WATCH THE WACKY STAGING
A PLAY ABOUT SPACE
Written & directed by by Uther Dean
presented by my accomplice
at BATS Out Of Site - return season, Wellington
From 2 Jul 2013 to 6 Jul 2013
Reviewed by John Smythe, 3 Jul 2013
If you are an outer space sci fi nut who also enjoys being taken ‘out of this world' by ingeniously simple theatricality, A Play About Space is a ‘must-see' for you.
As I recall its debut season in the Fringe five months ago, it was an energetically delivered welter of ideas and images that left me more impressed by the clever and dynamic acting and production tricks than its plot or themes. This time round, the quartet of performers (3 actors and an actively participating stage manager-cum-lights operator) seem much more relaxed and fluent, allowing the story of a war-monger's quest for redemption more space to breathe.
The obligatory barriers and challenges are confronted and variously dealt to, with much creative wit. Nevertheless the quest still presents as a means of playing at playmaking rather than as our point of access to empathy with an essentially human desire, albeit played out in extra-terrestrial climes. And fair enough, I guess, if pastiche is the major objective.
Of course if writer /director Uther Dean's script is riddled with homages to classics of the genre to which I am not privy, I've missed a whole level. But I am a firm believer in such moments working afresh in their new context, with in-group recognition being a bonus. Otherwise the prior knowledge qualifications should be advertised.
Hannah Banks holds the centre as Captain Florencia (Flo) Dreggs with a no-nonsense strength that gets to be both undercut and paid off as the tale unfolds and I'd have liked to feel more engaged in her states of being.
Her multi-armed nemesis, Joy, is principally played for fun by Alex Greig, augmented by stage manager Nicole Harvey who otherwise is flat out switching and directing the comprehensive array of desk, bedside and household lights so ingeniously employed throughout.
Paul Waggott's impeccable timing and relaxed versatility facilitate his multiple roles, the main one being Flo's hapless offsider Warner Hornshaw. The bit where Greig zones out at the side of the stage, apparently obliging Waggott to play multiple characters in what could have played out as a scene of major jeopardy for Flo, firmly locates the show in the ‘watch the wacky staging' realm.
The fight choreography by Ricky Dey, mostly played out in slo-mo, adds heaps to the fun, as do Meg Rollandi's design elements.
I confess a clear understanding of the plot point regarding Flo's late husband eluded me and I wanted the whole clone/android dimension to have more impact at emotional and metaphysical levels.
As it stands, A Play About Space objectifies the genre somewhat. A recalibration that allowed its core themes – especially those regarding guilt and redemption – to be served by the theatricality, rather than overwhelmed by all that, could see it touring to many a festival, if that was their wont.
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Jonathan W. Marshall
Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);