Elimination Rounds

BATS Theatre, Wellington

30/03/2010 - 01/04/2010

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

06/04/2010 - 10/04/2010

Production Details

A savagely Darwinistic talent show, an anarchic end-of-the-world party –
Lets make a night of it!


In the 1900s we couldn’t stop destroying each other. In this century we can’t stop destroying the planet, but Generation Y has a notorious reputation for ignoring the warning signs. And so, with reminders of the dire state of the world bombarding us every day, what are we really doing with our time? 

“If this is our immediate future, I want no part of this. Yet this is unmissable theatre,” Sharon Matthews, Theatreview. 

Binge Culture emerge fearless from Storytime For The Hungry (“Best Outdoor” NZ Fringe 2010), an anything-can-happen outdoor exploration of Clown and challenges those brave enough to join them for Elimination Rounds, an amalgamation of the company’s critically acclaimed productions, Animal Hour and Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish.

Elimination Rounds revisits, refines and interrogates these shows. It’s a raw, brutally honest examination of voyeurism and exhibitionism, and the dark nature of the live event itself. “We want our audiences to be witness to something real happening, rather than casual spectators” says co-director Ralph Upton, “Our audiences are always part of the show, and both they and the performers have to expect the unexpected”.

The show opens with a prime time talent show featuring a live band, ambushed by a wildlife documentary, with the most vicious elements of both. It provocatively probes the ability of art and science to provide “answers”. One contestant is left standing as the talent show gradually dissolves into Drowning Bird Plummeting Fish (“Best Newcomers”, NZ Fringe 2009) – an after-party where the beer is warm, the music is shit and the world is ending. In this setting, the party games will be life and death.

This is theatre – a supposed ‘dead’ medium, entertaining only for 1900s survivors who can’t handle IMAX – amidst and affected by the crisis state we are currently in. For no matter how dimensional a humanoid from the Alpha Centauri star system is, if the tsunami hits while you’re watching it, it won’t be there with you questioning what had kept us, and our world, from Animal Hour,tipping over the edge.

Binge Culture Collective is a group of young graduates from Victoria University of Wellington’s Theatre Programme. They have been making innovative devised theatre since 2008, using young New Zealanders, and the real world, as a starting point.

Expect to be provoked, challenged and entertained. Every audience is a catalyst, every night is different, and everybody has a part to play…

‘Binge Culture get my award for the most exciting new company. Brave, expressive, energetic, hilarious. Their work is messy and explodes off the stage. It’s unusual, thorough and uncomfortable – everything theatre should be. I loved these shows.’ Jo Randerson 

Starring: Rachel Baker, Joel Baxendale Simon Haren, Claire O’Loughlin, Ralph Upton, Fiona McNamara, Rose Guise, Gareth Hobbs, Steph Cairns and Jake Baxendale

30th March – 1st April, 7.30pm
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
book@bats.co.nz or 04 802 4175
$20 Waged / $14 Concession

6th – 10th April, 7.30pm
Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
bingeculture@gmail.com or 027 464 3473
$20 Waged / $14 Concession

For more information on Binge Culture Collective, visit www.bingeculture.co.nz.

Rachel Baker (DBPF), Joel Baxendale (DBPF), Simon Haren (AH & DBPF), Claire O’Loughlin (DBPF), Ralph Upton (AH), Fiona McNamara (AH), Rose Guise (AH) 

Players, Music composition & Musicians (AH):
Gareth Hobbs, Steph Cairns and Jake Baxendale

Set Design: Rose Guise
Hamish Upton: DBPF Music, composition  
Lighting design & operation (AH): Rachel Baker
Rachel Marlow, Original DBPF Lighting

Bold Binge Culture

Review by Lynn Freeman 15th Apr 2010

This company of Gen Ys is producing the kind of theatre that speaks directly to its peers.

The actors cast a cynical eye at themselves and others, at media and greed, at humanity and inhumanity.  Their plays are saturated with imagery, sound, colour and messages and they tap into the theatres of cruelty and absurdism.

It’s a lot for an audience to take in, perhaps harder for those a generation or two removed from the Ys. I was aware of total engagement from those younger souls around me while I found myself wearying of the torrent of nastiness, cruelty and distastefulness.  

