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March 1, 2010 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Fringe so far

Theatre

So for the past two weeks or so the 2010 Fringe Festival has been spilled across Wellington’s theatres, bars, backrooms, streets, cafes and any other cultural orifice it can slither its way into. You can feel it. It’s in the air. Like a haze of art sticking to your skin in the pervasive (if erratic) summer sun. It’s as intoxicating as it can be all-pervading.

The overwhelming feeling of this Fringe so far has been of the work in process. This is a Fringe of workshops and labs. Everything seems just a slight bit more raw than usual. That is, of course, when you consider the inherently rough and ready nature of the Fringe, saying something. A lot of the works I have seen so far have carried with them a rough edge and a heady inspiration that speaks not so much of great work, but great potential. The Fringe now seems to be more of a springboard for ideas and groups than a platform for finished work than it ever has been. At least that I remember. This brings the Fringe through with the coiled spring of the coming, rather than the deep explosion of the present, and that is by no means a bad thing. That people are giving their ideas to air before an audience before putting them fully on their feet means that the future reincarnations of the work are to be all the stronger. If there is any one thing to be taken from this Fringe so far, it is that 2010 is going to be an exciting and diverse year for the theatre in Wellington.

As always, the shiny head of site-specific theatre has raised its eyebrows. This year, with almost universal success, Who’s Neat? You! took place in a five-tonne truck parked behind BATS and was a scathing dismemberment of the Life Education classes of every Kiwi’s youth. The cast of Erin Banks, Ralph McCubbin Howell and Paul Harrop all showed a brilliant sense of comedy, while never neglecting their more dramatic chops. Director Alex Lodge made smart use of the space, managing to squeeze both claustrophobia and nostalgia out of a forbidding metal box. Salon took place in a hair salon. Working as a prequel to 2007 Fringe hit Hotel (guess where that was performed), it mixed marvelous performances with a harsh and fresh emotional truth somewhat undeserved of its occasionally soap operatic plot and distracting soundscape.

Goldilocks and the Three Queers found a small basement on Dixon Street and made it very much a corner of San Francisco in the 70s. While in desperate need of a script editor and stricter grip on pace (some performances reportedly ran over forty minutes longer than the advertised hour), it was full of good ideas and its return to BATS in April is something to be excited about. The Immortals took over BATS’ pit bar for half an hour every night. Dan Slevin slickly treated the audience to his rendition of a Martin Amis short story. He owned every inch of that bar, as an immortal man sharing forth his skewed perspective on the whole of human history. It proved what a deliciously intimate space the Pit can be and it’s good to see that there is one more show in the Fringe in there (Sun Drugs) and hopefully more in the future.

There has also been a delightful trend of companies presenting in the Fringe lesser-known or lesser-performed theatrical styles to its much more ready-to-experiment audience. back/words at BATS was an exploration of verbatim theatre. The actors aim to exactly imitate the words and performances of interview subjects. While there were many areas for improvement, the very valor of this show’s existence is to be admired. Buffoon’s Birthday presented, again at BATS, the exaggerated animalistic clowning that is Buffonary. In a lively, if incoherent and one notes, forty minutes, this show demonstrated—as if we needed reminding—that humans playing humans on stage is not the be-all and end-all of the theatrical spectrum. While it may not be everybody’s thing, it’s great to see niche theatrical ideas getting airings in the Fringe. Aphelion worked very hard to defy description, being a cello-based video puppet show with hallucinatory images of flowers, birds and possessed children. It was just as twisted and awesome as you think it would be.

BATS, as always, remains the central hub of the Fringe, presenting such a diverse range of work ranging from the delightful (Pirates vs. Ninjas) to the more forgettable (What’s in a Man?) to the daring (Jangle) to the deeply disappointing (Irrepressable Urge) to the sublime (A Love Tail).

And so the Fringe goes on with at least a good hearty week left in it. Go out. Grab a programme. You’ll have a great time.

For this week, I recommend Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow, which is on at BATS Monday and Tuesday (the 1st and 2nd) at 8pm. But I would. Because I wrote and directed it. But I still think you’d really like it.

The Fringe website is www.fringe.co.nz.

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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  1. Baden Presley says:

    ‘Coiled spring of the coming’ = Utherian brilliance.

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