BATS Theatre, Wellington

16/06/2015 - 20/06/2015

Ahi Kaa Festival 2015

Production Details

2080 is a time when the world has fallen into irreversible debt and climate change.  New Zealand has become the last oasis.  Our country is an unrecognizable stranger, fuelled by greed and segregation. The poverty gap between rich and poor in New Zealand has created a chaotic and inhuman society.

Fear of over population has introduced a new law enforcing birthing restrictions.  Freedom costs more than ever before.

2080 is the new play by emerging playwright Aroha White (Ngapuhi).  Directed by Katie Wolfe and featuring a co-production between WingHornTail and Wellington’s own Hapai Productions.

Venue:  BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington 
Season:  16 – 20 June | 8.30pm 
Ticket Prices:  $20 Full  |  $15 Concession  |  $14 Groups of 6+

Theatre ,

A well-wrought microcosm

Review by John Smythe 17th Jun 2015

2080 is not the next generation of pest control to protect our native species although it does depict toxic times. Aroha White’s new play is set 65 years from now and an opening prologue establishes the premise.

In the wake of the Global American Crash of 2020 (not far away!), New Zealand took 20 million economic refugees and resettled them in the South island, now known as NZ Second and replete with many cities. It was climate change and rising sea levels that saw all Pacific Islands evacuated in 2055 and their 1.5 million refugees relegated to The Cube in the lower North Island, a.k.a. NZ Third. Points north are designated NZ First.

The resulting erosion of basic human rights is what most concerns the young woman telling us this. A nurse called Nancy, she is addressing us as if we too are about to graduate into that honourable and most caring of professions. How do we fulfil our mission of kaitiakitanga in a world where the distant past is irrelevant and best forgotten, procreation is only allowed for couples who cross a predetermined income threshold and escape from The Cube is forbidden? Thus the central dramatic conflict is established.

What is remarkable about White’s play – directed by Katie Wolfe in a bare Bats Theatre Dome space – is that the nature of this dystopian society is evoked through just four characters, abetted by Tash James’ lighting design and a sound design by Anonymouz, a.k.a. Matt Salapu. When I hear audience members, afterwards, say they’d like to see it as a film, I think sure, why not, except haven’t we just ‘seen’ it, thanks to the way the production elements work together to stimulate our imaginations?  

Two Samoan brothers, with the assigned names of Bart and Smith (their real names are revealed towards the end), work in a meat processing factory. The central plot is their plan to escape and hide out in the basement of a ‘Fourth Gen’ Samoan family in NZ First. You have to listen closely to pick up the details as the focus is firmly on the four very diverse characters and their evolving relationships.

The older brother, Bart, strongly played by Nua Finau, is stanch, quick to anger and very protective of his younger brother. Smith, a latter-day Mercutio who channels his angst into rap songs and hip-hop moves (totally retro in 2080, presumably), is brought to mercurial life by Errol Anderson. The strength of their bond is undeniable but so is their volatility. And both go and complicate their lives with women.

An American woman called Hudson is Bart’s key contact and (surprise surprise) small arms dealer. Susie Berry is so convincing with her supposed look-after-number-one indifference that it’s only when her true feelings burst forth that we realise she was protesting too much: a potent portrait.

The brothers’ fooling around, as if they are in a shoot-em-up computer game, leads to their crossing a literal line – one that burns – which lands them in Outpatients. Although it’s Bart who needs the medical attention, it is Smith’s antics that attract nurse Nancy … Acushla-Tara Sutton is fully present to every dimension of Nancy’s being: her integrity, professionalism, humanity, vulnerability, anger – and strength of will where it really counts.

All aspects of the human condition are distilled in this well-wrought microcosm of a play as these flawed individuals attempt to be what makes them irrevocably human, despite the inhumanity of the system they are trapped within.

The romantic idealist in me would like to believe, if just for a moment, that the brothers are capable of succeeding in their mission. But their dysfunctional relationship is a fair comment on how easily, and perhaps inevitably, the disenfranchised can become their own worst enemies.

That playwrights are by vocation attuned and even prescient in their awareness is proved by how much the socio-economic and environmental components of 2080 have come even more to the fore since White wrote her fast draft then matured it through the Tawata Productions-inspired Matariki Development Festival last year. The question remains: will the right people take notice?

It’s only on for three more nights (why?) so don’t delay. 


John Smythe June 18th, 2015

It must also be noted that 2080 was workshopped in Auckland Theatre Company’s The Next Stage 2015 and had two public presentations in their November Next Stage Festival of New Work, directed by Katie Woolf. Apologies for failing to mention that.

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