As someone who’s never been drunk, the tales of drunken escapades didn’t speak to me. But hey, I’m not the target audience. It must be said too that the unpleasantness on stage is all for a purpose and designed to make audiences feel uncomfortable.

Also to question – themselves, others, the media, greed, the future of the human race.

Animal Hour compares and contrasts human beings and the rest of the animal kingdom, making the point that we are not so different. As a send up of reality TV – Big Brother/Survivor, it’s very effective.

Even ghastlier than the real thing, which is hard to imagine possible. Drowning Bird Plummeting Fish shares a game show element with Animal Hour, but here a contestant is punished to a point where his life is in danger when he is quizzed on questions ranging from the trivial to the topical.

Binge Culture is off to a flying start with these two shows, brought back as a double bill. They are bold and original, and as a company share the off stage and on stage roles as a true ensemble. 
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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Political animals

Review by Janet McAllister 08th Apr 2010

Theatre and contemporary politics don’t usually mix in Auckland. But this warm and committed Wellington production demonstrates with gusto why they should be seen together more often in polite society.

In two devised, semi-experimental pieces, the young, university-based Binge Culture Collective creates some disturbing and fascinating theatrical moments which draw links between consumer society, national politics and the worst of our allies’ illegitimate acts. New Zealand isn’t isolated; it is implicated. [More]
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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Hard to swallow and hard to spit out

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 07th Apr 2010

Audience members are lured to their seats at the beginning of Animal Hour – the first play of the two-part devised Binge Culture production, Elimination Rounds – by a talented saxophonist clad in a tiger costume. The saxophonist and director of the show, Joel Baxendale, joins his fellow animal musicians on stage where they aptly warm the boards up for the evening’s event: a reality talent show.

As the bizarre purgatorial talent show takes place, goaded on by Joker-like host Ralph Upton, the closeness between humans and animals is investigated; as is the indifference, conformity and predictability of “the contestants”: Generation Y. This is not so much a subtle significance; rather, a heavy-handed articulation: “I don’t know if it’s just your generation, but you’re derivative, you’re apathetic, you’re boring!” 

The contestants are judged on their voicemail messages, handshakes, social encounters, their ability to make fire, and their interpretation of “the altruistic act”; which amounts to offering audience members pedicures and kidney transplants. 

The uninspiring criticism of a narcissistic, self-serving culture is interspersed with some moments of clever animal impersonations and skilful musicianship; however, these sporadic harmonies and Upton’s amusing performance cannot tie together the jumbled messages and haphazard symbologies that make up the rest of the show. 

Baxendale writes in his Director’s note: “People love animals […] so much because we’re one of them. This happy relationship is, however, conditional on knowing that we are, when all is said and done, superior […] We take it on ourselves to discover new answers to the question that plagues humanity’s fragile opinion of itself”.

If the objective is to differentiate humans from animals, it is clear that the playwright (the cast and director in this instance) believe that we are no better than animals. This value judgement does not come logically to the fore after the facts and examples have been laid bare. Rather, it splatters its stubborn guts all over the floorboards with its fingers in its ears, as the winning contestant Simon (played unassumingly by Simon Haren) eats his fellow contestant (Fiona McNamara) alive.

If this value judgement itself is a demonstration of the grotesque Generation Y ‘Binge Culture’, then it may have some significance. However, the intention is doubtful. 

The second play, Drowning Bird Plummeting Fish, “talks to Animal Hour: they reflect upon each other” – says Producer-come-actor Claire O’ Loughlin.

This play amounts to a collage; beginning with actors running hysterically about the stage, calling out stock market changes: “Vodafone, make the most of now, down 2 points; Change we can believe in, down 6 points…” This episode is followed by a mundane (if rather cutesy) drinking game with the audience: “Have you ever?” Then the actors step into small boxes which have their innermost thoughts (or their most recent social media status updates) written on the sides. Scene after scene, the stage is plagued with a lack of plot. If this is a comment on the Generation Y culture, then the play needs a form more suited to a plot-less collage of scenes.

