SHORT ON CONCEPTUAL EVOLUTION
NZ Fringe Festival 2013|
Devised by Jared Kirkwood and Hannah Botha
at Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington
From 6 Mar 2013 to 9 Mar 2013
Reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford, 8 Mar 2013
Quake Productions, who bring God Knows to the Whitireia theatre on Vivian St, is well served by the Fringe Festival, as in, an invitation to ‘get experimental' and an open minded audience to present to. We, the audience, are in turn treated to 45 minutes of lightly comedic entertainment as devised by Jared Kirkwood and Hannah Botha and brought to life by a cast of seven and crew of one.
It is a playful idea, obviously brought together through a lot of hard work and imagination into a lively show, however it doesn't feel to me to have been given quite enough time or consideration in the developmental stages; to have evolved into something ‘fully upright', to drop in a low-brow pun relevant to our cave-dwelling context. And any production that subjects an audience to more than one protracted shouting match should crouch down and think again. Audiences deserve more.
I can see the attraction in the concept: let's examine the cave dwelling behaviour of our ancestors and hold this up against the antics of modern ‘man' specifically as they are played out in the board room; a favourite Petri dish for examining the farcical worst of modern times. And all in all, it is often entertaining, occasionally brave and some of the dialogue very witty.
But surely there is a bigger and or more specific point to be made than we are all very much as we were some thousands of years ago via a humour that relies heavily on plugging stereotypes: a firm convention of comedy but not particularly original. Facilitating the examination of human frailties in an exotic context certainly adds novelty but it is the more refined aspects of how we are with each other that is most exciting and, I believe, the real work of theatre and so of comedy.
The emphasis in God Knows is on driving home the two contrasting settings versus the development of a significant narrative or any real relationships. It seems that everyone clashes with everyone, save a couple of strategic alliances which deliver some of my favourite moments. For instance, early in the piece two hunched-over cavemen discover kissing. Their authentic curiosity and intrigue over this act is in equal measures touching and hilarious. They bring to mind a couple of tuatara finding a sugar bun. More of this slowed-down sort of investigation into what really exists between characters would lift the bar.
To share further on the format, the show is divided into two distinct scenes. When the lights initially come up, papier-mâché replicas of mountains and cave openings set us in the prehistoric outdoors. The solo female actor on stage, dressed aka Flintstones, further alerts us to our time travel back to Neanderthal days as promised in the promo. She is sitting in front of a blue cardboard lake washing herself – and the lake mysteriously – with a water bottle as can be found in the drinks section of any petrol station; unusual and amusing but more ambiguous than anything.
Three cavemen tumble out of the wings and, on seeing the cave-woman, hide themselves behind the only available greenery, that being two shrubs the size of a healthy bunch of parsley. All of this is very comic and the physical comedy of the actors in this scene is a real highlight of the show. Their responses lead me to assume the woman is a new invention. They are each afraid and curious and eventually riotously inappropriate in their treatment of her.
The king cave-thug eventually comes onto the scene and roars away the competition. He takes hold of the female newbie by the hair and – you guessed it – yanks, which feels more flat and stereotype than authentically connected to the narrative. He's just met her and she's gorgeous and completely unthreatening. Why would you yank? Maybe just a pet peeve sort of thing for me but I often feel the creators are more lurching between stereotypes than doing the hard work of looking for a fresh and engaging narrative thread. The drama is never allowed to unfold into something surprising once I pick up on its being about the beastly behaviour of mankind from start to finish.
I imagine that if the creative team involved had worried less about comedy and more about the honest exploration of an interesting theme they would have still found the comedy, given the company seems to have ‘funny' as their core vibe, but also might have diverged into more fascinating human dilemmas than choosing advertising concept one or three.
I enjoy the transition scene from cave to office where shirts and ties are pulled overtop scrappy loin cloths, perhaps because I feel here like I am witnessing their creative process. I do find it very interesting that the alpha male of days of old becomes the office cleaner, the only role that requires the application of physical skills verse brain power, and wish this had been developed further.
The show seems to be trying to say something about the evolution of the role of woman by placing the single female character at the top of the modern day pecking order – the boss – but she doesn't really play out as the boss, and from here it just becomes situation comedy and - as I say above – while this is at times very witty, it also degenerates into shouting matches that feel a bit too much like a club over the head, thanks. Once I could deal with but it feels cyclical.
If you are a fan of youthful, energetic humour and are willing to forgo the sense of things – i.e. ‘bugger the narrative' – you may enjoy yourself. Maybe next time Quake Productions will deliver us something that is conceptually more evolved. I think it could be good.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.