Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

22/02/2016 - 26/02/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Take a journey into endless night. Don’t get lost in the noise.  

This New Zealand Fringe Festival, Making Friends Collective presents a sonic experiment about love, ego and other invisible horizons.

Cameron’s lost. A brutal break-up’s fractured their group of friends and got them caught in a downward spiral of numbness and insomnia, and they’re pushing back against any attempt to right the course. But when they’re unexpectedly set up on a blind date by a close friend, Cameron meets the upbeat Dee and is pulled into a world of wild parties and intoxicating sounds. It’s an opportunity for Cameron to finally pull out of their tailspin. But they have to find their way out of the noise first…before someone gets hurt.

Against the Piercing Sun is a boundary-pushing new theatrical work written and composed by sonic artist Flinn Gendall. Drawing influence from Björk, Merzbow and Douglas Lilburn, Against the Piercing Sun blends traditional musical theatre and operatic styles with electroacoustic compositions to weave a sound-drenched story of one person’s battle with ego, estrangement and their own circadian rhythms.

Gryphon Theatre (as part of Fringe at the Gryphon 2016), 22 Ghuznee St, Wellington
6:30pm, Mon 22nd – Fri 26th February 2016 
Tickets to Against the Piercing Sun can be booked online at Tickets are $18 full /$15 concession.

THE MAKING FRIENDS COLLECTIVE is Adam Goodall, Amy Griffin-Browne, Andrew Clarke, Flinn Gendall, Johnny Crawford and Tony Black. They formed in 2012 and have since produced nine shows, including Rageface (nominated for Best Newcomers at NZ Fringe 2013), Proficiency Test (nominated for Most Innovative and winner of the Golden Nugget at NZ Fringe 2013) and Knifed (“incredibly slick and well-oiled” – Ewen Coleman, Dominion Post). 

They can be found online at

Starring Andrew Clarke, Bailey Smith, Dianne Pulham, Tony Black

Promotional Image by Flinn Gendall 

Theatre , Musical ,

An energetic contemporary work about youth, by youth, for youth

Review by Pepe Becker 23rd Feb 2016

We arrive at the Gryphon expecting some sort of visceral soundscape of the soul, with Flinn Gendall’s “background in composition and sonic art [at] the forefront of the show”, and I become increasingly aware as the minutes tick by that the description of said show is perhaps a tad misleading.

Described as “…Taking inspiration from New Zealand’s strong history in the field of acousmatic music including artists such as Annea Lockwood, John Cousins and Douglas Lilburn, as well as international acts as obscure as Merzbow and as popular as Björk” – none of which I really hear as influences, except perhaps a touch of the early electro-acoustic style of Lilburn in Gendall’s very effective clackity-clack percussive sounds that echo the speech patterns of overlapping conversations – the performance is also publicised as “taking advantage of the full spectrum of sound”, so I am expecting a much more colourful sound palette than is delivered.

Interesting gritty and droney ‘washes’ of sound certainly enhance the vibe of characters’ movements or dialogue at times, and the electronic music that accompanies a recurring floating-in-space video projection provides an appropriately unearthly background to the only ‘song’ in the piece, sung three times by three different characters, most successfully and tunefully by the central character, Cameron, played with sensitive vulnerability by Andrew Clarke.

Yet the hour-long work seems to express the main character’s “search for external validation” more through youthfully self-absorbed thought-bites, txt lingo and trendy emoji-speak than through emotive musical sound. Maybe that’s a statement in itself, about the way young twenty-somethings communicate these days: in short, clipped (and often grammatically incorrect or ambiguous) half-sentences, either sent through electronic media or interrupted by it part-way through a discussion.

The play (or “ensemble piece” as the Making Friends Collective themselves refer to it) presents more like a late-night/early-morning slice-of-life than a progressive journey that leads to any conclusive resolution. There are moments of ‘LOL’ humour – for examples: in a brief golfing scene; in smart quips about clothing and dance moves – juxtaposed with apparent deep-and-meaningful statements about human behaviour and existence, resulting in an overall feeling of fragmentation, or frustration that there’s something more ‘out there’, yet still more to discover right here.

Another element which may bring frustration to some, is the use of ‘they or them’ in place of ‘she/her or he/him’. Perhaps this is also a trend which has developed from younger society becoming more inclined to gender neutrality? (But that’s just a pedantic aside…)

The characters collectively portray well the curious mix of agitated angst and abject apathy that many young post-university betweenies seem to possess. As individual actors, some are more coherent than others, in terms of delivery and audibility. Andrew Clarke, as Cameron, is perhaps the most well-rounded, and the most natural singer.

Bailey Smith’s garbled TV-style voice takes a while to get used to (and thus the few older members of the audience may miss many details of her initial lines), though she shows good contrast between the interfering friend and hurt friend in her role as Brooke. Courtenay Rose Brown, as Cam’s ex-girlfriend Payton, times well her outer responses with the (often contradictory) pre-recorded inner-voice/thoughts – the audio excellently operated by Matt Loveranes, who we presume does the lighting also – but her singing is more like heightened speech than recognisable pitches.

Dianne Pulham’s Dee is somewhat overacted, though she embraces the character’s flamboyancy and flippancy well. Michael Hebenton and Tony Black inhabit their respective roles as Jordan and Parker (and their respective outfits) with convincing aplomb.

Directors Amy Griffin-Browne and Johnny Crawford have brought Gendall’s writing (of words and music) to life in a way that embraces the more insular influences of the all-pervading media – from instantaneous access to trivial information, to social networking, to Tinder hook-ups and mobile communications – clearly revealing that this is an energetic contemporary work about youth, by youth, for youth. (Oh, and did I mention that all the male characters have beards!)


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