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CHARMING, QUIRKY WORK

Print Version

SHU
written and performed by Laura Gaudin
Arte / Visuale

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 8 Apr 2014 to 12 Apr 2014
[55 mins]

Reviewed by Hannah Smith, 9 Apr 2014


Shu is a character with a box on her head.  She wants to find a friend. 

A solo clowning piece with no text is an ambitious challenge, and Arte/Visuale make a solid effort with a production that is endearing and inventive, if somewhat lacking in terms of execution and pay off. 

Developed by performer/creator Laura Gaudin from a 5 min solo first performed at Victoria University, this is a re-boot of the show's first outing in the NZ Fringe Festival last month. Gaudin shares her daily routine and developing friendship with a Brother Deluxe 850TR Typewriter in a fifty minute exploration of loneliness and love. Offbeat and often charming, the story is built from a series of set-pieces, forming the routine of Shu's day.

While its heart is in the right place, and many creative ideas are at play, often the pay-off does not eventuate. Energy and audience connection are issues – we are not complicit with Shu in her endeavours, rather our presence is an unexplained accident. The games that form the blocks from which the show is built are sometimes rushed and sometimes drag. There is a lot of potential, but few of the set ups are given the necessary precision of execution to actually land. 

Arte/Visuale clearly has a strong vision for the work they wish to create. The set design is excellent: cardboard boxes and screens create a strange retro world of electronics and sepia, striking the right notes of nostalgia and peculiar.  Lights and sound, operated by James Ruscoe, add to the piece –music is particularly effective at lifting the energy onstage, and a more extensive soundtrack (particularly some pre-show music to play the audience in) could help. 

On opening night a scene-stealing toddler in the front row narrates a loud commentary to the entire performance and Gaudin copes with this well, carrying her performance on without hesitation, despite salutations to “Wake UP” and loud (though generally positive) enquiries as to her motivations and purpose. The show clearly resonates with this young audience member, and I think if pushed firmly in this direction, would be very successful with young children. 

Charming, quirky work from a new company – I am interested to see what they do next.
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 Hannah August