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April 2, 2010 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Elimination Rounds

Theatre

Elimination Rounds: The Return of the Panda Suit.

I loved Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish in Fringe 2009, but left the first iteration of Animal Hour last year feeling apathetic. Too long, said my $13-poorer self, too much recurring material. The Voice of Reason (my more-forgiving theatre-stalking companion) talked me down from the edge: it was a development we must remember, and Binge Culture have been the first kids to walk barefoot over the hot coals in Wellington, treading where few have gone before and doing it in a giant panda costume (or in no costume at all—bless you, Simon Haren). Given Binge Culture’s penchant for the obscure, I could be forgiven for my apprehension about Elimination Rounds: Ralph Upton and Joel Baxendale’s re-working and tying together of Drowning Bird and Animal Hour.

But apparently the milky bars are on me, Animal Hour has been nipped, tucked and waxed in all the right places. Gone are the needlessly protracted scenes of human mauling, replaced by a darkly comic, shorter and meatier rendition well reworked by Fiona McNamara. The menacing musicians are back with a vengeance as Idol-style judges and game-show host (Upton) oozes sleazy TV studio enthusiasm, before cracking under the pressure and having it out with the contestants and judges.

In this ode to the increasing alienation of Gen Y and the reliance on modern media to express ourselves, Binge Culture has exceeded expectations. We’re left to wonder whether humans and animals really are that different. Observing Animal Hour as a distilled take on raw human behaviour, we could easily conclude that Gen Y is more interested in using opposable thumbs for texting, Facebook and YouTube. Is technology (in this context, modern media) the only thing that makes us better than animals? As promised, Binge Culture leaves us to figure it out ourselves.

While the subtle changes and additions throughout Animal Hour made for a much more comprehensible link between the two, we really should have been forced out during the interval—the option was given, “leave if you want, we’ve got some stuff to do… but we don’t care if you stick around”, but most regular theatregoers know that if you’re not kicked out, it’s because there’s something worth sticking around for. Ignore us, Binge Culture! Get those freaky as shit judges to muscle us out into the BATS foyer where we belong. The set of Drowning Bird is so much more impressive if you haven’t seen it put together—though I still managed to miss Joel sneaking inside that box. Haren’s interval-filler transition from nervous game show contestant to drunken philosophiser was truly bizarre, though perhaps necessary for the tie over into Drowning Bird.

Between 8:54 pm till 9:31 we suffered the afterparty. This really isn’t anything to do with the show itself (it stems principally, I think from the fact I’ve already seen it), but Drowning Bird, the second coming seemed (in comparison to the reworking of Animal Hour) lacklustre. To their credit, Binge Culture kept things topical, the humour was fresh and the interrogation nearly as horrifying—no one can provoke an audience reaction like Binge Culture can. It’s the rawness of Drowning Bird that makes it such a great concept. The “status update” boxes and enactments (especially Joel Baxendale’s shy box-bound musings) create a truly unique show, though perhaps a somewhat too obscure comedown following the explosiveness of Animal Hour.

All in all, Binge Culture Collective are truly a treat to watch. You’ll laugh, you’ll wince… you’ll never think of saveloys the same again. Whether you’ve seen their previous shows as standalone works or you’ve never even heard of them, you’ll get your money’s worth and something to put in your Facebook status from Elimination Rounds.

Elimination Rounds
by Binge Culture
directed by Joel Baxendale (
Animal Hour) and Ralph Upton (Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish)
With Claire O’Loughlin, Joel Baxendale, Ralph Upton, Simon Haren, Fiona McNamara, Rachel Baker, Gareth Hobbs, Jake Baxendale, Steph Cairns and Rose Guise.

At BATS, 30 March – 1 April 2010

Elimination Rounds will be in Auckland at the Basement theatre from the 6th to the 10th of April. Tell your Bucklame friends they should go. Because they should.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Nell Guy says:

    The milky bars are on you! Who are you and where do I find you? Awesome review!

  2. A Fangirl says:

    <3 Simon, he is so pretty.

    *swoon*

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