DELICIOUSLY LACONIC, FUNNY AND CAPTIVATING
Arts On Tour New Zealand (AOTNZ) 2012|
The Intricate Art of Actually Caring
By Eli Kent
Directed by Eleanor Bishop
THE PLAYGROUND COLLECTIVE
at Alexandra Room, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth
17 Jun 2012
[1 hr 15 mins, no interval]
Reviewed by Ngaire Riley, 19 Jun 2012
Jack starts with a verbal cogitation on a rug. He philosophises on and abuses it. There's evidence of breadth and depth in his ruminations – maybe an animal had to die for this rug. There's poetry and mundane reality – “now I spill my beer on this rug from Rajasthan or Turkey”.
He then turns his eyes to us and muses “was that good? Did I seem sincere?” And morosely deliberates the reply, “Kind of,” tossed in from one of the audience, in a Winnie the Pooh kind of way. There is a sharing of life, suffering, laughter and soul in this performance, from beginning to end.
Two ‘21year olds' take us on a road trip that comes from a death and becomes a kind of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the New Zealand one, and a word on a stone. Words. The story is deliciously rich with words, in a Hamlet sort of way.
It's a performance that teems with imagery, not just from words, but also drawings and light and water and colour. This voyage explores death and love and god and caring and pacificism and bravery and being a bloke and friendship, in a real, irreverent and charming way. It's the best 75 minutes I've experienced for a long time.
The script is like pastry. Layer upon layer of resonance is built through sound, symbol, historical and literary references, flashbacks and – like a good Kiwi pie – it teams with succulent, rich flavours. For example in ‘Chapter 2 – Bad Audition' Eli is caught in a camera light like a rabbit in the headlights. And just like an animal, we see that he is unable to think. He is stunned by the death of his friend. On their journey road-kill jolts the travellers. It's funny and a concrete reminder of the impulse for their journey. The travellers are also forced to confront their own road-kill and ultimately their grief for a dead friend. Yet the angst is lightly and intricately handled.
The characters are deliciously laconic. There's a sense of the deadpan of Abbot and Costello, my son and his mates, and the musings of Beckett's Gogo and Didi. The constant juxtaposition of clever, witty, profound, raw words is contrasted with the cartoonish graphics on the OHTs. A flashback to memories of Wellington is recounted against a rolling Wellington sky line then pulled back to reality with, “My dreams only reach as high as the head on my next beer.” It sounds trite but the opposite is true. It's funny and captivating.
Congratulations Eleanor Bishop, Eli Kent, Jack Shadbolt and team. I can't wait for the next PlayGround Collective performance.
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Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);
Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
Helen Sims (The Lumiere Reader);
John Smythe (2)
Gail Pittaway (Waikato Times);
Ewen Coleman (The Dominion Post);
Kirsty van Rijk