BATS Theatre, Wellington

02/09/2010 - 11/09/2010

Production Details

Emma and Lydia have a problem. They live together. That doesn’t mean they like each other. A stain has appeared on their wall and it seems to be growing. People are going missing and no one seems to remember them. Or care. In a world where everyone is looking for something, you’ll be shocked at what they find. 

DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE. is a mystery of madness, Wellington and just how far one really bad day will take you. Only one thing is certain ­ this isn’t going to end well.

“We want to make theatre that we would like to see,” says Uther Dean, the director of DOORS. “Theatre in Wellington recently has forgotten the little people. Not everyone is a spy or a killer or a stamp­collector. Most people don’t have exciting things happen to them. So we took that as our starting point. DOORS is about taking normal people, the people who walk past you in the street, the people who make your coffee, and making a play about them. We thought the best way to explore these people was to put them in an extraordinary situation.”

“So often I’ve been watching a thriller or a mystery and thought, when the hero faces the villain and works everything out, ‘That’s not what I’d do.’ So, we’re taking the mystery/thriller genre and just dropping some real people into it, to see what would really happen if you found out exactly why people were going missing all over the city.”

DOORS. is the latest devised theatre work from the exciting young company my accomplice. Made up of Uther Dean, Fringe Award Best Actor Nominee Paul Waggott and Hannah Banks, my accomplice formed during the production of the highly acclaimed, Chapman Tripp winning 2009 STAB play Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants. Their first work as a company, Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow premiered in the 2010 Wellington Fringe.

“I do look forward to their next production (due later this year) because this team clearly has some talent and passion behind them.” ­ Patti Huxley, review of Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow.

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
September 2­11, 6.30pm
2 – 11 September (No Sun/Mon). 6.30pm.
(04) 802 4175 

Lydia:  Hannah Banks
Mark:  Owen Baxendale
Emma:  Kate Clarkin
Tim:  Theo Taylor
Sean:  Paul Waggott
Claire:  Elle Wootton 

Set by Rebecca Wilson
by Thomas Press
Costume by Patrick Keenan
Graphics by Juliette Wanty
Dramaturged by Louise Lethbridge
Stage Managed by Nicole Harvey
A/V:  Horst Sarubin
SEt Cunsult: James Davenport
Publicity:  Hannah Banks; Uther Dean
Operators: Uther Dean; William O'Neill.
Devised by the cast, director & stage manager with input from the designers.

Effective alienation

Review by Lynn Freeman 14th Sep 2010

“You’re always outnumbered, always just one person. That’s how life is.” This devised work is all about the sense of alienation many, if not most, feel at some stage. It also reminds those of us well out of our teens and 20s, of the dual pressure on young people – to conform to social ‘norms’ while figuring out who the hell we are as individuals.

Life is about making choices and none are guaranteed to bring you what you hope for. In the opening scene, a man sits in front of numerous closed doors. It reminded me of Frank R. Stockton’s disconcerting 19th century short story, "The Lady or the Tiger? This sense of unease was heightened when we became aware there were things behind the doors. Were they trying to get in, or get out? 

The play has a deliberately fractured start and it takes concentration to keep all the pieces in you minds as they are slowly pieced together. A girl loses her job and returns to her flat to be berated for breaking a cat’s leg. She is despatched to a kind of asylum where one of the staff is torn between doing what’s right and what’s certain. Meanwhile people in the neighbourhood are going missing and returning changed and compliant. A journalist goes in search of the truth and his sister.

Uther Dean’s direction is intensely physical, with intriguing moments like three waiters pouring over each other and a table to deliver coffees, and people sitting on desks on their sides. The world is topsy turvey.

The cast and crew are also the devisors and they do an excellent job. There is distance between the characters and the audience and it’s a little hard to care about them all, but this is about a group of people who feel alienated so it’s not a negative.   

Thomas Press’ soundscape hits exactly the right note and Rebecca Wilson’s set of doors is used to full effect.
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Cryptic and claustrophobic

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Sep 2010

Doors. Walls. AndAlso Silence is a 90 minute-long piece of dark, claustrophobic theatre devised by the company called My Accomplice. Loneliness and the unimportance of the individual in modern life are the play’s themes and they are visually underlined by six doors, which also act at times as paper-thin walls.

The doors dominate the production as they are moved about the stage by the actors with military precision to define the physical as well as the emotional states of the tormented characters. At times the stage resembles a maze from which escape appears impossible. In the case of one of the two central characters, Lydia (Hannah Banks), there is no escape because the doors are locked confining her to a cell in a mental institution with the terrifying name of Alternative Psychology where she has been committed.

Lydia and her flat mate, Emma (Kate Clarkin) have a strained relationship. Emma is slack about paying the rent, not feeding Stephen Fry (the cat) and doing nothing to keep the flat clean and tidy. And there’s a strange stain coming through the wall from the next-door flat. And then Lydia is fired from her job. Oh and there’s a psychopath on the loose.

