A HALLOWEEN DOUBLE-BILL
Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland
31/10/2014 - 06/11/2014
TWO TWISTED TALES FOR HALLOWEEN
What would you do if you were kept in the dark?
By David Campton
Directed by Lisa Fothergill
Assistant Director: Lucy Noonan
Six birds live together in a cage, but are separated by the worlds they have built for themselves. They seem perfectly content living in their safe-haven, under the comfortable thumb of The Mistress.
When The Mistress introduces The Wild One into their cage the birds begin to question their surroundings. What cost will they pay for their utopia?
The Cagebirds was first produced in the 1970s in England. Written by David Campton, “one of the first British dramatists to write in the style of Theatre of the Absurd.”
During this time, Feminism was thriving in its second-wave, so it’s no wonder that this had an effect on the stage culture of the times. This allegorical tale has six ‘birds’ living within a ‘cage’. All of them females. All of them with their own characteristics reflecting a certain stereotype.
This play explores the extent to which these women are controlled by The Mistress, their environment, each other, and themselves. It is also quite an interesting selection for the person keeping them under lock and key to be another female. This, again, is allegorical for the nature of society passing down habits, rituals, and expectations through the motherline.
An extreme example of this is female circumcision. It was a source of pride as well as a form social belonging amongst women. It was done by mothers to their daughters with little of the fathers influence. Time and time again, when organisations tried to stop the practise in certain areas – it was the women, and not the men, who would put up the biggest fight. In this case the Matriarch serves the male patriarchy. If these women never question their situation, how can their society be called anything other than a form of brainwashing and a justification of oppression?
Such are the birds in the cage. Never questioning the way they know the world, so further buying into their comfortable and contented life of habit.
Directed by Luke Thornborough
Assistant Director: Jessie Lawrence
Based on the best selling novel by John Fowles, Mark Healy’s modern adaptation of The Collector renders the psychology of evil in a disturbingly realistic light. Frederick Clegg is a man who dedicates his life to gathering and cataloguing beautiful objects. He slowly becomes obsessed with a young art student – Miranda Grey – who he kidnaps and keeps in his basement.
A note from the director:
In The Collector, it is Fredrick Clegg who holds the key to the patriarchal world. I have wanted to stage The Collector for many years now, having been fascinated by Clegg’s character. Clegg is in love with aesthetically beautiful things, he collects butterflies for example (hence the title of the play), and one day he kidnaps the young art student Miranda Grey. He has no desire for her sexually but instead wishes only to love her and to have her in his possession. He literally treats her as an object, to be collected alongside artwork and butterflies. This is most obvious when he forces her to pose for photographs, literally constructing her image. The Collector is about the objectification of women, where Clegg is demonstrated as the patriarch who is unaware of the damage of his actions. He convinces himself that he is kind and even gentlemanly when in reality Miranda is a captive within his world.
The Cagebirds begins the evening at 7:30pm. There will be an interval of twenty minutes, with an estimated start time of 8:40pm for The Collector.
Maidment Theatre’s Musgrove Studio
Friday 31st October 7:30pm Opening Night
Saturday 1st November 7:30pm
Sunday 2nd November 6:30pm (offering a Q&A for schools afterwards)
Tuesday 4th November 7:30pm
Wednesday 5th November 7:30pm
Thursday 6th November 7:30pm Closing Night
Wild Boy Productions:
Erin O'Flaherty as The Constant Twitting
Tatiana Hotere as The Mistress
Amanda Grace Leo as The Regular Thump
Rachael Longshaw-Park as The Long-Tongued Gossip
Esmée Myers as The Great Guzzler
Aimee Olivia as The Wild One
Lucy Smith as The Medicated Gloom
Gina Timberlake as The Mirror-Eyed Gazer
Kat Glass as Miranda Grey
Stephen Lunt as Frederick Clegg
CREW for both shows:
Stage Manager: Kate Tennent
Lighting and Technical Design: Amber Molloy
Sound Design: Amie Bentall
Justice not done
Review by Cherie Moore 01st Nov 2014
A collaboration between WildBoy Productions and Female Company hits the Musgrove Theatre this Halloween, with a double bill of The Cagebirds by David Campton and Mark Healey’s adaption of The Collector by John Fowles. These dark tales ask what you would do if you were kept in the dark.
This absurdist play centres on eight women (or birds), each obsessed with their own petty interests who are trapped, literally and metaphorically, within a cage at the mercy of The Mistress. When the Wild One is introduced to the cage, questions of freedom and loyalties ruffle some feathers.
The set for the show (designed by Sam Mence) is great, and holds promise of a strong directorial vision. Each character has her own area to play in and escape to, which gives the sense of this being their ‘perch’, on which they senselessly bob.
Each character is very clearly defined in this script, and the cast do a good job of inhabiting their chosen energies and traits. There are inconsistencies in stylistic choices between them however, and this weakens the piece as a whole as it is hard to believe they are inhabiting the same world.
