A MILDLY ENTERTAINING, OFTEN AMUSING PLAY
By Penelope Skinner
Directed by Paul Gittins
Presented by (potent pause) Productions
at BATS, Wellington
From 25 Sep 2012 to 29 Sep 2012
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman, 27 Sep 2012
originally published in The Dominion Post
The perception that what we see is not always what we get, especially in relationships, appears to be at the heart of English playwright Penelope Skinner's Eigengrau. The title hints at this in an oblique way, being German for intrinsic grey, the colour seen in perfect darkness.
What starts out as a comic scenario between four disparate and disconnected people, each looking for the elusive perfect partner, fighting what their head tells them over their heart, soon turns into a very graphic horror story that leaves nothing to the imagination.
First there is Cassie (Chelsea McEwen Millar), a parliamentary activist on women's rights and an ardent feminist, clinging to the ideals Germaine Greer trumpeted 30 years ago. She meets slick urbane PR man Mark (Calum Gittins) after his one-night-stand with her flatmate, the dizzy, away-with-the fairies Rose (Michelle Blundell).
Being a self-confessed ladies' man and unbeknown to Rose, Mark decides to hit on Cassie, seeing her as a challenge to overcome her prejudices of the "typical" male. When he tells Rose it's all over between them she decides to use his flatmate Tim (Simon Ward), an overweight loser grieving over his dead Nan, to inveigle her way into their flat. Unbeknown to Rose, Tim falls in love with her during her buttering him up to get into their flat.
A mildly entertaining and often amusing play, it is nevertheless difficult to know what it is trying to achieve or where it is going, other than showing the deprivation people will go to for love.
However, the strong cast under director Paul Gittins' slick direction makes the ludicrousness of the characters and their situations as believable as possible and creates some moments of real tension, especially towards the end.
In particular, Blundell gives a wonderful performance as the daft and dippy Rose, who actually ends up the sanest of the four, but who has to do some extraordinary things on stage in order to get there. Her ability at conveying the flightiness of Rose coupled with the character's vulnerability was exemplary.
And Mark, the cad who can never see his own faults, is well portrayed with an air of arrogant confidence by Gittins, making this rather strange play one that is nevertheless interesting to watch.
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