Uther Dean’s lighting is suitably chiaroscuro and his production moves efficiently from scene to scene with the actors giving good performances (particularly Paul Waggott as a mysterious and frightening figure of authority and Theo Taylor, who doubles briefly as Stephen Fry, as a young man with some sort of conscience in an amoral world). However, the play with its occasional Pinteresque overtones seems too contrived, and wears its bleakness about the human condition on its sleeve a little too obviously.
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A world of sociopaths, both passive and active

Review by John Smythe 03rd Sep 2010

This twisting tale of urban angst behind doors, between walls, and too often suffered in the silence that’s left when nobody seems to listen or care, is curiously absorbing.

DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE. is more redolent of Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants (whence Hannah Banks, Uther Dean and Paul Waggott set up ‘my accomplice’), than the first work they went on to devise, Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow.

While the cast of six work fluidly as an ensemble and play multiple roles, it becomes apparent one, for each, is a major character, as listed in the programme credits.

The prologue, entitled ‘May Prefer To Be Alone’, includes Paul Waggott – who has been sitting facing us, still and expressionless in one of the free-standing doorways that adorn the stage, as we arrive and settle – delivering a harsh and stilted greeting that begins, “I trust you’re sitting comfortably …,” and ends with a prediction game: “Tomorrow you’re going to kill someone. You know who. You know why.” Thus what follows is imbued with a sense of foreboding.

In the third act it’s Waggott’s psychiatric nurse, Sean, who is summoned to his boss’s office and subjected to the same game; his own recorded voice replicating the prologue. Kindly with an edge of menace, Sean is a bit of a lost soul himself, what with the wife and kids being overseas and waiting for him to join them. Apparently this job was an opportunity he couldn’t afford to turn down. Waggott is compelling in the role, right through to his “business or pleasure?” escape from this particular set of walls.

The first act, entitled ‘The Four Of Us Are Dying’, is launched by Owen Baxendale’s highly motivated Mark Plaster, opening his ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ seminar by enjoining his Newtown Community Centre attendees (us) to stop thinking and start living by not caring about people’s feelings. This sets the tone for the non-relationships that emerge in ensuing scenes.

The door flats with their stretch fabric facings – in which eerie impressions of hands and faces appear on occasion – are moved about and utilised inventively to define locations and suggest states of mind.

A small door becomes the fridge from which Kate Clarkin’s insular Emma extracts her breakfast. She has a sleeping flatmate who refuses to communicate, a self-serving cat called Stephen Fry who is ‘her life’ and a slowly growing stain on the wall that she can’t get rid of.

In the city where the Biblio Café is busy, the staff are almost automatons and tables are hard to find (an excellent physical theatre sequence here), a journalist, Tim – the main role for the gymnastically gifted Theo Taylor, who also plays the cat – is looking for a missing person, who may have been homeless. Only one woman (who we’ll come to know later as Claire) seems remotely interested. Tim turns out to be Emma’s brother, more keen than she to keep in touch.

A young woman whose job is to count the passing foot traffic with a clicker, turns out to be Emma’s troublesome flatmate, Lydia: an aching portrayal of hopelessness by Hannah Banks. The cat’s purloining of her keys makes her late for the staff meeting where she loses her job which leads to a meltdown back home, obliging Emma to have her committed.

So who are the four who are ‘dying’ here? Emma, Lydia, Sean and the cat? Or maybe Mark. Or possibly Tim, although he seems to be the most together despite the futility of his quest. Are we expected to ponder deeply on the implications of the subtitles?

As we segue into Act Two: ‘No Real Fear Of Dangers’, the doors, walls and ceiling close in on Lydia at The Shipman Clinic for Alternative Psychologies, despite the care and attention she gets from Sean. But there is an inherent sense of danger here, which does escalate into violence. Meanwhile Emma’s anxiety is increasing over the stain. And Sean is confronted with the aforementioned dire prediction. So the subtitle is ironic, tehn?  

Claire – a chiropractor, fitness freak and good all-rounder, played with lively purpose by Eleanor Wootton – thrusts us into Act Three: ‘Long Range Happiness’. She is the flipside of Mark Plaster when it comes to coaching losers and misfits, and is deeply implicated in the plaster mark that is freaking out Emma. That’s as much as I’ll say on that.

Let’s just say the plot thickens into the shock-horror realm ubiquitous on primetime television, without star-cast crime-fighters hogging the limelight. Instead we are simply confronted with this desolate picture of 21st century life, devoid of purpose, prospects or love and left – under the Epilogue title: ‘Insistence on Sameness’ – with a small image of human compassion, and Sean’s escape.

What I take DOORS. WALLS. AND ALSO SILENCE. to be, then, is a heartfelt cry from a generation still trying to make sense of a world that alienates them. It is a state of being that has been explored in theatre for 50-plus years, at least, with each generation finding a new way of expressing it.

Here theatrical creativity, blending physical theatre performance elements, quirky visuals – e.g. office workers sit in chairs laid on their sides – and ingenious uses of design elements (set, Rebecca Wilson; sound, Thomas Press; costumes, Patrick Keenan), assures us all is not lost for this generation.

Although – like so many devised works – it is unlikely to survive beyond this production (which could well tour to fringe festivals), director Uther Dean and his team have peopled their stage with sociopaths both passive and active, as a provocation to consider what our world has become. Does it sound perverse, then, to say I enjoyed it?
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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