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Print Version

Young and Hungry 2007

at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
From 15 Jun 2007 to 30 Jun 2007

Reviewed by Eleanor Bishop, 2 Jul 2007
originally published in Salient

The Young and Hungry Festival of New Works seeks to present three new plays by Kiwi playwrights, workshopped to perfection, acted and crewed full tilt by hot young wannabes whilst professional directors and production mentors keep a watchful eye. It's a great concept and one that isn't always pulled off, except for this year, which I'd say is one of the best Young and Hungry seasons I've seen.

Starting off with Zoe Deverick's The Life Death and Afterlife of Felix Unfortunate, young Felix is thrust into the vacuous teenage world of dating, drinking and spending his Saturday nights down at Shooters. It's a world he doesn't want to inhabit and society's pressure to conform is dramatized as a surreal totalitarian state in which "free thinking chaos must be eliminated". It's an ambitious play, which tells of many teens' desire to be different with a refreshing twist. It features some fine performances, particularly Chris Neels as the confused / love struck Felix Unfortunate. However, the "surreal" aspect tends to descend into melodrama (the Matrix style concept of "eliminating all individual thought" is staged with a blue plastic gun), which belies the truthfulness which could be bought to the situation.

Grant Buist's Fitz Bunny: Lust for Glory (originally based on one of Buist's comic strips) is a musical roller coaster through the political career of Fitz Bunny - a real life bunny seized by megalomania. The excellent Jessica Mannis is our eye into this crazy world as reporter Alex. Pop star Fitz Bunny decides to take on Parliament, as her family is killed by an outbreak of calicivirus. Jamie Burgess provides stupendous musical direction / accompaniment as the "Rabettes" (slightly more Playboy than furry) sing and dance. The plot line is slightly thin, but this doesn't matter as Willow Newey (as Fitz Bunny) and the rest of the cast inject so much physical energy into the excellent material that they had the opening night audience in hysterics from start to finish. Especially noted were the hilarious Wellington references and the amazing comic style props.

And just when I thought I'd laughed enough for one night, Dean Hewison's The Henchman drop rolled its way onto the stage (that was me trying to make a stage combat joke - and failing miserably). Fired from his job and spurned on by the threat of losing the Playboy channel, Adam accepts a job as a henchman. All seems normal, until Travis or "Super Villain Double Cross" appears in purple underpants and Adam's handed a flamethrower with a MP3 player. The fight scenes (choreographed by Allan Henry) are outstanding and super heroes Limberman (Jack Sergeant-Shadbolt), and Captain Caffeine (Leon Wadham) are deliciously ridiculous. The dialogue is witty and impeccably timed - "You want me to be your henchman?" "I'd be fucking delighted Adam".

The comedy arises from the contrast of the slick fight moves to the ridiculous superheroes, and although it all gets a bit bloody when friends are forced to face friends, overall it's a hilarious excuse to see some kick ass fighting on stage. 

See also reviews by:
 Thomas LaHood
 Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);
 Melody Nixon (The Lumiere Reader);
 Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);