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May 4, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Pick of the Fringe – Reviewed

6pm: Poly-Zygotic

Set in Newtown, is about a set of Samoan triplets—Also (Taofi Mose-Tuiloma), Masina (Tupe Lualua) and Tausaga (Asalemo Tofete)—and their preparations of an annual Samoan White Sunday celebration. The effective opening montage of their items through childhood conveys the importance and pressure of such a performance, with the potential either to greatly embarrass oneself or to one-up each other and shine. The inability of the triplets to come to an agreement on what to perform for this year’s White Sunday, which forms the crux of the play, is then absolutely understandable. Various ideas allow for some wonderfully hilarious digressions, including a spoof of America’s Next Top Model, an elaborate Grammy acceptance speech and the effeminate interpretive dance choreographed by the only male triplet, which he may or may not have spent two years on.

Throughout the play the characters light-heartedly poke fun at both their characters and Samoan culture. The actors also play three elderly church ladies, who are so funny that they threaten to upstage the portrayal of the triplets. There are, of course, the obligatory domestic violence and KFC jokes, which successfully avoid becoming anything close to offensive.

Fortunately, the humour isn’t as dependent on cultural in-jokes as much as similar performances, like the Laughing Samoans, although the humour is heightened if you recognise in the portrayals of the old ladies the mannerisms of your own relatives. Behind the self-depracating humour is true talent. Taofi Mose-Tuiloma’s rendetion of Siva (to the tune of Fever) shows off her singing talents, all three dance and the climactic barbershop performance is as harmonous as the dischords of the initial performances built it up to be.

While the play never really grapples with the struggle of individuality as a triplet or identity is a culture of rules and tradition—as the play advertises it will do—it is nevertheless, an enjoyable, light-hearted play. It is full of a sense of playfulness that can be, and should be enjoyed by Samoans and Palagis alike.

Devised by the cast
Directed by Anya Tate-Manning and Nathaniel Lees
With Asalemo Tofete, Taofi Mose-Tuiloma and Tupe Lualua

By Ioana Gordon-Smith

7.30pm: A Most Outrageous Humbug

There really is little to be said about A Most Outrageous Humbug that has not been said already. A theatrical biography of Edgar Allen Poe, it is a fine entertainment. Mixing the gothic traditions of Poe’s work with a distinctly contemporary flavour, it is a hypnotic, textural hour of theatre.

The cast excel in their roles, inhabiting them completely, with a shout out needing to be given to Adam Donald and Jean Sergent for their show-stoppingly genius portrayals of the markedly abstract Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether, respectively. Charlotte Bradley’s direction has substantially tightened with the move to Downstage, pulling in a lot of flab, making for a markedly more precise show. Hannah Smith’s set of books, books in piles, books hanging from the ceiling, is a wonderful sideways step towards recreating the damn, wooden aura of their original space—a shack up the end on Holloway Road. Tane Upjohn Beatson’s live piano playing was a lively and very welcome addiction to the proceedings.

A Most Outrageous Humbug is a delightful work, perfect for rainy nights and warm drinks.

Devised by the cast and crew with Hannah Smith
Directed by Charlotte Bradley
With Adam Donald, Adrianne Roberts, Alex Lodge, Ed Watson, Jean Sergent, Ralph McCubbin Howell, Tane Upjohn Beatson and Thomas McGrath

By Uther Dean

9pm: The Intricate Art of Actually Caring

One day I will write a list of the current theatrical trends that really need to stop. Top of the list will be the “you’re laughing at yourselves!” moment. It is almost impossible these days to go to the theatre, particularly for comedy, without having your face mashed into the fact that you, the audience, are being presented on stage.

Not so in The Intricate Art of Actually Caring. As Jack (Jack Shadbolt) welcomes us into Eli’s (Eli Kent) bedroom, it clear that he is here to tell us a story, spin a yarn, not to wrap his meaning fists in barbed wire and punch us in our pretentious souls. They are kinda playing themselves, but only kinda. Kent lays his experience and view of the world open for us. This is a profoundly brave move, more than ticking off the audience ever will be.

On opening night there was a moment towards the end, as Eli reveals his reasoning behind coming with Jack on this road trip to James K. Baxter’s grave in the wake of the death of their best friend, where Kent’s voice cracked. Which sounds like just a passing moment, but was so much more than that. In that quick, quiet rasp of air between words was a world of emotional truth. It was probably unintentional, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the most profoundly sublime moments I’ve ever experienced in the theatre.

In the watching of Intricate Art, you cannot help but envy the skill of all involved. Everything looks totally easy and slick. Kent and Shadbolt’s performances are tour de forces of understatement and ease, judging precisely where to smudge the lines between audience and play, character and actor. They flick from hilarious quips to profound sentiment without undercutting each other or falling into mawkishness. Eleanor Bishop’s directing is a stellar example of control of tone, space and time. Heleyni Pratley and Erin Banks’ design transfers the show from its tiny original performance space (Eli’s Bedroom) to Downstage without missing a breath or a beat. A wall of posters and the hanging coloured lightbulbs behind them expands Intricate Art into the cavernous Hannah Playhouse effortlessly. Rachel Marlow’s lighting is, as per usual, immaculate.

Kent has written and Bishop has directed a work of exquisite and violent force. It is a deeply affecting experience to watch. It is brilliant and crystalline and perfect. You simply have to see it.

Written by Eli Kent
Directed by Eleanor Bishop
With Eli Kent and Jack Shadbolt

By Uther Dean

In between: Binge Culture Collective

I went to the bathroom between Poly-Zygotic and Humbug, Joel was in there. He had a sign that read Joel’s Mind is Blank. We urinated then discussed the previous show. I’m still trying to work out whether or not he was performing. This is the best possible compliment I can give these imaginative, daring performers who look set to take Wellington by storm. Not literally.

With Rachel Baker, Joel Baxendale, Simon Haren, Claire O’Loughlin, Fiona McNamara and Ralph Upton.

By Uther Dean

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