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September 5, 2011 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Chalk

The self-devised piece now showing at BATS is the brainchild of Isla Adamson (winner of Standout performer at the Wellington Fringe 2010) and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu (winner of Best Performance in Theatre in the Auckland Fringe 2011), two superb writers who have already received critical acclaim for their previous show Ruby Tuesday.

Isla and Josephine tell the story of a group of people in an Auckland retirement home where no one seems particularly at home. Nina Reihana has her bags packed to be taken back to her family, waiting for her nephew to come. She strikes up a friendship with the quiet Alice, a young girl who has come to get to know her dying grandmother, Mrs Lemon, before she passes. The Ja’mie-esque Karen steals from the residents and toys with high-strung Clint, who has created a stamp to brand all members of the Shady Meadows clan so they will never be lost. Heather, the Kath and Kim-esque manager, deals with Sukhdeep’s issues of racism from the guests while Glynn faces a visit from her 16-year-old granddaughter who has come with her boyfriend and their newborn baby looking to cash in on their grandmother.

Confined to a chalk square in the centre of BATS, the set is minimalistic and sparse; two red chairs are the only other adornments. This aids the quick-change style of theatre which, along with comically brilliant performances, details the characters. Isla’s and Josephine’s physicality and adaptation of the voices morphs them smoothly from character to character; especially in the inspired moment where Karen fondles Jason’s hair, two characters both played by Josephine.

This charmingly clever play makes us look at the generation gap and consider the worth of rest homes for the elderly. The treatment of the residents to seem like inmates who can’t escape, whose lives are confined to a small chalk square, makes us examine the idea that these places shouldn’t be the resting place for the elderly who “come here to die.”
Beautifully constructed and skilfully performed, this show was a delight to watch from its opening to its close.

Chalk
By Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu
23 – 27 August at BATS Theatre

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