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A REFINED WORK OF UNTAINTED, CHILDLIKE PURITY

Print Version

Auckland Fringe 2013
One By One
Director/Producer: Pedro Ilgenfritz

at Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland
From 26 Feb 2013 to 2 Mar 2013
[1hr 10mins]

Reviewed by Nik Smythe, 27 Feb 2013


Even before the performers enter, the abstract spatial duotone of set /costume /props designer Rachel Walker's black and white set design is already preparing our minds for the odd little world of the ensuing tale.  It (the set) is essentially black, with two white square stools and a long white bench, plus the striking and intriguing effect of a number of white stripes across the floor that rise up as separate ribbons at the rear, all on different angles and crossing over each other. 

To our right on the stage is a busy looking collection of instruments, shortly to be employed by two veteran musicians: Nigel Gavin, and musical director John Ellis.  From their opening slow, tender piano refrain the duet is on task, punctuating every scene and gesture with their accomplished and eclectic aural stylings.

Upon said refrain a distinctly sad, pretty girl with long brown hair, dress and woolly hat in pale earth tones that subtly contrast with the colourless set, enters and sits mournfully on the bench.  Next a skinny, spiky-blond lad in check shirt and stripy vest (daring!), pale green pants and white sneakers, swaggers on looking pretty pleased with himself. When he spots the girl his life is changed forever.

Under the sure hand of director Pedro Ilgenfritz, the company clearly shares a passion for telling stories at the most basic level of the human condition where hearts are worn on the sleeve, and even states of confusion or indecision appear oddly clear-cut. 

Katie Burson is equally comical and pitiable as the anxious apple of her avid suitor's eye: sad, wounded, easier to worry and confuse than she is to please.  In contrast Cole Jenkins encapsulates all the determination, optimism, humour and fragility of your typical young man in love.

On reading the programme later on I note these wretched would-be romantic characters have names - Bonnie and Marty – which are not revealed in the play; nor do they need to be.  The only words ever indicated in the entire voiceless creation are in the evidently bad news given in the girl's secret letter.

From time to time the plucky duo not only break the fourth wall, they climb right through it to enter our space and occasionally even drag audience members back into theirs for some charming interactive shenanigans.  They're also not above breaking the side walls either, cueing the versatile musicians to alter the current score to styles that befit their immediate wont, as though having a deferential live soundtrack to one's life was normal as choosing an outfit to wear. 

Eschewing the more standard driving-narrative approach where you get the point and move on, Bonnie and Marty, and John and Nigel, take their time to let us realise the complexity beneath the simple surface.  For the most part they are pitch perfect, though there are a couple of poignantly still/slow moments of pathos that I feel run a little too long.

Nonetheless – and my ten year old son agrees – in this crazy modern world of cynical, sleazy, post-post modernism, it's a welcome refreshment to observe a refined work of such untainted, childlike purity. 
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BREAKING NEWS - AS AT 4.30PM WED 27 JAN 2013:

Hi all, due to an accident with one of our performers we have had to cancel tonights show (wed 27th). If you have a ticket booked for tonight, The Edge will be in contact with you about transfering your ticket to another night. The plan is to resume the show tomorrow night as scheduled. Thanks to everyone for the support :)


See also reviews by:
 Matt Baker
 Lexie Matheson