A WORK IN PROGRESS
Devised by Aaron Cortesi, Jo Randerson & Cast
Written by Jo Randerson
Directed by Aaron Cortesi
LONG CLOUD YOUTH THEATRE
at BATS, Wellington
From 23 May 2012 to 9 Jun 2012
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman, 25 May 2012
originally published in The Dominion Post
Devised works can be a mixed bag and while often they give the opportunity for a cast and director and sometimes writers to explore issues and themes in a collaborative way the process of getting to the final product is often more productive than the product itself.
Such is the case with Assisted Living from Long Cloud Youth Theatre currently showing at BATS.
It is one of those productions that defies description and whatever label is put on it is probably nothing like what the group intended. Coming across very much as a work in progress that has the potential to develop, the cast of 18 young actors are assembled on stage when the audience come in and there they stay. And in essence that is all the play is; a group of actors on stage.
For one hour these young people are entombed in a stage totally covered in glad wrap, including the fourth wall between the actors and the audience, with a piano that a couple of the actors tinkle on and a large mattress that every once in a while an actor punches to release his or her aggression.
In between the actors are either wondering about aimlessly playing to themselves rather than the audience with the odd line of dialogue or laying down in a heap on the floor supposedly asleep.
The premise is that this is a group of 20 something's exploring what it would be like to live as a group away from all the influences of the outside world. That is until, as is the want in such situations, friction occurs and certain members want out. As a group therapy exercise it would have been fine but whether it constitutes theatre that a paying audience would want to see is debatable.
There were however members of the audience with whom the play appeared to resonate and who reacted with laughter at what were often genuinely funny moments. And there was some form of structure in that changing time between standing and lying was indicated by a lamp moving around the stage and there was evidence of developing tension from the passivity of the opening to the aggression at the end. But loose, unfocused direction of the group negated much of what was trying to be achieved.
Given the excellent track record of writer Jo Randerson and director Aaron Cortesi and the number of memorable productions that Long Cloud Youth Theatre has brought to the stage over the past years, it seems strange that a production such has this has been allowed to see the light of day.
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