Te Auaha Gallery, 65 Dixon St, Te Aro, Wellington

22/02/2023 - 25/02/2023

Yours, 43 Moray Place Dunedin, Dunedin

23/03/2023 - 25/03/2023

Dunedin Fringe Festival 2023

Production Details

Made in collaboration with Katie Burson and Rob Byrne

A provocative and award-winning interactive performance artwork by Hamish Annan exploring human connection and emotional vulnerability.

Access invites people into direct contact with authentic emotional expression. Feelings ripple through the performer and audience as this dynamic work moves between the personal and the communal.

It’s alive, visceral, playful, confronting, and every interaction is unique.

Winner: NZ Fringe Touring Award (Auckland Fringe, 2022)

Made in collaboration with Katie Burson and Rob Byrne.

Here’s what people are saying about Access:

“It is difficult to make audience participation approachable. Hamish gracefully explores human connection in a way that is simple and deeply powerful for those who sit opposite him.”
“I laughed, I cried, I was scared. It’s a wild, honest, vulnerable, and beautiful show.”
“Excellent. Moving and confronting and funny.”
“A reminder of what it means to be human in its purest form.”
“A surreal and very moving experience…”

“The audience… is pulled in and made part of the experience. As a result each state becomes more than witnessing, it is a communal construction, an experiment in triggering the empathetic responses of a group… such a moving and curious piece..” – Irene Corbett, Theatrescenes.

Te Auaha Gallery
22 – 25 February 2023

Yours, 43 Moray Place Dunedin

3 – 25 March 2023



Solo , Theatre ,

1 hr

A work with enormous potential, but …

Review by Hannah Molloy 24th Mar 2023

Described as “a provocative and award-winning interactive performance exploring human connection and emotional vulnerability”, I was a little nervous arriving at Access by Hamish Annan – I wondered if it would be overwhelmingly challenging or cathartic.

In the end, it was neither. More of an interesting opportunity to mull over the concepts of emotion, and how we as humans express them. 

Hamish invites the audience to participate by taking a seat opposite him (one at a time) and giving him one of six words – aggression, fear, disgust, lust, happiness or grief. He would then express that emotion for as long as the participant stayed seated. The rest of the audience is invited to move around and “engage with the work” however they chose. The venue, Yours, an anarchic collective-run café in the beautiful but scruffy former The Asian restaurant, lends itself to this as people in the café add a layer of hubbub to the background as well as occasional slightly startled pauses in their conversations as each of Hamish’s performance reaches crescendo. 

The show blurb explains that “Access invites people into direct contact with authentic emotional expression. Feelings ripple through the performer and audience as this dynamic work moves between the personal and the communal.” I was looking forward to exploring this dynamic – the idea of someone articulating or expressing aggression or grief directly towards me (I wasn’t brave enough to take the hot seat in the end) without having to actually respond to it or acknowledge it is fascinating to me and brings out my fathomless curiosity about how people tick and why they tick that way.

Unfortunately, it felt formulaic, as though Hamish was simply pressing play on an emotion he’d rehearsed in front of the mirror. There didn’t seem to be an individual response to the person sitting opposite – some approached the chair with nervousness or vulnerability, others with bravado or simple curiosity, and one with a clear intent to mock. Many were very willing to engage with his performance on his terms but it seemed that they got up slightly unsatisfied and a mood of ‘let’s test him’ grew. Hamish seemed to get varyingly drawn into his own experience of each emotion, but it didn’t translate outwards, only noticeable by whether he wiped his eyes or by how many times he shook it off by flicking his hands and arms after.

I think the idea of this work has enormous potential to connect very deeply with audiences, but with some richer consideration of what the words Hamish uses mean – is happiness the same as laughter? Is aggression best or only manifested by grunting like a gorilla? Does disgust refer only to eating something gross? The range of human expression of grief is enormous, as is lust and fear —  and also reading behind the eyes of the person sitting opposite.

I wonder perhaps if the message behind the concept is that, when you actually boil it all down, visceral emotion of any kind often looks the same to a casual observer – there’s an interesting thread to explore there too.

I suppose when a performance makes you think about deeper things, it’s done its job and I think I would come back to see Access again in a couple of years to see how it has evolved.


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Provokes bubbles of genuine laughter or small in-breaths of empathy

Review by Cordy Black 23rd Feb 2023

Access is made of simple elements: one hour, one person, two chairs, some rules of consent and five basic building blocks. Hamish Annan aims to conjure emotions on demand for and in front of an intimate, live audience. His performance is gestural and grounded in physicality. Each of us in the audience may become Annan’s partner, for a moment. The partner triggers the performer by asking him to display one of five pre-set emotions. Annan says that he chose these emotions because they are simple and primal.

Little speech is shared between performer and scene partner. Bodies remain physically distanced at all times. Annan solicits no personal stories from his partner and conjures no personal memories to create his emotional displays. He retains a kind of boundary or individual stillness inside the interaction. Seated throughout, his posture is gently braced in an A-frame stance, knees wide and often with his hands checking in at his kneecaps.

This is the physical base from which he moves into enactments of, say, a withdrawing motion to convey Disgust or an urgent forward lean to channel Aggression. His mouth hangs open, his breath pushes as needed to drive a stronger emotional display to the surface. Annan ‘rinses’ between each conversation with a ritualistic exhale of breath and a single, downward flap of the arms. There is a clear code here, lexemes* of body language that he can draw upon to get the interplay moving.

The work comes more into its own about a third of the way in, once the audience warms to its task. Annan’s real talent is in how he refracts little responses and counter-responses between his seated form and the microaggressions, piercing looks or uncomfortable shifts of his scene partners. Ripples play back and forth across the two bodies. If the partner brings an expansive or playful energy, Annan returns in kind. Some partners are expectant and neutral.

I chat to Annan about this after the performance and he speculates that these kinds of players wish to observe an emotion they may not have seen before. Other players bring a clear ‘ask’ to the interaction, with words or just with their bodies. Some people sit with Annan in a feeling, others enjoy teasing and provoking new physical ideas out of him. Our mood in Te Auaha Gallery tonight is one of curiosity. Some people try to bend the ground rules, to see what variations they can inspire. Bubbles of genuine laughter or small in-breaths of empathy play across the gathered onlookers, who Annan’s facilitator encourages to meander around and even chat during the work.

I enjoy conversations with a few people who step in to be partners on the night. Each has their own interpretation of what Annan is doing, what the interaction means for them. Are we seeing a replication of an emotion, an attempt to reach through to an emotion through the door of gesture? Is this all a semiotic display or a kind of shared social fiction? Are we being vulnerable, or simply performing vulnerability? To an extent, it doesn’t matter. Effective art provokes a question or a response from its audience. Annan’s clearly getting a range of response from this evening’s crowd. Pleasantly, no two runs of the work are the same because of the heavy audience participation. So, take a look, and if the mood takes you, sit in the chair across from the man. The experience will do something for you. *lexeme = a basic lexical unit of a language (from lexicon) – ed


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