23/05/2012 - 09/06/2012
LONG CLOUD HAS BEEN FROZEN IN YOUTH…
‘It’s great to be 22. It’s like, totally ideal. If we could all be frozen at a certain age, that would be the place to stop: bodies at their peak, fast minds, glorious youth. We could get rid of all the saggy bits, avoid all the difficult times, we could keep well away from death.’
Following the success of TOM KEEPER PASSES and YO FUTURE, Long Cloud Youth Theatre continues to respond to the need for new NZ works that address the social concerns of our young people here in Wellington and Aotearoa. ASSISTED LIVING sees the two directors join forces with Long Cloud to present the final instalment in this trilogy of work. Long Cloud will present this original production at BATS Theatre from the 23rd of May until the 9th of June.
BATS Programme Manager, Martyn Wood: “After the success of last year’s ‘Sheep’ I am really excited to have Long Cloud back at BATS. I have no doubt that under the leadership of their new artistic director and with such a strong creative team supporting them we will see another highly original and hugely entertaining show. Long Cloud have long been at the forefront of contemporary arts practice in Wellington, and the bold new direction of their work in the past year means this is still a company that will continue to surprise, delight and challenge their audience.”
ASSISTED LIVING investigates a world where this age group is kept separate from the rest of humanity and the various issues that arise from this. Is this really the ‘ideal age’? What would the world look like with no elderly, no children, no death? And is anyone else hearing voices?
Over the past two months Long Cloud Youth Theatre has been teamed up with multi-award winning playwright Jo Randerson (Yo Future) and director Aaron Cortesi (Tom Keeper Passes) to create a weird tale that is in equal part Greek Myth, Science-fiction and the computer game The Sims. An outlandish, playful and sometimes accurate guide to leading a full life, ASSISTED LIVING is a show not be missed.
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
23rd May – 9th June.
Tues – Sat shows @ 7.30pm.
$14/$20 and $15(groups 6+)
BOOKINGS PHONE 04 802 4175 or ONLINE www.bats.co.nz
Lily della Porta
Designed by Brian King
Sound Design by Matthew Eller
Lighting Design by Nathan McKendry
Stage Managers Tim Nutall, Sophie Dowson
Backstage Crew Paddy Carroll & Hayley Sproull
Devising Tutor Leo Gene Peters
Lighting & Sound Operator Matthew Eller
Production Management Aaron Cortesi
Production Asst. Olivia Mahood
Executive Producer Martyn Wood
Produced by Long Cloud Youth Theatre in association with Whitireia New Zealand and BATS Theatre
Production Photos by Philip Merry
Publicity Design by Oliver Morse
A work in progress
Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 25th May 2012
Devised works can be a mixed bag and while often they give the opportunity for a cast and director and sometimes writers to explore issues and themes in a collaborative way the process of getting to the final product is often more productive than the product itself.
Such is the case with Assisted Living from Long Cloud Youth Theatre currently showing at BATS.
It is one of those productions that defies description and whatever label is put on it is probably nothing like what the group intended. Coming across very much as a work in progress that has the potential to develop, the cast of 18 young actors are assembled on stage when the audience come in and there they stay. And in essence that is all the play is; a group of actors on stage.
For one hour these young people are entombed in a stage totally covered in glad wrap, including the fourth wall between the actors and the audience, with a piano that a couple of the actors tinkle on and a large mattress that every once in a while an actor punches to release his or her aggression.
In between the actors are either wondering about aimlessly playing to themselves rather than the audience with the odd line of dialogue or laying down in a heap on the floor supposedly asleep.
The premise is that this is a group of 20 something’s exploring what it would be like to live as a group away from all the influences of the outside world. That is until, as is the want in such situations, friction occurs and certain members want out. As a group therapy exercise it would have been fine but whether it constitutes theatre that a paying audience would want to see is debatable.
There were however members of the audience with whom the play appeared to resonate and who reacted with laughter at what were often genuinely funny moments. And there was some form of structure in that changing time between standing and lying was indicated by a lamp moving around the stage and there was evidence of developing tension from the passivity of the opening to the aggression at the end. But loose, unfocused direction of the group negated much of what was trying to be achieved.
Given the excellent track record of writer Jo Randerson and director Aaron Cortesi and the number of memorable productions that Long Cloud Youth Theatre has brought to the stage over the past years, it seems strange that a production such has this has been allowed to see the light of day.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
It’s like a present I cannot open
Review by John Smythe 24th May 2012
‘Fourth wall’ theatre is alive and, well, present in a very literal sense, at Bats. Cling film shrouds all four walls of the stage but the one we face is mercifully clear. Within its confines 20 young people … exist. Hermetically sealed, as it were.
Brian King’s fascinating setting includes a piano, a pair of jumper leads, a pinboard headed ‘ ODAY’S SESSIONS’ and a free-standing basin to which a tube is connected, sporting a used L&P can at the other end. When people speak into this their voice gains a sonorous tone but it does not emerge as a tool of power.
“It’s great to be 22. It’s like, totally ideal,” says the publicity blurb. “If we could all be frozen at a certain age, that would be the place to stop: bodies at their peak, fast minds, glorious youth. We could get rid of all the saggy bits, avoid all the difficult times, we could keep well away from death.”
