DANCING TILL WE DROP
23/04/2013 - 27/04/2013
17/04/2013 - 20/04/2013
After their extremely successful collaboration in 2011, when Jaime Dorner, John Downie and Angie Farrow presented The River to critical acclaim in the Manawatu, they have come together again to present Dancing Till We Drop, a series of six ten-minute award-winning plays written by Angie Farrow.
Though all the plays have had success on the international stage, this is the first time that they have been brought together to be performed by a single ensemble. These are physical, highly theatrical works that specialise in compressed narratives – like theatrical haiku, or a shot of neat whisky, they are explosive, dynamic and emotionally charged.
Although experimental, they have proved to be very accessible, even to audiences unfamiliar with new theatrical conventions.
Tango Partner is a dark comedy about the death of a relationship in which the eponymous Tango Partner symbolises a life that was not lived. The play won the People’s Choice award at the InspiraTO International Play Festival in Toronto, Canada 2011 and was selected for performed at Melbourne’s Short and Sweet Festival 2012.
Lifetime is a short play that encapsulates the entire life of a relationship. The play is the winner of numerous international prizes including Shorts and Sweet Prize and Best Script in Singapore 2010. It has been performed in Short and Sweet festivals in Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, New Delhi, Brisbane, and Melbourne.
Falling is an ensemble play about a neurological condition that gives the sensation of falling and its effects on a particular sufferer. It was performed for the 2010 Madcap Winter Carnival in Washington DC, USA and the Melbourne Short and Sweet Festival in 2011 where it won the People’s Choice Award.
The Blue Balloon is a play about the beauty of grief, in which a man covers a whole city in a blue balloon and its presence inspires people to behave differently. The play recently won first prize in the InspiraTO International Playwriting contest and will perform in Toronto in May 2013.
Replay is a theatrical farce about the violence of the heart. Performed at Auckland Short and Sweet Festival 2012 and The Manawatu Festival of New Arts, 2012.
Nearly There is about an alternative society that can never quite get where it wants to be, but must content itself with being eternally ‘nearly there’. The play debuted in the 2010 Manawatu Festival of New Arts, then performed at the Macquarie Festival in Australia in 2011 where it won Best Production.
Dancing Till you Drop will perform in the Manawatu in Mid April, 2013, before moving to Wellington towards the end of the month.
UCOL Performing Arts Studio, Queen Street
17-20 April, 7.30pm
Black Sheep Theatre, Massey University
17 April, 12.30 pm (reduced selection of plays)
Square Edge Community Arts Centre
18-19 April, 12.30 pm (reduced selection of plays)
BATS Theatre, Cnr Cub & Dixon Streets
23, 24, 26, 27 April, 8.30pm.
Matinee, 27 April, 2pm
Massey University, Wellington
24 April, 12.30 pm (reduced selection of plays)
Evening performances: $16.00 – Adults, $13.00 – Groups (6+) $12.00 – Concessions
Square Edge Performances: Koha Entry
Massey Performances: Free
For BATS Theatre performances book at www.bats.co.nz, other performances door sales only.
Deborah Eve Rae
Video Designer – Elle Beedon
Costumes – Karen Newton
Poster Design – Leda Farrow
Photography – Anu Sefton
Publicist, Palmerston North/Website Manager – Joy Green
Publicist, Wellington – Crystal Misschief
Substantial if ephemeral fare clearly explored and expressed
Review by John Smythe 24th Apr 2013
Angie Farrow is a unique voice in contemporary New Zealand play writing and bringing together six of her very short plays in an 85 minute programme allows that voice to take the stage on its own terms, under the remarkably cohesive and coherent direction of Jaime Dorner and John Downie.
While none of the six are naturalistic, all capture truths of subjective human experience. And because all five actors believe in the reality of every moment, we too are compelled to engage with these truths, invariably recognising some state of being we too have experienced, if sometimes only fleetingly.
A back-projection screen upstage centre carries a range of often distressed or erratic mood-setting graphics designed by Elle Beedon (who also assembled the accompanying sound, I presume). It also allows for some excellent shadow-play, the first sequence resolving in a pistol-pointing woman.
