An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree

BATS Theatre, Wellington

27/02/2012 - 02/03/2012

NZ Fringe Festival 2012

Production Details

On 27 February a fresh, new dance work will be premiered at BATS Theatre as part of the 2012 New Zealand Fringe Festival. An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree investigates apathy and alienation, anger and agitation in the context of current sociopolitical environments and ponders why these feelings manifest themselves in today’s limply-bound communities. 

Director and choreographer, Oliver Connew, a third-year classical major at the New Zealand School of Dance, is working with performance collaborators Fleur Cameron and Gareth Okan, who, too, both have been through the New Zealand School of Dance. Along with our composer, Marika Pratley, the group has been rehearsing deep in the dungeons of Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre since mid-January.

But in no way is the process secret or hidden. Regular postings to a Facebook page keep an interested public informed and engaged in the issues that this work addresses. Over time, questions that were asked of the cast and crew during the research process will be posed to our audience: Do you feel important? Do you live in an important time? Is your family close? Do you feel more connected than ever? 

The contemporary themes in this show directly address the director’s personal experience and its relationship to the sociopolitical environment that he and his peers currently find themselves in. Beginning with the Arab Spring and spreading across the globe in the form of the Occupy Movement, people have begun to question fundamentals of our societies and where they are headed, as well as questioning a previous unfortunate willingness to agree.

An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree is being lovingly and passionately crafted by a supremely creative team of artists, as well as being co-produced by The Wanderer Productions and Salted Singlet. 

27 Feb – 2 March 2012, 6:30PM

Join An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree on Facebook to stay updated! 


Contact Name:  Oliver Connew

Contact Phone: 027 238 2366



Co-producer: Naomi Lamb


Contact Phone: 021461583

Sponsors/Supporters: BATS Theatre, NZ Fringe Festival, Creative NZ, DANZ, Central Osteopathy, Dominion Post, Vapour Momenta Books


60 mins

Conceptually coherent, original and affecting

Review by Emma Willis 03rd Mar 2012

Charming, funny, and thoughtful, An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree, Oliver Connew, along with his collaborators, dancers Fleur Cameron and Gareth Okan, have constructed an evocative and engaging piece of dance theatre.

The audience enters Bats’ auditorium to a pared-back stage.  A television sits high on the rear wall and remains switched on throughout most of the performance.  Three chairs sit facing the television, suggesting an audience.  A laptop sits on a desk upstage left, and a stack of today’s newspapers down-stage right: both become important metaphorical and performative objects in the work.

The performance begins when, with the television still playing, the three performers get up from the front row, where they have been embedded amongst other audience members.  They each raise a glass of wine and walk towards the television.  The toasting gesture turns to convulsion.  This image sets up Connew’s central concern: how human intimacy is mediated by technology.  In the programme he notes that it was his family members’ various departures from Wellington that inspired the work.  What follows are a series of images and scenes that investigate the technological threads that bind (or fail to bind) us together. 

The theatrical opening of the work is followed by a series of short movement sections which are linked to one another and that build in intensity.  The performers circle the television and one another.  A tension develops that is explored through alternating unison movement, a staking out of the space through moving the chairs, and running between the walls of the theatre.  While the progression of the movement variously expresses alienation, suspicion, aggression and exhaustion, the choreography lacks the depth of imagery that Connew and his team manage to evoke in other scenes. 

Pleasingly, the next phase of the work offers much depth.  Working with newspaper, Cameron and Okan create one of the standout images of the show.  Cameron twists sheets of newspaper into stems, thin at one end and blooming at the other.  She places these inside Okan’s mouth.  The result is an image, almost painterly, where the sheets of newsprint seem to be exploding outward from inside of Okan’s body.  Language literary defaces the performer.  We lose any connotative image overload, and the loss of the personal in depersonalized text-scape. 

The theme of the mediation continues in the next section of the work, where Connew Skypes one of his family members.  Unfortunately, the evening I attended the work, the Skype was plagued by technical problems – ‘this Skype sucks,’ Connew commented.  While this was a shame for Connew and the audience, this ‘failure’ could have been capitalised upon, as it resonated so perfectly with the work’s themes, presenting a wonderful opportunity for improvised response. 

In its latter stages, the work most explicitly examines intimacy.  Connew sets up an effective contrast between connection by distance – two performers stand connected by a large piece of electrical cable held in each of their mouths – and physical touch.  Marika Pratley’s wonderful score for the work underscores this tension.  As Connew and Okan convulse with the wire in their mouths, Pratley’s music layered the blips of cellphone interference we are all so familiar with into a powerful piece that added a satisfying layer of irony to the scene. 

Cameron and Okan’s slow duet which follows is the most affective movement sequence of the work.  With skin connected, they gently move together, taking each other’s weight.  Connew haunts the margin of the image, even for a time watching them from the audience.  Then, simply, he gets up and switches the television off, turns and joins in the embrace.  

An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree belies Oliver Connew’s relative lack of choreographic experience.  The third-year classical major at the New Zealand School of Dance has made a work that, while lacking choreographic refinement, is, in the end, a conceptually coherent, original and affecting piece of work.  The production elements are well developed, with Pratley’s score and sound design a particular highlight.  Lighting by Jessica McNamara is simple and effective.  A wonderful contribution to the Fringe dance programme.


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