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April 6, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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Bud

Bud is the first work to be produced by Fabulous Arts Aotearoa New Zealand, a newly established ‘Theatre and Arts Initiative’, whose stated aims are ‘to produce queer theatre here in Wellington, with an eye open to the rest of the world.’ In Bud the collective explore the contrast and interplay between film and theatre, dark and light, and interior and exterior worlds.

Louis Solino performs with a chorus of venetian blinds as excerpts from Jean Genet’s banned 1950 film Un Chant D’Amour (A Love Song) are projected variously onto, behind and into the action. Bud does not have a narrative as such, instead we are presented with glimpses of both the mundane and erotic of this man’s life. The play opens with an extended impression of the morning routine; perhaps the most powerful image in this show, is of a man preparing to face the world, and yet the effect of him donning his armour diminishes the power of his opening nakedness. What follows is a series of seemingly disconnected vignettes, as of a view from a hotel window cut by the slats of the venetian blinds.

FAANZ’s status as a ‘Theatre and Arts Initiative’ is palpable in the quality of this show’s aesthetic. The lighting design, by Paul Tozer, is in many ways the star of the show, and evokes the gritty monochromatic beauty of popular film noir. Similarly, the sound design contributes to this well recognizable quality.

Louis Solino’s performance is consistent with this filmic world. We see him as if projected himself, and there are few, if any moments, in which we feel connected with his performance. He maintains a stoic detachment throughout the entire piece. Engagement with the audience did not seem to be on the agenda for Bud and—intentional or not—this left us feeling bewildered and cold.

The play struggled to match the eroticism of the original film, and at many moments—pas de deux with a venetian blind anyone?—the action on the stage seemed to detract from the projection of a film more worthy of our full attention.

Most people will feel a little uninformed seeing this show, and one wonders if a better knowledge of Genet’s life and work would make for a more enriching theatre experience. But, you can’t help but think that if they wanted this work to ring true, or ring at all, they should have given us a leg up.

That said, FAANZ is an exciting prospect and Bud, while perhaps not the most accessible or satisfying piece of theatre, offers some fresh new concepts—for example they are live webcasting two of their shows at www.faanz.com. A lot of intriguing practitioners were involved in this production and one wonders what they will come up with next.

Written and directed by Ronald Trifero Nelson
With Louis Solino
At BATS, 1–9th April 2009

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