Bethany, forcefully delivered by Deborah Eve Rea, is revealed pointing the pistol at a sleeping man (Robert Lloyd). Once Sylvia (Alice Pearce) is liberated from the cupboard it seems like a clear case of infidelity provoking a crime of passion. Except it has already been committed and is stuck in action replay.
But discrepancies, inconsistencies and differences of perception emerge, throwing early assumptions into question. What does Ian (Conil Tod), plucked from the audience, have to do with it? Who wants to shoot whom and why? Has it happened, is it happening, will it happen …?
Billed and played as a farce, it is rooted in emotional truth and so works a treat.
The “verticular apparatus” of Polly Hickory Beaumont (Alice Pearce) is not working, according to her Neuroplastic Surgeon (Ralph Johnson), whose feelings for her are not entirely appropriate, as his team of white-coated acolytes keep reminding him. She constantly feels she is falling …
Her itinerant and somewhat uncommitted American lover (Conil Tod) may have something to do with the cause but he’s not the only thing she has fallen for. And now her job at PathFinders Travel is in jeopardy.
Overall this delicious piece pits the fear of falling against the joy of it and asks us to consider whether either “is all its cracked up to be”.
Nearly There finds the whole ensemble working like maniacs in an office-type environment … for what? The publicity blurb calls this “an alternative society” and yes, they could indeed be working just as hard for a ‘cause’ as for ‘the system’. Either way, they never quite make it, but “They say it will not be long.”
Acceptable pursuits include dancing or laughing “until we drop” and climbing an endless staircase, but “sleeping until we dream” is not acceptable. People are free to opine on such topics as Time, Space, Light, The Universe and Eternity but Love is a different matter.
Sacha (Deborah Eve Rea) loves Joseph (Robert Lloyd) who says he loves her too but whether or not their primary pursuit has allowed them – or will ever allow them – to make a baby, let alone nurture it, is the question the play dwells most upon. Rea’s epic commitment to Sacha’s state of being certainly raises the question of whether she (Sacha) should be committed, although there are times where I feel her stressed shouting could be exchanged for more interesting levels of emotion.
There are echoes of Harold Pinter’s The Lover and Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine in this manifestation of a suburban housewife’s inner desire to break free of her mundane life with an apathetic husband. But Tango Partner takes the premise to a lethal conclusion.
Deborah Eve Rea modulates her sensuous attachment to her strong, silent Tango Partner (Ralph Johnson at his most macho) beautifully in counterpoint to her frustrated irritation with her ever-present husband (Robert Lloyd channelling comedians of the silent screen). Chords are struck on many levels.
I am more inclined to see this play as the ‘what if?’ imaginings of two young people who randomly pass in the street than as the playing out of their actual adult lifetime together. He (Conil Tod) is listening to his i-pod and she (Alice Pearce) is off to the shops when their paths cross – and plastic shopping bags are ingeniously utilised as the stages of their subsequent lives together, or not, play out.
This Lifetime captures the lack of mystery for well informed and educated young people as they contemplate an all-too-predictable adult life. Their game-playing to alleviate the boredom is redolent of Gogo and Didi in Waiting For Godot except this generation is not inclined to let some anonymous entity determine their fates, despite the recurring question: “Is this what most people do?”
Alice Pearce finds some especially delightful moments of truth in this Lifetime.
The Blue Balloon
A state of wonderment is where Robert Lloyd’s Hugo finds himself lost, as his wife Lydia (Deborah Eve Rea) seeks him out, having returned from a research conference in Berlin. An accountant, Mr Jessel (Ralph Johnson) is also looking for Hugo. The children, however (Alice Pearce and Conil Tod), are “jumping on the blue balloon” …
This time it is the wife, Lydia, who wants her life back the way it was, while the husband, Hugo, now sees life as limitless. And it’s not just in his mind: his ‘balloon’ is inspiring strangers to dance together and people in the street to wax poetical …
Quite what Lydia means when she calls the balloon “an autobiographical disclosure” is a mystery to me. Whether Hugo has become liberated from the manic or mundane lives depicted in the previous plays, or whether he is in a psychotic state, is open to conjecture. But the world as we know it – as created by the playwright – cannot allow him to remain in that state.
