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August 1, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Young and Hungry 2011

For Johnny

Johnny, the charismatic ringleader of a recently graduated high school clique, is dead. When news of this reaches his friends while they are on a camping trip, each member of the group must re-evaluate not only their feelings for Johnny but for each other too. What saves For Johnny from being a big old cliché, in regards to the script itself, is Hereaka’s decision to present us with the story through a series of illuminating flashbacks which pique the audience’s interest to great effect. Eleanor Bishop’s direction elegantly eases the transitions between past and present, as do the actors’ commitment to their performances. Sometimes too much is done to highlight a transition and the effect becomes messy and cumbersome, such as the decision to have Millie awkwardly don her school tie whenever we leave the present moment and head to the schoolroom. Greater trust should be put in the audience to realise when a scene occurs in the past. Te Aihe Butler is particularly enthralling in the title role and Rose Guise’s portrayal of Kat, the stereotypically bitchy Head Girl, was also a highlight. Although the script has a tendency to bludgeon the ‘point’ of a scene to death with superfluous dialogue, a palpable unity within the cast generally distracts us from this. Incredibly thoughtful lighting and a set of draped green fabric were hugely successful in expressing shift in mood and created some sublime images onstage; the sunset which the actors walk into at the close of the play and the beauty of the glitter on a blue sheet, ingeniously representative of a river, just about blew my mind. *

Hearts Encoded

Can you love someone you’ve never met in real life? What’s so special about reality or ‘Meat Space’ anyway? The themes which Aaron Alexander deals with in Hearts Encoded are complex to say the least and, at a time in which many of us communicate on a daily basis through the Internet, the issues it raises are particularly topical. I found the play accessible despite having not had much experience in 3D virtual worlds and enjoyed conventions, such as having the actors all speak facing the audience while addressing one another, which emphasised virtual reality. Acushla-Tara Sutton as Butterpink Butterboo gives a wonderfully strong performance and the entire cast’s commitment to the physicality of their avatar characters has great impact. The red curtains, bar and backlit panels which make up the set look sparse and, the panels in particular, are moved awkwardly. I was told that it is common in virtual reality for the environment to appear shabby in relation to the avatars and, although the characters were costumed beautifully, the drab nature of the set resulted in its destruction from technical glitches carrying little dramatic weight. I wonder whether theatre is the most appropriate medium for a play so steeped in the virtual world when film would allow for much more impressive visual effects. Yet when I voiced this thought to William O’Neil, a Young and Hungry kid himself in past years, he argued that we were able to observe the intriguing parallels between an actor’s relationship with their character and a person’s involvement with an avatar. *


I’m remarkably easy to scare. Seriously. I considered asking someone else to review Young and Hungry simply because I suspected I might make a silly duck of myself by screaming in a play about a zombie apocalypse devastating Wellington. More farcical than frightening, however, Disorder proved to be a riot of gore which inspired me to laugh more often than not. The plot is by far too convoluted for a one-hour show but it allows for some delightful cameo performances before the characters are savaged to death by a horde of highly convincing zombies. To be honest, though, I wanted to be scared. I wanted zombies to creep through the audience and burst out of doorways. I wanted more blood and I wanted to be scared that it might get sprayed on my beautiful coat. Don’t get me wrong; there was blood and it was interesting to watch the white panels of the set become steadily more covered with the stuff over the course of the show but I wanted more. Disorder needed to take a cue from Sean of the Dead and decide whether it would revel in the glorious ridiculousness of zombies or create a post-apocalyptic drama about the horrific things people can do to one another in extreme circumstances. An audience who is laughing at a farcical romp will forgive a poorly-executed fake stabbing while an audience who has witnessed an implied rape probably won’t.

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  1. Jacoby says:

    Woah nelly, how about them aeplps!

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