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March 12, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Orderly

Written and performed by Michael Downey
Directed by Anders Falstie-Jensen
BATS, March 2 – 10

The Orderly is a one man show about a real life orderly in Auckland hospital whose secret weekend delight is participating in historical re-enactments of famous battles. Peter (Michael Downey) chats to the audience as he makes the bed for a new patient. Downey plays the other characters in the story too: Donna, the friendly nurse; Troy, another orderly who is after Peter’s job; and the security guard who is sent to look for Peter after he disappears for more than three hours under the guise of changing a bed, when he’s actually telling us all about the famous battles he participates in.

As the play moves between the reality of the hospital room and the fields of a Saxon battle, with Downey playing both squadron leaders, the change is shown by lighting and sound effects.

The play is a sad tale of a man who lost his voice in a cock-up during a simple operation to remove a small lump on his neck. He is forced to speak in a raspy croak, and endures ridicule from other employees about his weekend hobbies. He can’t even play the “big” characters in the battles now, due to lack of a strong voice.

Despite all this, Peter has a wicked sense of humour and an appreciation of the things he has. He dreams of a life beyond the four walls of the hospital, a life of excitement and adventure, which he finds in the historical battles. Ultimately, it’s a life that’s left unfulfilled.

Plenty of comedy mileage is pulled from the ridiculous notion of a load of full grown 21st century adults pretending to be Saxon warriors at the Ngarawahia A&P show. Whilst the play is well-written and the direction strong, it lacks an emotional punch, or a story arc to draw us in.

The show is redeemed by the fact that Downey is a talented, versatile performer and his characterisations of Peter and the other characters in the hospital are well drawn and extremely funny.

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About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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