But the show does open with a death; with a funeral, albeit strangely stilted and awkwardly articulated; like the playing out of some vague idea of what a funeral should be. And so it is. For one who has met a violent death, what’s more. Or has he?
To offer a flavour of what ensues may be seen as a spoiler, so be warned. But it won’t be hard to be oblique because – like last year’s Yo Future – this is another ‘what you make of it’ show. Your personal presence and response are essential ingredients for the experience you alone will have (which sounds tautological but there you are).
As the make-believe tragical scenario collapses – dissolves, unresolved, because no-one can agree how it should play out and they don’t care enough to persist – random casual behaviour ensues. The jumper leads give some a charge. A mattress held by the group gives one individual a turn at venting anger and invective; a recurring action that seems to come from nothing and go nowhere.
Empowering platitudes of the “You can change your own reality” ilk are spouted – and some sayings we have always taken for granted are suddenly questioned. “What right does anyone have…?” is a sentence that can be completed any which way and it is, either verbally or by implication.
Every now and then a small group may be observed acting out some ‘everyday’ scenario from a time misremembered, or maybe mythologised by those with some vague understanding of how life used to be when people of all ages coexisted in homes, at work and at leisure. Something about chimneys and presents and things called birthdays …? There is no credible teacher or access to knowledge to answer such questions and so they, too, lapse.
And over time a torch-illuminated Sunlight detergent bottle is carried in an arc across the space, to simulate a day – and night when it’s turned off, which is their cue to subside in a heap to sleep. They conform to that pattern, at least. And occasionally someone intentionally or inadvertently bucks the system, such as it is, and an ad-hoc meeting forms to resolve the issues and attend to any hurts people feel. Invariably, in the absence of an authority in any sense of the word, someone suggests they drop it, let it go.
The persistent question for us, as we watch, is who are these people and why are they living like this? Is this a universe of their own creating or one they have been sentenced to? Is it perhaps the manifestation of the naïve wish expressed above?
There are indications of something other, beyond these confines. Right at the start a young person leaves the auditorium, the way we came in, enjoining us to “Be who you wanna be!” And someone else escapes towards the end (I won’t say how but it is extraordinarily dramatic). There are rumbles and flickers of light and humanoid shadows looming in the somewhere beyond … Matthew Eller’s sound design and Nathan McKendry’s lighting are superb.
So are they prisoners? If so, of whom or what? Their own naïveté perhaps? And why? It’s as if a whole generation has been told to go to their room until they come to their senses, or has stormed off into it of their own accord in a fit of rage at the way the world is, or was. And they have been forgotten or have forgotten where they cam from. But for how long has it been this way?
Such ‘time out’ events usually come to an end because the exiled person needs to eat or go to the lavatory or both. But these imperatives of survival are not addressed in any way. Nor is the urge to procreate. This ideologically egalitarian group is never confronted by any individual being attracted to another, let alone any desire to have sex. One woman is cautioned, however, for saying her experience of closeness and caring from another has made her feel bigger, because that challenges their non-hierarchical status-quo.
Is there a clue in the distant echo of Edith Piaf singing ‘Milord’ – a haunting tune which is picked out on the piano?
When in doubt, then, consider the title… Perhaps Assisted Living refers to the ‘cotton wool’ generation; the cling-wrap implies over-protection from the slings and arrows of real human existence. This is a sterile plateau as opposed to the foul and pestilent vapours that enshroud the dishevelled characters of a Samuel Beckett play. Hence their need to play out scenes of tragedy and struggle, albeit with no deep understanding of them.
Is this, then, an existential play; an existential state of being? They do keep saying they are free to create their own realities and yet it seems clear they have been put here by external forces. To no purpose. Nor do they have any purpose beyond simply existing and closing down any challenge to the aimless status quo. They are not even waiting for ‘Godot’ or some such. They’re in an unrealistic bubble, which may be another way of interpreting the set.
Despite this ‘anti-theatrical’ lack of purpose, the impressively hyper-naturalistic action is threaded through with the affirmative phrases of contemporary life and other behaviours which are very amusing when heard and seen in this context. And the cast certainly seem to be ‘on the same page’ as each other, in sharing some secret understanding of the rationale that underpins this work.
The question is, should that rationale be revealed to the audience, by way of giving the hour some sort of structure and us some reward for our attendance and attention, or is it valid to leave us wondering? My purpose in discussing it as I have, above, is to see if it clicks some switch of enlightenment and I can’t say it does.
It’s like a present I cannot open.
Earlier this year I concluded that “Tom Keeper Passes consolidates the post Willem Wassenaar era that began with last year’s Yo Future.” I then asked, “Is a new ‘house style’ emerging [for Long Cloud Youth Theatre], of devised ensemble shows that try to cover off everything young people think and feel about life, the universe and everything? Perhaps, but two shows do not a house style make.”
Assisted Living is certainly in a similar style and yet it is reductive, stripping away the angst to confront us with an eerie lack of energy and direction; a strange sort of anarchistic apathy. Perhaps.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer