McGrath, Nova Waretina Hewison, Jane Waddell, Erina Daniels, Nancy Brunning, Tommy Truss, Ralph Johnson, Dawa Devereux, Uther Dean, Ally Garrett, Hannah Banks, Ellen Walsh, William O'Neill, Josephine Hall, Alex Rabina, Veronica Harwoood-Stevenson, Kate Clarkin, Hannah August, Nicola Holter, David Goldthorpe, Debbie Fish, Bronagh McFeely, Chris Reddington, Eliza Thomson-Munn, Brianne Kerr, Pippa Drakeford, Abby Howells, Adrianne Roberts, Gareth Hobbs, Anya Tate-Manning, Richard Dey, Tom Clarke, Meg Rollandi, Charley Draper, David Goldthorpe, Rachel Marlowe, Andrew Potvin, Jenna Kelly, Jon Coddington.
Thanks to our sponsors, whose support makes our work possible.