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Print Version

NZ Fringe 2014
written and performed by Laura Gaudin
Arte / Visuale

at Gryphon, Wellington
From 11 Feb 2014 to 15 Feb 2014
[55 mins]

Reviewed by Hannah August, 12 Feb 2014

“A solo physical theatre piece about a box-headed character called Shu”. The opening line of the publicity material for Arte Visuale's Fringe show in some ways makes a review of the play redundant – the show's not really “about” anything other than performer Laura Gaudin spending forty minutes on stage with a cardboard box over her head.

This is the type of fringe theatre that either charms or exasperates its audience, and it is to Arte Visuale's credit that Shu is not once exasperating, and is very frequently charming.

The show opens with Gaudin clambering out of a scaffold-mounted bed and descending onto a stage strewn with boxes and appliances, and it's the relationship between her anthropomorphised box and these appliances (principally a Brother Deluxe 850TR Typewriter) that the play imagines.

It does so using mime, shadow play, an effective low-fi sound and lighting design, and an endearingly sincere performance from Gaudin. To produce a collective “aw” from an audience is no mean feat when your face has been covered by a box with two cut-out squares for eyes.

There are some great moments of humour, particularly in the dance sequences, and the audible chuckling of the children in the audience indicates that Arte Visuale could be making more of their decision to bill the show as “family friendly”.

If the point of the play's narrative is hard to grasp (and it's entirely possible it doesn't have a point at all), there's not much wrong with that. Shu is fun, entertaining, and occasionally surprising, in a good kind of way.

It's the sort of show that answers the sceptical theatregoer's “Why?” with a shoulder-shrugging “Why not?”, and is a fine addition to the schedule of anyone looking for a varied and eclectic Fringe experience.
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 Hannah Smith