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March 10, 2014 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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For the graduating class of Toi Whakaari, the 20-minute self-devised solo performances shown as part of the Go Solo season serve as a sample of what they can offer the professional theatre world. In this regard, having Keagan Carr Fransch, Susie Berry and Brynley Stent perform their solos again in 3×20 at BATS proves that it has been successful.

Keagan Carr Fransch opens the show with Waiting for GodDoor, a study of different personalities seen in the confines of a waiting room. Carr Fransch cleverly uses distinct physicalities and voices to snap between the different characters we meet, which range from a talkative, confident Hispanic woman who dreams of running her own hair salon, a mute Bangladeshi orphan and a Martin Luther King–esque preacher. They all tell the receptionist why they deserve to have their appointment now, but it is never clear what the group is waiting for in the first place. Fulfilment? Asylum? A literal doctor’s appointment? Carr Fransch’s disparate characterisations ensure that the ending is as ambiguous as she intended.

Susie Berry continues the show with her own physically stylised Journey to the Drive Thru. Berry uses hip-hop choreography and a mishmash of songs to jump between scenes of her driving, squeezing into a pair of jeans, trying to resist the temptation of eating the banana hidden under her desk at work. It soon becomes apparent that her unhealthy relationship with food is the key issue here. While Berry’s precise movements are successful in capturing her various emotions of frustration and temptation, I can’t help but think that setting the action to aggressive songs like ‘New Slaves’ to show the food’s level of control over her is a cop-out that could have instead been a chance to give her character a voice.

The highlight of the show for me was the character that Brynley Stent shows us in the final piece, Buy Anything… Except for That. With a Southern drawl and the occasional grit of the teeth, an old, dishevelled woman walks onto the stage carrying a tower of trinkets on her back. She tries to sell us each one with a story of its origin – “Andre Agassi’s old racket” that he used to “kill Confederates in the Civil War” is a special standout. At times it feels that these quirks, while charming, could cause her to be just another ‘batty old crone’ trope, but the violent stories behind these objects ensure that her characterisation is nuanced enough to be not just funny, but heartfelt and strong.

Without having seen Go Solo 2013, it is unclear why these three different pieces made the cut to be performed at BATS together, but until I find out, I am happy to just assume they were simply chosen because they are a great showcase of the acting and devising talents of tomorrow.

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  1. Sarah says:

    Having recently seen performances by RADA graduates in the UK, it was interesting seeing this performance a few weeks ago. To compare the two institutions would be unfair, but i was pleasantly surprised by this offering. The first and final pieces were well rounded and unexpected as well as well acted. Much like this reviewer, it was the middle piece that fell a little short for me. While i admire the actress’s guts in publicly confronting an issue that is an issue for her, i can’t help but feel that she relied too heavily on worn chiches, rather than using her piece as a chance to say something original. As a result, this particular segment dragged on a bit, and utimately felt a bit like a pity party for a character that felt insipid and so passive she didn’t have the strength to think for herself so let Kanye do it for her.

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