Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong
Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
20/03/2009 - 21/03/2009
THROUGH THE EYES OF A BACH PLAYING FRENCH PUNK
An energetic, one woman play by Jo Randerson; starring Tahi Mapp-Borren and directed by Gabrielle Rhodes. A weirdly fascinating look at love and redemption through the eyes of a Bach playing French punk.
Contains adult themes.
The Basement (Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD)
Friday 20th – Saturday 21st
8:00pm – 8:45pm
Tickets available through Aotea Centre Box Office (09) 357 3355 or www.buytickets.co.nz
The Auckland Fringe runs from 27th February to 22nd March 2009.
For more Auckland Fringe information go to www.aucklandfringe.org.nz
Passionate Barbarian breaks fourth wall
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 21st Mar 2009
Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong by Jo Randerson is described by Playmarket as an "absurdist monologue".
The Playmarket blurb goes on to say: "A Barbarian tells it like it is, her comment on social and cultural attitudes is shocking and blunt as well as delicate and romantic. Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong is as head-on and direct, as it is subtle and multi-layered. Both funny and poignant, it re-counts a heroic tale of resistance and forbearance in a world that is excessively hygienic, that censures passion, anesthetising us from pain, but also from the pleasure of letting instinct rule the heart."
And here is how Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong is described by theatre company SmackBang in the PR blurb for the Auckland Fringe festival: "An energetic, one woman play by Jo Randerson; starring Tahi Mapp-Borren and directed by Gabrielle Rhodes. A weirdly fascinating look at love and redemption through the eyes of a Bach playing French punk. Contains adult themes."
I’m not sure BCCG fits either of these broad descriptions exactly, but after seeing the larger than life Tahi Mapp-Borren attack the script with all the energy of a frenzied kid high on candy, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a short, light-hearted jolt of left-field entertainment for the night.
Whether you gravitate to Randerson’s symbolic references to nihilism, existentialism, Grotowski’s ‘Theatre of the Poor’, or Theatre of the absurd (where it is the playwright’s job to articulate that life is inherently without meaning); or whether you simply like humorous statements, you’ll certainly enjoy Mapp-Borren’s wide enthusiasm and forceful, entertaining performance.
Chatting with my friend outside The Basement theatre pre-show, I notice an Amazonian-like figure in tartan quilt and black leather jacket, punk-red Mohawk and bright-eyed beneath thick eyeliner. While she is an absolute stand out, the opening night audience is such that it isn’t immediately apparent that she is our player. However once the house is open, she strolls in and moves among the gathering crowd, chatting amicably and making friends, as a capacity audience takes theirs seats. We are lucky to have a bit of one on one and we play her game and she ours (I think) – it’s fun! Then, at 8:10pm, with humour and glee, she segues into her show.
An eclectic brass and percussion duo had been busking in the foyer (established actor Peter Daube on trombone and his friend Chris playing the tenor horn which is a fantastic looking instrument), and yes, they banged on cymbals and clanged on gongs as we moved into the auditorium.
Our player ushers them in once she’s decided to get the show on the road, and cues them to play or stop playing, now and then. They’re very obedient.
Mapp-Borren pulls something out of her pack and slaps in on a music stand, then pauses. Was it a script? I couldn’t tell whether the words on the page were Mapp-Borren’s "security blanket" or a reminder her whole performance is but an artificial show. Apart from this odd distraction, I enjoy the manic pace set by director Gabrielle Rhodes throughout.
Along with our brass duo, Mapp-Borren is supported by Mr. Phillips, The Basement’s sound and lighting technician, who is not required to do much as bright white light stays permanently fixed on the audience the whole time.
In terms of a set, there is an empty easel, perhaps signifying the empty art of living, and a piano. At one stage our player plonks out a short one-handed ode, to (I assume) Bach, then states, "And then it just keeps going till the end."
Chalked up on the bare Basement wall is a quote from Macbeth: "All sound and fury signifying nothing," which Randerson may want us to view as an attack on the nature of theatre or her work, or is it as a nihilistic / existential / absurdist (take your pick, maybe all 3) reference to human existence in an indifferent or false universe without meaning, purpose or intrinsic value.
My pick is one can take as much or as little from BCCG’s intrinsic message as you wish: It’s that kind of gig. In any case, any philosophical position quickly gets eclipsed by Mapp-Borren’s entertaining performance: it’s impossible not to be drawn to her, not to like her openness and large presence.
Our player states she is here as a contrast. Absolutely.
She comes from along line of Barbarians, and for the next 30 minutes, she shows us herself and her worldviews, starting with her family history, aided by stick figures drawn on recycled newspaper.
Grotowski would be proud: no overwhelming spectacle here, just the player acting among and in front of the spectators. In fact, at one time, the Barbarian exclaims she often cannot tell the difference between theatre and real life, and once killed an actor for being mean to a woman on stage. Certainly our smiling assassin freely breaks the 4th wall often, sharing her beers and slapping a thigh on the end of a row to make her point. No audience members were harmed in the making of the opening night though.
She embraces failure – Barbarians fail a lot. Perhaps that is the reason she is virtually the last one of her kind standing. But she doesn’t mind – she just likes to play, fight (though in battle, she looks after the little ones because otherwise who will), run, and have things her way. One poor man who told her to "walk before you run", was killed for his caution because, as she justifies, she needs to feel the breeze on her skin.
She’s also a traveller and found that there are a lot of people in the world who want to teach her things, like how to apply make up neatly and how to understand poetry.
She reads Robert Frost’s The Road Less Travelled. I made some enquiries and concur with my partner: We don’t think Frost wanted anyone to take that road just for the sake of being different: the point is, it doesn’t matter which road you choose, just make sure you embrace it, enjoy it, for you; make a difference for yourself.
I enjoyed the Barbarian’s summary of friendship. Friends, she says, she’s had two. One tried to quantify and label their compatibility, the other was a fighter like her, and they met mid-battle, covered in blood and gore. They winked. Unfortunately the enemy took him, but she found him later in life. This time, his blank face had no wink.
"Why have you stopped fighting?" she mourns. BCCG ends on a melancholy reflective song, as the band stumbles on a tune and the lonely Barbarian slips out the fire exit.
Despite our Barbarian’s loud exclamations, I think she, like most of us, is a lover, not a fighter or a nihilist, absurdist or existentialist. She’s a passionate being who loves to love and live according to her simple, non-compliant worldview, with fights and a lot of running along the way.
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