Dadaist theatre – which attempts to ridicule the meaninglessness of the modern world and break away from the constraints of theatrical norms by incorporating the randomness of life into its form – may well have brought unity to the frenzied ideas of this play. As it is, the only intent that can be made out is an investigation of the Generation Y culture, which is apparently preoccupied with one-liners and puking all over Wellington.

The one scene which follows through on this investigation is a peer-pressure/torture situation involving a naked and stressed Simon Haren. The scene builds up to the torture climax, where Simon must come up with ten ways to reduce climate change while being suffocated and drowned. The image of a Generation Y young man being tortured to reveal what he can do to prevent climate change is a striking one. But, unfortunately, it is followed by a Panda coming on stage with a leaf-blower, reciting a riddle to the audience about cannibalism; as if the image of cannibalism should be the lasting one.

Again, the decision about whether or not humans are superior to animals is made for the audience. Production Company Binge Culture wants to involve us, but they don’t.

Joel Baxendale writes conclusively: “Now it’s a question of what we do with our new perspectives… bon appetite.” But the sentiment is inappropriate, as the audience are being force-fed a perspective which is both hard to swallow and hard to spit out.
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. 


Thomas LaHood April 18th, 2010

Just want to say that I really like the way you communicate these things Sam.  Very articulate.  I enjoy reading what you have to say.

sam trubridge April 16th, 2010

What I like about theatre is that it engages in a ‘play’ between the actual and the virtual, between the imagined and the real, between what happens and what we think happens. Using this ‘doubleness’, the paddle in Mark Twain and Me in Maoriland is at both times a paddle and a water bottle. We ‘entertain’ the notion of this bottle being a paddle, and in doing so actively engage in the creation of the stage world. Personally I would have liked it if the bottle had been a green glass bottle, therefore more consistent with the aesthetic of the period and less with the aesthetic of the rehearsal room. Then perhaps the green glass could have invoked a pounamu ‘mere’ in other scenes, or the ubiquitous bottle of ‘grog’ that devastated so many indigenous cultures. Anyway, what I am discussing here focusses on a ‘state of play’ between the actual and the virtual, that can continue to move us through various worlds and creates a interactive coneptual relationship with the material. When this transaction occurs, then the audience begin to interact conceptually with an animated world where objects and conditions are more than they seem. If it works for the bottle, then why not make it work for other things? – such as the chair that Marc Twain sat on? Or the whole stage space? Why stop at the proscenium arch? Perhaps the audience can consider themselves within this same ambit? When the audience become aware that their presence (their agency even) is being manipulated in some way, what then does the theatre become? This certainly is transformation in one sense?- and the kind of exchange that 'Emination Rounds' was aiming for? If we are getting semantic then I would suggest that to use the word ‘transportation’ belies a preoccupation with a world that is ‘over there’, an ‘elsewhere’ that we need to be taken to. John, you are often keen to champion NZ storytelling and NZ content in our theatres. But is this preoccupation with ‘transportation’ (with the voice of the author taking us somewhere else) a betrayal of a similar kind? What about this world here and now? Does being a theatre audience always have to be an out of body experience?

John Smythe April 16th, 2010

Ah right, so maybe ‘transportation’ is a better word, Thomas. Transportation to a different ‘reality’ in which we are made to believe by the work, as it provokes us to willingly suspend our disbelief. That’s a fair enough thing to hope for.

And just as the actor maintains a back-of-the-mind awareness that they are pretending, so the audience remains rationally aware enough that this thing that’s engaging them on emotional /intellectual /physical /metaphysical /spiritual levels, is a performance; a created-cum-recreated contrivance. Failure on either side to hang on to that small truth – to spring back into that reality, in an emergency for example – would raise questions about our sanity.


Of course there are many forms of theatre that steadfastly remain located in the performance space without any attempt at ‘transportation’: vaudeville, for example; stand-up; improv … And they, too, are capable of shifting an audience member’s perceptions, understandings and range of human experiences. 

Our capacity to jump on and off the (hopefully) moving means of transport is one of theatre’s many magical qualities – and one I experienced quite a lot during Elimination Rounds.

