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May 13, 2013 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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The Water Station – Interview

THEA323 students Michael Hebenton and Maggie White sat down with Salient to chat about their upcoming Kiwi-produced, Asian-infused theatre performance. It is completely student-designed, and performed under the supervision and direction of Dr Megan Evans.

The Water Station, by playwright Ōta Shōgo, runs from Tuesday 14 to Saturday 18 May, at Victoria University’s Studio 77, and promises to be a unique theatrical experience on the Wellington arts calendar.

 

Do you think many people in the audience will be familiar with The Water Station coming into your performance?

Maggie: It’s very different to what this course normally produces. So it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m really interested in how it’s received. I don’t think there have been many renditions.

Michael: It’s been done once or twice in India and Japan, but it’s not a huge thing.

Maggie: This is the NZ premiere, actually, so that’s really exciting.

 

In that case what can you tell me about the play without giving away spoilers?

Maggie: Ōta Shōgo, who wrote the original in 1981 and has been practising for about 40 years now, is really big on exploring what he calls the ‘absolute journey’.

Michael: There are two verbs in Japanese for existing: one’s ‘iru’ and one’s ‘aru’. The term ‘iru’ talks about individual consciousness and making decisions, while the term ‘aru’ kind of refers to species-existence, so if you were to remove yourself from society and watch how a species acts.

 

The Water Station is a silent slow-motion performance, right?

Maggie: Basically, it’s language-less. In his early years of making theatre Ōta realised how inadequate spoken language is for communicating. So as Michael was saying, he had this idea that theatre should really make the audience step out metaphorically from the sort-of hustle and bustle of everyday life. The Water Station’s all about getting rid of social structures, because basically they just hinder communication.

When you have things in slow motion there’s this amazing thing how important really simple everyday tasks can become, and they become really fascinating. Even as a performer I’m not sure why but it is.

 

Where is the play set?

Maggie: Basically the play is set in this wasteland.

Michael: It feels like this really post-apocalyptic wasteland vague on the post-apocalypse.

Maggie: It’s even unclear in the script. But basically, there is a broken faucet that continually dribbles water. The play’s done in slow motion, and it’s got all these characters that come through, and so they all leave in the same way and come in the same way.

 

How true to the original play and Ōta Shōgo’s intentions for the performance would you say your adaptation is?

Maggie: We haven’t seen it in its totality yet, but hopefully we can achieve something of what he desired his theatre to do, which was to allow the audiences to leave the auditorium and be able to view life and their surroundings in much the same way to an astronaut coming back and viewing life completely differently, and feeling that human place within this absolute human life cycle.

Michael: I would say it’s spiritually true. In how we see it and we perceive it, we’re not taking that idea of how we think it originally went on and going “let’s go somewhere completely different”. We’re going “this is a really beautiful idea; let’s explore this idea for ourselves.”

Maggie: It’s very much a score rather than a script. While the original performance was being created, it was being documented, and so on our first reading we were like, “okay, it tells you everything you have to do that’s really sweet”. But we soon realised there were a lot of things it doesn’t tell you and so you do have to fill in the blanks for yourself. You’ve still got to invest something of yourself in it, and in your own reading and your own directions. So naturally it’s not identical to the original.

 

So you’re two weeks away from opening night; how’s everything coming together so far?

Maggie: It’s going to be a really, really interesting experience for the audience. We had our first full run-through last week, and it was quite breathtaking, because we had only seen it in bits and it’s been really exciting.

Michael: The idea of going to see a silent, slow-motion show is quite daunting. From our first run-through it’s still really rough; however, the feedback from outside people has been that it’s a really beautiful piece. I’m really confident that we’re going to absolutely develop that into something really inspiring.

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