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"Gasping" by Ben Elton

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Gasping Title Image

About Ben Elton's Gasping

Ben Elton's debut play - originally seen at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, starring Hugh Laurie (House, MD) and Bernard Hill (Titanic) - is a brilliantly funny satire on big business, the media, and product exploitation.

Lockheart Industries are making serious money, but Sir Chiffley Lockheart is looking for the buzz given by a new way to make money where no money existed before. Philip, his pushy workaholic executive, suggests selling "designer air" - Perrier for the nostrils - as a privatised alternative to polluted urban fug.

The marketing phenomenon of the decade has arrived and millions are quickly made! However, producing the designer air has unintended consequences, needing the kind of corporate maneuvers that would make the CEO of Enron proud. The world divides into the "haves" and the "have nots": The world starts Gasping, and only the biggest suckers survive...

About Ben Elton

The work of Ben Elton is far more popular than is generally realised, certainly your Webmaster wasn't aware of just how substantial his output really is.

Elton started out as an "alternative" stand-up comedian, and frankly, "alternative" at the time to most people meant "not funny". As he grew up he became much more "mainstream", to the point where many of his original supporters declared that Elton had sold out.

The Alternative crowd's loss is very much everyone else gain. Elton dropped the stand-up and became an author, initially for TV, though much of his earlier work never made it as far as New Zealand. However these early shows forged links with actors that would appear again and again in Elton's work, perhaps the most notable being Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, who we now all know on the telly as Dr Gregory House.

The first popular product of Elton's pen was the "Blackadder" series, co-written with Richard Curtis, which featured the globally recognised character of Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean.

He (Ben Elton, not Mr Bean) is also a successful novelist, with a dozen books under his belt.

But it is Elton as the playwright that we are perhaps most interested in. "Gasping" was his first work for stage, which starred (surprise, surprise) Hugh Laurie, and also Bernard Hill, best known as Captain Smith in "Titanic". Gasping was followed by "Silly Cow", written for and starring Dawn French. "Popcorn" and "Blast from the Past" followed, both dramatisations of his novels.

If all this were not enough, he also adapted his novel "Inconceivable" to become the film "Maybe Baby" , directed by Elton and starring (you guess it) Hugh Laurie. This movie is a smashing romantic comedy about a couple with fertility (and other!) problems. Not to mention co-writing the musical "The Beautiful Game" with Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the globally popular Queen musical "We Will Rock You". One could accuse Elton of starting the "has been music stars" genre, best known, of course, for Mama Mia, but not content with writing the first, he went on to do it again with the works of Rod Stewart...

Reviews of the London Haymarket Production

"A sharp-witted satire on the heartlessness of market forces... extremely funny. . . [it] never, unlike the world's population, runs out of puff. . . " (Independent)

"A poisonously funny morality play. . . a remarkable debut." (Sunday Times)


Wed 6th May 7:30pm
Thu 7th May 7:30pm
Fri 8th May 7:30pm
Sat 9th May 7:30pm
At the Rangiora Town Hall

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The Rangiora Players is the public name for the Rangiora Dramatic Society Incorporated of New Zealand.
The Rangiora Players, PO Box 473, Rangiora, 7440