SATIRICAL HUMOUR IN ‘PEACH’ OF A PLAY
at Meteor Theatre, Hamilton
1 Oct 2011
Reviewed by Gail Pittaway, 4 Oct 2011
Stagecraft is an after-school theatre school conducted at Hamilton's historic Riverlea Theatre, which has already fostered the talent of several current stage and screen performers in NZ. It runs weekly classes for junior and senior students, as well as adult classes, where games and exercises build up performance skills and acting techniques and each class produces a final performance each term.
This piece is the culminating performance of the senior secondary class, directed by local theatre practitioner Andrew Kaye. The production is as much a fine vehicle for his directing skills as it is an opportunity for him to coach a new generation of young performers for the future. Although there is no programme and no individual performers are named, they are clearly of varying abilities and talent, but Kaye has guided and directed them skilfully to allow each have a moment in the spotlight, and for all to learn the fun and value of ensemble work.
Desperate Antics is a highly entertaining satirical piece, attributed to NZ writer and actor Kevin Keys, but in fact owing a great deal of credit to the Christian creed which he parodies relentlessly – both in text and ritual. Keys has had several gigs with the NZ Symphony Orchestra doing introductions to the orchestra or storytelling work, so is clearly familiar with younger minds and humour. The show nonetheless has strong appeal to an older audience who are more likely to know the original biblical texts he parodies especially, as the play explores modern consumer society and the new religion of “Fad”: “In the beginning was the word and the word was ‘Fad'.”
It focuses in particular upon two young people, James and Jessica, two strong and capable leads, from infancy to adulthood, and how each is guided into gender identity by advertising, media and consumerism, without question. However, despite not always conforming to these stereotypes and ideals – well especially James – the play follows how their personalities evolve and eventually find each other, imperfect but loved.
The troupe pace, flop, prance and parade around the stage with tight formation, dipping in and out of chorus, solo, character and even taking on functions as set and props. There's a high energy gym scene where one group replicates a rowing machine and another a treadmill. Nothing occurs onstage that can't be carried or represented by contorting the body or massing a group into a form.
It's lovely to see a good piece of choreography in chorus work, which is what the word originally meant, as well as strongly guided voice and movement. Although the outcome is a product of classes, so that parents will feel that their dollars have been well spent, it's great, too, to see these young minds and bodies engaged in a piece which suits their questioning age and offering a strong message in a humorous way.
With this peach of a play and its satirical content, it's a well-chosen piece for this Fringe festival. The cast appears to be having tremendous fun –with Kaye's help they've worked hard and well to create that highest form of theatrical being; a company.
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