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DARK, LYRICAL URBAN TALE BEST OF MIXED BUNCH

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YOUNG and HUNGRY 09 Wellington
OYSTER by Vivienne Plumb
Directed by Rachel More
SIT ON IT by Georgina Titheridge
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
URBAN HYMNS by Miria George
Directed by Fiona Truelove

at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
From 10 Jul 2009 to 25 Jul 2009
[50 mins each play]

Reviewed by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Med, 13 Jul 2009
originally published in The Dominion Post

This is the 15th year that Young and Hungry has been running at BATS - which for the first is also running concurrently in Auckland. The three plays, all new works from NZ writers, are as diverse as ever.

The early evening play is Vivienne Plumb's Oyster about a disparate group of youngsters finding their way in the world from school through to chosen career paths. Of differing backgrounds and social status and each with different agenda's in life, ultimately under their youthful outer hard edged exterior each is as soft and delicate as an oyster and just as vulnerable. 

On a cleverly designed set by Sarah Burrell, Plumb's quirky, rapid fire dialogue is given a spirited production by Rachel More and her cast of nine actors. The cast all bring an honesty and truthfulness to their characters making them real and believable, even though the pace of the lines made them inaudible at times.

The middle play of the evening, and the least satisfying, is the comedy Sit On It by George Titheridge, about the goings on in a women's toilet. 

Joel Cocks realistically grungy set of three toilet cubicles and 2 washbasins contrasts well with his loud garish costumes but it's hard to believe that the shallow vacuous characters are based on anything real. The play is nothing more than a group of stereotypical "thick chicks" - and a couple of guys - talking loudly about nothing in particular. 

The play is funny in places, but also exceedingly gross in others, and mildly entertaining . The energetic cast under Lyndee-Jane Rutherford's direction appear to enjoy themselves but the constant over-acting and facial grimaces became tedious long before the play finished.

The final play of the night was a gripping and compelling piece of theatre by Miria George called Urban Hymns, which was given an edgy and gritty production by director Fiona Truelove and her cast of eight. 

Joseph is cash strapped when he loses his after school job so jumps at the chance of his mates Tobias's idea of earning extra money.  But they don't reckon on the urban jungle they live in or the characters they encounter in trying to get their scheme off the ground. As a consequence it eventually all goes up in flames, literally. 

The poetry of Hone Tuwhare woven throughout the play gives it an unusual lyricism, which coupled with a mesmerising musical beat made the production hauntingly surreal.

All the actors were able to bring meaning and clarity to the piece with focused and energised performances, moving lithely and cat-like around Tegan Dunn's darkly symbolic and evocative set when not part of the action, making this the highlight of this years Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre.
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See also reviews by:
 John Smythe
 Uther Dean (Salient);