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September 14, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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Impact I Collision

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The night begins as we are led outside of the comfort and warmth of 77 Fairlie Terrace’s foyer into the cold and then herded through the big garage door into Studio 77 to see Caryl Churchill’s This is a Chair, the first of twelve one-act plays directed by 300 level students to be produced by the theatre programme this year.

Director Benyamin Albert makes some bold conceptual and staging choices in this work that with a consistently strong cast of six creates a dynamic and intriguing performance. Albert has created a complex world in which personal stories are presented as public displays, the characters unaware of anything beyond their immediate surroundings. Churchill’s text cleverly overlays a title, completely unrelated to the scene that is played out. Domestic and urban relationships are exhibited under titles such as “The War in Afghanistan” and “Genetic Engineering: Pre-implantation Diagnosis”. My first response to the production was that although the concepts laid on top were interesting, the script speaks for itself and any extra concepts muddy the meaning rather than add to it, but on further consideration I think that the concepts here do come from the text, highlighting certain themes—there is a feeling of exhibition and of being watched, of something outside the domestic scenes, and the audience is thrust into a position to judge and reflect by this production.

Mitch Tawhi Thomas’ overtly political director’s note in the programme challenges the audience to consider what this work by UK Playwright Mark Ravenhill means to New Zealanders today. Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat Love (But I won’t do that) is brought to life by two strong performers (Carol Smith and Rob Lloyd) and is certainly relevant and confronting. Carol Smith gives a raw and truthful performance as the modern woman in wartime, and Rob Llyod is chilling and threatening as her lover. The setting is stark and cold, complemented by a subtle sound scape, creating a harsh reality for what begins looking like a love scene.

Passion, by Edward Bond and directed by Harry Meech, features a dead soldier, the prime minister, the Queen, Jesus, Buddha and a crazed wizard. Nick Zwart gives a particularly strong performance as the dead soldier (that’s not a harsh joke—he actually has a monologue) and there’s a dramatic reveal of a real meaty pig’s head on a crucifix. I only wish it could have been brought closer to the audience so we could really revel in its offensiveness.

All three directors, the casts and production team, Uther Dean (lighting and sound), Hannah Banks (stage management and costume design) and Paul Waggott (set design and publicity) must be commended for putting together three interesting pieces of theatre in just a few weeks. It bodes well for the next nine plays the students of the course will produce over the rest of the trimester!

Impact I Collision
Three plays produced by Victoria University Theatre Department and the students of Theatre 304
Written by Caryl Churchill, Mark Ravenhill and Edward Bond
Directed by Ben Albert, Mitch Tawhi Thomas and Harry Meech
Studio 77
7pm, 19-22 August 2009

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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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