Te Auaha - Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

21/02/2023 - 25/02/2023

NZ Fringe Festival 2023

Production Details

Created and Performed by Jackson Burling
Directed by Genoveva Reverte

Presented by Brick Haus Productions

You may think you have nothing in common with cleaners. In fact, you usually try to avoid the odd encounters you have with them. In the public toilets, you avoid all eye contact as you get in there to do your business, maybe even get annoyed when they block you from the sink. Meanwhile, you leave your footprints over their shiny new floors and your crumbs in the cracks of their newly vacuumed seats.

From the team behind ‘Boys, Wake Up!’ comes a work of global relevance with a kiwi twist, CAUTION WET FLOOR. In this solo piece of physical theatre, Jackson Burling invites his audience to follow the loveable but lonely airport cleaner Francis, as he does the job none of us want to do.

But as Francis’ journey unfolds, you might find you have more in common than you thought with the person who scrubs your crap off the toilet bowl. A grumbling boss, zero appreciation, overworked and tired with SO many messes to clean up…. sound familiar?

But what happens when the person behind the wet floor sign suddenly gets his moment in the spotlight? Will the extra finally get his chance to star in the show? Come meet the man with his mop while he makes magic out of the little he has on him and sees the opportunity in what you’ve left behind.

Through clever craftsmanship and the simplicity of laughter, CAUTION WET FLOOR reminds its viewers what we miss when we are stuck inside our own world, and opens our eyes to the people sitting right next to us.

Te Auaha – Tapere Iti, Level 1, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro
Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 February 2023

Co-Produced by Genoveva Reverte & Bella Petrie (Brick Haus Productions)
Publicised by Genoveva Reverte (Brick Haus Productions)
SX Design from Jackson Burling Lighting
Sound operation from Genoveva Reverte
Stage Managed by Bella Petrie

Clown , Comedy , Physical , Theatre ,

1 hr

Reality and fantasy, disappointment and joy, desire and hubris foxtrot with each other in this compelling microcosm of the human condition

Review by John Smythe 22nd Feb 2023

Having written and co-directed the emotionally confronting Boys, Wake Up!, staged in last year’s NZ Fringe Festival, Jackson Burling performed a development version of his embryonic clown show, Caution Wet Floor, as part of HATCH, the clutch of short pieces that graced last year’s Tahi Festival – both presented by Brick Haus Productions. Now Caution Wet Floor is fully fledged, offering an absorbing way to spend 55 minutes in Te Auaha’s Tapere Iti.

It is a brave performer who opens his show with a bored cleaner working away at his humdrum job for what seems like a very long time. But Burling and director Genoveva Reverte have the skills to compel our engagement in subtle ways, like keeping his back to the audience until we are desperate to see his face, varying the tempo at just the right time, ensuring his solemn poker-face is retained so we cannot help but wonder what might make him smile … Innate comic timing is clearly at play.

His name turns out to be Francis and his low status is a classic characteristic of the solo clown genre. When his phone buzzes and a harsh voice issue commands, “Dadadadadadadada!” our empathy with him is confirmed. What follows, thanks to his imaginative responses to the contents of rubbish bins, are his strategies for elevating himself, both in status and literally. Did I mention he works at an international airport terminal?

Clowning also requires consciousness of, and interaction with, the audience. This is achieved gradually, with less-is-more quality, and where the values of minimal movement, pauses and stillness are well understood and employed.

The world Francis moves through is made manifest via lighting effects (the lift, especially), sound effects and voice-overs (operated by co-producer Genoveva Reverte), and judicious movement of minimal props (stage manager & co-producer, Bella Petrie). The Kiwi bloke who just enjoyed a curry is easily visualised from his voice, as is the Airport Customer Service announcer (all voiced by Burling, I assume).

Our own humanity and imaginations are fully employed in seeking out clues regarding his personal life. Given he removes tomato from the sandwich he takes from his overalls pocket, who makes it (or is it bought)? Who does he chat to on the phone while they simultaneously watch The Chase and One News? Do his interactions with his mop represent someone real or hoped for?

As he employs various means of escape, set-backs and obstacles test our – and his – capacity for willing suspension of disbelief. We believe what we want to believe and respond accordingly, more with inner feelings than outright laughter, which is fine. The collective experience is palpable.

As you may have gathered, Frances becomes incrementally more verbal as the play progresses – and an unattended Customer Service Desk offers next-level communication as his life enter cruise mode. Or does it? Reality and fantasy, disappointment and joy, desire and hubris foxtrot with each other in this compelling microcosm of the human condition. The work of Jackson Burling and his Brick Haus Productions colleagues is definitely worth keeping tabs on. Who knows what they will come up with next.


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