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February 20, 2009 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Two Day Plays- The Heats

Patrick Powdrell in Traces of Nuts

Patrick Powdrell in Traces of Nuts

It’s finally here, the theatre’s answer to the 48 Hour Film Festival.

This Sunday will see the best of the best compete in the final of the Two Day Plays.
For the past three weekends, five or six teams have spent 48 hours writing rehearsing and performing a play that didn’t exist until they were handed two props and some random criteria, on a Friday night. Plays in the first heat had to include two of- a death, a kiss on the face and live singing.
The first two heats produced a bizarre mix of performances. First up was Kazaam Your Face with From Great to Good a comedy about the afro- country fusion band that “takes great things and makes them good”. I didn’t get it… but that’s what I liked.

Next up was Kickstart with Whisked Away. Set at a funeral, the body of a mysterious individual and only three people at his funeral- the vicar, a coke addict and a businessman (or were these last two undertakers?- I wasn’t certain). There was some potential here that it would have been great to see followed through. Gags were set up, but not developed, for example, the designated prop- a whisk was clutched by one actor throughout, and she was even asked at one point, “Hey, where did you get that whisk?” only to reply “The Kitchen. ”

Next up, armed with a thigh clamp and a shoe stretching device, was Play with your Food with Where Did Our Love Go? This one featured some steady performances (and another coffin)- but the story itself seemed to lack inspiration.
HalfWITS – Squash. This was the performance of the night for me. I’ve always enjoyed watching WIT performances, but I believe with improve that much of the appeal lay in the fact that we know they are making it up on the spot, so I was worried that appeal would be lost here. I was glad to see it was not. WIT as a group are just a bunch of good yarn spinners. While gags at times may have been obvious, the story as a whole was not- a religious couple visit another couple in their Johnsonville home, where they find out just what goes on behind those net curtains. It was great to see props fully embraced here, although the Radio Ball, with “cool kids listen to God” written on it, initially did not appear as if it would be the easiest to incorporate. But WIT made it happen, and didn’t include just one, but somehow got hold of a box full of the balls that they gave out to the audience, during the funeral scene (contrasting with the awkwardness of Whisked Away, when the actors stood a metre away from the front row, talking about how no one was there).
Another enjoyable performance was Lead Hat Presents Trophy Wife in which three guys managed to use a joystick and a trophy to create a hilarious tale about a cyber games competition and the devil’s joystick. This began with a mysterious torch lit man (Nic Gorman) narrating the tale, and then appearing as another character on a computer screen, calling to his friends who were looking for him, “Guys! I’m here! I’ve been sucked into the internet”. When he finally manages to convince them to join him in the internet I was hoping to see the three of them appear awkwardly on the screen. But the play lost its novelty value here, as once the three of them arrive in the internet, the scenes play out on the stage, just like any other setting. What I wanted to see was the other two actors faces appear on the computer screen and maybe just see the actors doing their voices on stage.
The evening finished off with Track 06 – Come Unto Me. The final performance again was let down by a weak storyline, but featured some quality performance, with a live guitarist underscoring the whole piece and a dance sequence. It was brave to create such a sombre and still piece of theatre in this environment. It was a bold move to make something like Come unto me that aimed for beauty over entertainment, but it succeed.
The second week featured performances by Theatre Militia, Hackman NZ, Peas in a Pod – Mark Venning-Slater and crew, Backyard and Traces of Nut. This time they had to include two of, music, a character ‘rising’ and a cunning character.
Theatre Militia’s live Cluedo board was witty and well choreographed. This was the performance over the two weeks that stood out to me as much more polished than might be expected from only a weekend. What they did that really worked was to have a clear structure- the cluedo game, to work from. By building on a premise and characters that already existed (sort-of) they were able to develop their story into something new and interesting, with a very Theatre Militia touch.
I wasn’t sure about Hackman NZ’s performance to begin with, but it needed a slowish beginning to have the absolutely bizarre effect of what it turned into. Each of the actors delivered a clear and engaging performance and by the end, I can honestly say I was terrified as I laughed out loud. The extreme audience interaction was brilliant. I love when theatre makes me truly uncomfortable and aware of the people around me.
Dean Hewison’s team, Traces of Nut (although not eligible for the final- to avoid obvious conflict of interest) created a very strange and really quite funny performance, that was worth seeing simply to hear the strange vocals the man was able to produce. Although there wasn’t a huge amount in the story, the conviction with which it was performed, particuarly by Patrick Powdrell, kept me absolutely engaged throughout.
Peas in a Pod featured a spider man mask- again a prop which I think offered greater potential that nwas followed through.
Backyard featured solid performances in a skit with a Caution Wet Floor sign and some crazy string.
The shows that really worked for me were the ones that a. had a story and b. didn’t take themselves too seriously. It was the teams that seemed were aware that they only had 48hours, therefore were aiming to create something different than what they might normally aim for at the beginning of a devising process that I enjoyed watching. Comedies were the easiest to watch, because it was the roughness that was their charm, while the more serious pieces had potential, that felt as though it needed to be developed.
Producer, Dean Hewison deserves much praise for making The Two Day Plays happen. It would be great to see this become an annual event. There’s definitely the opportunity for some great work to develop, as well as a lot of fun to be had by cast, crew and audiences.

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About the Author ()

Fiona was named "Recessionista" in the ASPA Fashion Awards 2009 for her Takaka op-shop frock and spray painted shoes. She co-edits the arts section and also likes to write about women and other stuff.

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