SUBTLY EMPLOYED CREATIVE FLAIR PRODUCES A GEM
NZ Fringe Festival 2013|
DEFINITION OF ME
written and performed by Alexander Sparrow, Stevie Hancox-Monk, George Fenn and Charlie Pleasants
at Private Home (directions given upon booking), Wellington
From 4 Mar 2013 to 9 Mar 2013
Reviewed by John Smythe, 5 Mar 2013
Surprise parties can have unexpected results, especially when the birthday person doesn't turn up, and Definition Of Me is some of them.
What is a person anyway? “What pieces of work are people?” as a less poetic Bard might have said. What at first seems like a random series of whimsical vignettes, played out to fill in time while waiting, achieves coherence by wrapping itself around that abiding existential conundrum.
I'm guessing it's not a coincidence that the lullaby sung to a couple's newborn baby is ‘Frère Jacque'. Given two of the creator /performers – Alexander Sparrow and Stevie Hancox-Monk – are recent alumni of the Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ Young Shakespeare Company, we may well describe Definition Of Me as this quartet's take on Jacques' famous riff on the seven ages of man, in As You Like It.
The other two creator /performers are George Fenn and Charlie Pleasants (Stevie and Charlie being female, by the way). In a tiny venue up a steep flight of stairs in upper Cuba Street, all four team up in various combinations to “play many parts”, their acts being 14 by my count, book-ended by the surprise party waiting game.
What's in a name? Picking a team. The timidity of the wannabe predator. A posh restaurant meal discombobulated by memories. Tattoos. Cat or dog? Leaving home. Is this the right relationship? A job interview. The end of year party before a next year of big change. A woman's health issue juxtaposed with children playing mothers and fathers. A hair style crisis. What is being old really like (including the confusing shifts in language)? What to say at the grave side …
This list does not give the show away because it is the intriguingly minimalist way they blend naturalism and abstraction in making the ordinary seem absurd and the absurd seem ordinary that makes it all so compelling. And the way word or object-association is used to transition from one phase to the next, not to mention the way props are used within the scenes. And the use of the space, including the actual windows and outside balcony …
Of course the extreme intimacy of the venue makes it engaging in ways that may not transfer to a larger venue, and it's tempting to say that if it did do that, to attract the audience it deserves, a directorial ‘outside eye' may be in order. But it must be added that “this strange eventful history” avoids almost all the pitfalls that group devised and directed theatre risk falling into.
In short, Definition Of Me captures the abiding uncertainties of human existence with subtly employed creative flair. It is one of the gems we always hope to discover in the Fringe.
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