Described in publicity as “a play about the beauty of grief”, it seems it was Lydia’s absence that provoked his somewhat contagious state of mind. But given it is he who exits into an unambiguous white light, declaring it was the best he could do, we are left to wonder if there is more grief to come. Or is this another metaphor for the failure of a marriage?
Despite the apparent differences in the six plays – which have achieved individual success in various festivals (see production page) – they share a quality of experiential insight and existential truth which the cast and directors explore and express with a welcoming clarity.
The staging, with clothes racks visible on either side of the screen and betwixt-play costume changes happening before our eyes, reminds us it’s all make believe and yes, they conspire very successfully to make us believe.
Dancing Till We Drop is substantial if ephemeral fare. It’s only on until Saturday (and not on Anzac Day, but with a matinee on Saturday): don’t miss out.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Absorbing, thought-provoking, often compelling, always adventurous
Review by Richard Mays 21st Apr 2013
If playwright Angie Farrow was a recording artist, Dancing Till We Drop would be a live compilation CD.
Six of the writer’s short plays are packaged together in this hour-and-a-half long production directed by John Downie, retired senior lecturer in theatre and film from Victoria University, and his protege, UCOL performing arts programme leader, Jaime Dorner.
While these plays have been produced individually in New Zealand and overseas, this performance collection, initially suggested by Dorner, is a first.
Although the pieces are all quite dissimilar, with different nuances and rhythms, the intention of the two directors, each responsible for overseeing three plays, is to “create a universe” where the plays’ diverse images and energies can co-exist.
Farrow’s universe then is quite a surreal one, with more than a nod to Franz Kafka, plus a hue of Harold Pinter and slice of Eugene Ionesco.
It’s this sense of the surreal and in places the absurd that provides the link between the pieces, which segue courtesy of Elle Beedon’s linking entr’actes.
These consist of back-screened images and electronic musical soundscapes, as well as shadow performances from any of the actors who are not frantically changing in the open wing space.
Portraying characters that seem isolated from the real world, if not from themselves, and certainly from each other, the five actors all have a happy ability to morph completely into distinctive new roles. A treat to watch, Alice Pearce and Deborah Eve Rea are particularly gifted physical shape and face shifters, even when playing incidental ensemble roles.
Dancing opens with Replay which premiered during last year’s Massey University Festival of New Arts. Played here as a film noir farce, it starts as a two hander and then boleros to five, plucking two of its characters out of the audience as Rob Lloyd and Rea’s stage relationship melts down under replayed accusations of infidelity.
Falling is based on a real case of vestibular neuronitis – a condition where the patient constantly feels as if she is falling – a role effectively portrayed by Pearce.
Nearly There, the play with the line that gives this production its name, starts as a manic ensemble piece with its characters trapped in an Orwellian office. The routine gets broken and one of the characters presents the subject of her attentions with a rag doll baby. Of all the plays, this one – with its repetitive robotic movements and centrally ordered sonic punishments – could do with some streamlining.
Exotic meets the mundane as the comedy of unease continues in Tango Partner, featuring a stunning Rea and dweebish Lloyd with Ralph Johnson as the charismatically debonair but aloof tango dancer. While the plot delivers a nifty shift in expectations, the ending might have delivered more punch.
It is tempting to affix the subtitle ‘the most fun anyone can have with plastic bags’ to Lifetime. A couple (Pearce and Conil Tod) meet, mate, row, reproduce, go to war and break up all in the space of 10 or so minutes, making clever use of plastic bags as props.
The best of these plays share a capacity to seemingly extend time so that the impact of the dramatic experience far outweighs the 10 – 15 minute running length.
Finally in the set comes the enigmatic Blue Balloon, an existential parable about grief, break-up and loss. The play recently won first prize in the InspiraTO International Playwriting contest and is to be performed in Toronto next month.
So, while not all the plays work equally well, their ordering has been clearly thought out, and in the hands of these players and their directors, Dancing Till We Drop is absorbing, thought-provoking, often compelling, but always adventurous entertainment.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer