A GORGEOUS EXPERIENCE
Devisors: Sarah Tuck, Elli Yates, Leo Gedye, Audrey Banach-Salas, Ben Reason, Michael Hebenton, Rowan Brooks, Ingrid Saker, Sylvie McCreanor, Samantha Cotton
Directed by Bop Murdoch
at Newtown Community Centre, Wellington
From 9 Aug 2014 to 17 Aug 2014
[Sat & Sun only]
Reviewed by Lena Fransham, 10 Aug 2014
Pat-a-Cake, in keeping with their name, behave less like actors than like children deeply involved in an imaginative game. As soon as you arrive, you are invited to play too. Renee the real estate agent (Renee Landers) asks whether you wish to view the beach house, the top floor apartment or the country cottage, then ushers you into an auction room to take part in an auction. This is your introduction to an elaborate exploration of questions around the Kiwi dream of homeownership.
The smashing of a teapot begins a fragmentation of both audience and narrative. Groups are led off in three directions depending on the property they wish to view. The ‘game' then consists of a looping tour of domestic spaces, each contributing to a bewildering montage that slowly begins to make its own kind of sense. The manoeuvring of three audience ‘tour' groups separately, so that each group criss-crosses through the scenes in a different sequence, is done with choreographic flair. Relationships between characters link each space, where the scene portrayed is not a plot development but a revelation of a character in his or her relationship to the notion of ‘home'.
The success of the play centres on the actors' seemingly effortless connection with the audience. It is easy to love the characters and the small, playful details: the endearingly awkward Billy (Leo Gedye) has a hilarious bubblebath scene with Frank (Lewis McLeod) that epitomises the engaging spontaneity of the cast. In a showhome bedroom, Ross (Michael Hebenton) and Jeanne (Elli Yates) invite you into their vision of becoming homeowners; what follows is an intimate, and then increasingly panicky, scene revealing the anxieties and unexamined beliefs so central to that dream: “A home for my children! A home for my children! A home for my children!”
This element emerges in surreal forms throughout the tour: a kitchen scene in which Jeanne ‘cooks' her life according to a recipe in a book, a tensely compulsive shopping trip with Rachel (Sarah Tuck), a whiteboard covered in protestant work ethic commands that we have all heard before. Questions and alternatives emerge, a meeting is held, dialogue opens up. And all the while poor Exasperado (Sam Skoog) is still piecing together his broken teapot.
Pat-a-Cake's trademark discontinuous narrative style is consistent with their aim here: to take things apart in a curious, childlike manner, to examine them minutely and then try to put them back together in other ways. They make you their partner in their exploratory game and you find that you are playing too, as if you are one of them. A gorgeous experience.
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