The cast is on stage when we walk in, each going through a movement and sound motif that sums up their character’s obsession. This is a nice choice, however the inconsistencies between the stylistic choices of the women makes for a performance that sits tepidly in between naturalistic and fairly stylised. The role of the audience too has been missed as there is not a consistent choice about the awareness the characters have of us, or their knowledge of our awareness of them.
The moments that are most interesting are the ones where we are let in to their world by characters talking directly to us – credit to Lucy Smith and Amanda Grace Leo for this. What is interesting too is when the women start to connect more with each other. This happens mostly in the second half with the introduction of the Wild One to the cage, and talk of the outside world. This shift is nice, and obviously a deliberate choice by director Lisa Fothergill.
I wish, however, that in ignoring each other in the first half of the show, there was more sense of this being a real choice by each character. If the cast had played something more active more often, by trying to do something (like block out each other, or compete for the affections of the mistress), rather than trying to not do something (i.e. trying not to be aware of each other), then there would be more energy on stage, a better sense of ensemble, and they would have more successfully directed the audiences focus.
The other choice that absolutely needs clarifying is whether or not the cast are embodying any bird-like characteristics. Two actors chose to do this and it’s not sustained, again contributing to the issue of style consistency and believable creation of the world.
The show is in desperate need of a vocal coach. Some of the cast have a good sense of their text but could go further, while others rush through lines and a lot of sense is lost through the pace, the absence of silence and an inability to really use new thoughts. This is especially evident in the playing of The Wild One, where the characteristics needed for this character often hinder actor Aimee Olivia, instead of help her. This is a shame because it should be the most varied and interesting role, and she has potential.
Disappointing too is the lighting, which isn’t of the quality I’m used to seeing by designer Amber Molloy. There seem to be some technical issues during the night, which may have contributed. Overall the lighting doesn’t support the cast in leading the experience of the audience – especially in the darker moments of the piece.
It’s fantastic to see a cast of eight women on stage. Each had a moment to shine, but clearer, braver choices needed to be made all round for this piece to reach the tension and release the script suggests.
The Collector is a naturalistic work exploring social misfit Frederick’s obsession with having the things he wants – especially women. Just like butterflies, entomologist Frederick captures females (in this case Miranda Grey) and makes them his subject. Also like his butterfly collection, the promise of being free is always just a little beyond the glass in front of them.
This work opens with Frederick carrying a comatose Miranda into a bedroom and observing her from afar as she comes to and vomits. A trapped Miranda spirals into despair and over the next ninety minutes uses every tactic she can to be released.
Unfortunately these tactics exist in the script and are not well supported by Kat Glass’s performance. Her accent is inconsistent, her vocal work very limited and therefore limiting, and she holds so much tension in her shoulders and mouth that her acting becomes restricted to irritating facial expressions, and hardly ever feels connected to the guts of her truth. I don’t doubt she’s feeling it, but she has massive issues being able to translate that to the audience. I yearn for her to be still and let me watch her think (which would require her to process thoughts somewhere other than at the floor), to let her voice drop in and resonate with the despair of her situation, for her to be grounded in her body, and for her to be much cleverer in her choices with Frederick. What is great is that Glass isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. I would love to see her be well supported directorially and vocally to see if the limitations of her performance actually lie with her or if she is indeed capable of a lot more.
Stephen Lunt’s performance as Frederick is more consistent and interesting, but he arguably has the easier job. He is from the UK, so if his accent wasn’t consistent that would be a serious problem, and he has the luxury of being the character in control the majority of the time. Lunt manages to play the likable sociopath who wins some empathy from the audience (like watching serial killer Dexter Morgan in TV drama Dexter), and I find myself siding with the bad guy. He covers his darker side well through smiles, niceties and insistence on his innocent intentions.
I would’ve like to see his manipulative edge rising to the surface more often so that the tension of the true danger of the situation was more palpable. The reveal of Frederick’s ability to spin on a dime in the face of defeat is rewarding and a decent show of Lunt’s versatility. His vocal work is in need of some support – he flattens out and at times the piece becomes the two actor’s just whinging at each other.
The set design for this piece really frustrates me, as it is totally inconsistent with how the script describes it – which is problematic when that description is part of the performance. The text emphasises how much money Frederick has, how much effort he’s gone to with Miranda’s room, and how expensive it all was. The single bed with bad linen, a desk and chair, and two wall frames with broken pieces of MDF attached, hardly support that description and every time it’s mentioned I’m pulled out of the world of the play.
The lighting too is again disappointing, with some serious technical errors with cues on opening night, and an overall lack of design. The sound design, other than some volume issues by the operator, is strong.
The transitions between scenes are long-winded, sometimes unnecessary, and don’t make the timeline of the piece at all clear. The Collector has the potential to be a tense, hard hitting and confrontational piece. There are glimpses of it with Luke Thornborough’s direction but the main thing I’m confronted with is that he doesn’t deliver.
I can’t help but leave the theatre annoyed and pained that something that seems to have a good script hasn’t been honoured, and feeling that as young companies putting on this work, more help should have been asked for to do it justice.
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