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September 5, 2010 | by  | in Theatre |
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DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE.

Serial killer Ted Bundy just did not get why people were so concerned about his crimes. He’s quoted as saying, while on death row, that he didn’t think his victims would be missed because, “after all, there are so many people”.

I’m not going to go into the plot, but the “so many people” idea crops up a number of times in DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE. In one scene a character talks about taking the wrong bus and winding up in an area of town populated by a suburban mass of humanity from which he is totally disconnected. When we are surrounded by people, we can feel the most alone. Thor Heyerdahl was asked if the loneliness got to him when he was in the middle of the ocean on the Kon-Tiki. He replied it was nothing compared to the loneliness he felt walking around Wellington. And Wellington is where we are for this, My Accomplice‘s second devised show, following on from the decidely more upbeat Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow, which played at BATS earlier this year.

Well, it’s Wellington and it’s not. What we have here is another Notwellington. It’s not the Notwellington of Eagle vs Shark, not the Notwellington of Stickmen, and not the Notwellington of Once Upon a Time in Aro Valley, but it has some similarities to the Notwellington of Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants, another BATS show in which some of the key players here were participants, and which gets a mention in the director’s notes. Like that show, we have inward-looking characters rubbing up against a world which is just too bright/efficient/anonymous/stressful for them, and in some way being swallowed by their environs.

The Notwellington here is peopled with people not helping people. Then again, most seem to be their own worst enemy. Kate Clarkin’s Emma is a stubborn mistranphrope who overdramatises her life in order to maintain power over her flatmate, the put-upon Lydia, played with heart and, eventually, hopelessness, by Hannah Banks. When help is offered, it is either false – early in the piece Owen Baxendale plays a type of Tony Robbins Jnr., imploring those gathered at the Newtown Community Centre to part with their cash in exchange for the promise of a better, brighter life – or the requests are denied.

As with Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow, there is often an uneasy tension between humour and pathos. Some of the stand-alone gags are great – my favourite being the ‘Morepork man’ – and some of the heightened sequences within vignettes are a treat. However, jokes often feel like jokes, popping up out of nowhere to give us a chuckle. There is a physical sequence in a cafe scene which works well, offering something visually interesting and serving both mood and theme. There is also an extended sequence where one actor takes on the roles of all but one of the characters with whom he interacts. I enjoyed it a lot. But I wasn’t quite sure what it was doing there. I don’t know if we got any more information out of the exercise, and I question it being employed at such a pivotal moment plot-wise. Things get dark in the world of DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE., but aside from Emma and Lydia, none of the characters really seem to show much development.

Paul Waggott’s oderly, while engaging, is held at pretty much the same level the whole way through. Elle Wootton’s fitness freak Claire is effervescent in just the right, bland way, and believable in a situation which some audience members may struggle to give credence. Theo Taylor makes a swell work-a-day journo, and an absolutely smashing attention-seeking housecat. A note should also be made of Baxendale’s Biblio Cafe worker, who adds authenticity by going just the right distance over the top.

The bizarre story which gave Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow its bones let the company roll around in the devising process and deliver a potpourri of memorable stage images, snappy gags and broadly-drawn incidental characters. All are present again here, but the darker, more grounded subject matter demands more cohesion. Yellow was a shaggy dog story, but DOORS feels shaggier. The show’s intriguing set (which seems to make the BATS space DEEPER, a feat in itself), subtle lighting and thoughtful costuming help, even though you are never sure what it is exactly that you’re watching. In his director’s notes, Uther Dean says DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE. is just one of the many shows which could have eventuated from the process and, though all the story strands are tied up, the whole feels as if it lacks a centre. But so do records. Records like White Light/White Heat by the Velvet Underground. And if you’re in the mood, that’s some spooky, rocking shit.

DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE.
devised by the company
dir. Uther Dean
perf. Hannah Banks, Owen Baxendale, Kate Clarkin, Theo Taylor, Paul Waggott and Eleanor Wootton

At BATS, 6.30pm, 2 – 11 September 2010 (No Sun/Mon)
$18/$13
book@bats.co.nz / (04) 802 4175

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