In Alison Maclean’s vibrant screen adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s debut novel, a first-year acting student (James Rolleston) channels the real-life experience of his girlfriend’s family into art and sets off a moral minefield.
NZIFF is thrilled to present the World Premiere of Alison Maclean’s hotly anticipated adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s debut novel. Unpacking the dramas that energise a class of budding young actors, The Rehearsal mounts an enticing inquisition of performance, identity and moral anxiety with resonance far beyond its hothouse setting.
James Rolleston vanishes into the part of Stanley, a naive newcomer drawn to the city by his passion to make it on stage. While his new best friends indulge in wilder stuff, gentle Stanley tentatively romances 15-year-old Isolde (Ella Edward).
His sweet dreams may have found their nemesis in Hannah (Kerry Fox), the school’s grandstanding senior tutor. Students must deconstruct themselves, she contends, before they can play at being anybody else. Stanley gradually bends to her taunting style, until, in one of the dazzling turns that stud the film, he earns her applause with a hilarious, treacherously accurate impersonation of his salesman father. Even murkier waters await when his class decides that a sex scandal involving Isolde’s older sister should be intensively researched for their end-of-year show.
With Michelle Ny, Marlon Williams and Kieran Charnock providing vivid support to the young principals, The Rehearsal carries a potent extra-textual charge: there’s enough talent in this fictional drama school to constitute a real-world new wave.
Like the novel, the film (co-scripted with Emily Perkins) is as attentive to the misleading effect youthful nerve can have on the ‘mature’ as it is to the crises the teachers so blithely incite in the taught. It’s also its own sharp, original thing, a film by Alison Maclean, alive with ambiguity and cinematic verve.