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Print Version

Created and performed by Renee Lyons
Directed by Abigail Greenwood

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 25 Jun 2013 to 29 Jun 2013
[1 hr]

Reviewed by Lucy O'Connor, 26 Jun 2013

A rigid metal chair sits in the middle of a boxed off space. From what I know, this piece is about a stroke victim who suffers locked in syndrome. What a clever parallel - stuck in a box with nowhere to go.

Renee Lyons enters but does not embody herself. A Korean woman has possessed her and appears the narrator for this tale. We are educated in the background of the production and how one man's struggle inspired this overall positive performance.

And so it begins. An ambulance is called and there is obvious stress as a staff member instructs another in how to heal while trying to calm and extricate a petrified mother. A torch light in the darkness highlights the trauma Nick's body is facing; from dilated pupils to a hand that shakes uncontrollably, the small light in the black forces us to see only the reality unfolding.

And then it turns. Lyons is Nick's mother and we, the audience, are Nick. It is uncomfortable. I feel an intruder and suddenly the space seems too small as she talks to her beloved son with such tragedy, such frustration, and with the wrought fear of a mother facing loss. But always, there is determination, there is love and there is light. And now, there is not a dry eye in the theatre.

We struggle through memories, impossible normalcies and desperate positivity as new figures in Nick's ‘before' life are introduced. Each tries to hold back devastation so as not to block any progression but despite their best efforts, we see each doubt all too clearly. The characters have one thing in common – an underlying hope seen only in the unbreakable bond of true friendship.

Lyons is an incredible actress. She plays each character with such commitment, intensity and patience that I forget she is the only person on stage. Sometimes there are three people present and the transitions are absolutely seamless. It is impossible to declare which persona is the most credible – each is as human as the other. Lyons takes on different gender, race and accent and at no point is there flaw in execution.

Tragedy and humour are the elements in this production. I have certainly heard the term emotional rollercoaster before. In this performance, I am strapped in for the glorious highs but am forced to bear the most challenging and stomach clenching of turns. Through the loved ones in Nick's life, we learn who he is and understand exactly why he perseveres.

An accidental hero? Yes indeed. By embodying Nick in her audience, Lyons punishes us in our natural want to avoid confrontation with his pain, his physical restriction and emotional stress. We experience a tale of what it is to be human and are reminded in our own lives of our fortune, our pitiful fears and above all, our fragility in both body and soul.
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 Bronwyn Elsmore
 Matt Baker (TheatreScenes - the Auckland Theatre Blog);
 Robbie Nicol
 Melanie Stewart
 Hannah Schenker
 Alison Embleton
 Barbara Frame (Otago Daily Times);


John Smythe posted 30 Jun 2013, 03:10 PM / edited 2 Jul 2013, 11:20 AM

This is indeed a remarkable production full of treasures. Book early, Aucklanders!