Thomas LaHood April 15th, 2010

 Yeah, ok, I get what you're saying.  I think we have quite different notions of what a transformation could be.  I wasn't envisaging a full-blown transcendental paradigm shift every time I see a show, or even a 'personal revelation'.  I was thinking more along the lines of, for example, a feeling of becoming someone else, or of seeing truth through 'other eyes', or perhaps just a sense of communion - a palpable sense of being 'one people'.  I personally think of transformation as something that happens naturally throughout one's life - without transformation we atrophy or become rigid. Maybe 'growth' is the same thing but I prefer to think of it as transformation.  Maybe it's a purely personal experience, but experiences don't happen in a vacuum.  We all create each other's reality, or something, right?  Argh...

I DO expect an experience, not just an education or an entertainment from theatre.  But while I hope for transformation (to whatever degree), I don't expect it.  I think you're right to say that transformations only occur when people are ready for them, I consider it part of my role as an audience member, and as a performer or maker of theatre, to BE as ready as I possibly can be.  I am, perhaps, in a small minority who takes art very seriously.

I agree it would be arrogant for a company to expect to transform their entire audience, every night - at least the way you envisage it.  As a practitioner, I would probably say my objective was not to transform the audience, but, again, to be transformed.

If the objective WASN'T to be transformed - for the artist, for the audience, then what would be?  To 'transfer knowledge'? Blah.  Why tell each other stories, unless we feel that somewhere in those stories is an opportunity to become something/someone we truly value?

John Smythe April 15th, 2010

Hoping to be transformed by a theatrical work sounds like quite a big ask, Thomas. Transformed in what way, exactly? Transformational experiences are very individual, are they not. They come to each of us when we are ready for them, whereas theatre is a collective experience.

I’d worry about a theatre group whose prime purpose was to transform their entire audience at each performance. How arrogant it would be, to assume anyone and everyone required it. And what means would they employ to capture the hearts and minds of all to the point of changing them all completely – in whose image? Shudder. 

When any of us have a ‘Road to Damascus’ experience its not the road that does it; we do it to ourselves. Even when we enrol in a transformational workshop to break through our own limitations, the breakthroughs can only happen when we are ready for and open to them. And they are specific to ourselves. It’s not impossible that an experience at the theatre could be a catalyst for such a transformation, but I don’t see how it is valid for audience members to expect it, any more than it is valid to practitioners to attempt it.

I’m sorry I didn’t make myself clear when discussing the value of incoherence /confusion /meanglessness in theatre. Put it this way. I have seen two productions of Waiting For Godot where I have been more than happy to vicariously experience the futility of waiting for something else to motivate and/or bring meaning to one’s life. When the actors believe in it utterly, I recognise the incontrovertible truth of the condition.

With Elimination Rounds, the actors’ absolute belief in the truth of their circumstances makes it utterly compelling: empathetically engaging and thought-provoking. It certainly adds to my perception of how some Gen Yers see the world and makes me question my generation’s role in creating it. But transformational? No. Why should it be?  

Thomas LaHood April 15th, 2010

 Well said, Sam.  I would say the greatest hope I have in attending theatre, either as an audience member or critic, is to be transformed.  I find something disconcerting in John's turn of phrase - "the minute I realise something has no coherence and never will, I’ve got the point and am ready to move on, unless I’m getting value out of recognising / vicariously experiencing an incoherent world".

To me this sounds as if you are evaluating the 'validity' of the experience based on some fixed, or at least rigidly held, standards of your own, DURING the experience.  If so, isn't it then rather difficult to actually engage with the work in a meaningful way?

sam trubridge April 12th, 2010


I might have agreed with you once about confusion, even after I saw 'Bloody Mess' by Forced Entertainment in 2005. It pissed me off. It was full of that English hesitancy, what I like to call 'The Bridget Jones Syndrome' of neurotic self-awareness and self analysis. But it was provocative. The more I talked about it the more I understood it, and the more I began to appreciate its significance. I also saw 'Exquisite Pain' about a week after that, but by then I was starting to get it.

At the beginning of 'Bloody Mess' the performers introduce themselves, as they sit on a line of chairs in front of the audience: "Hi I'm Larry, and tonight I want you to find me really really really really... FUNNY" (that last word sounds great in a Sheffield accent). Another (a woman) wants for us to be so completely, overwhelmingly, magnetically, sexually attracted to her. Then she gets into a gorilla suit for the rest of the show. As it goes on, a clown tries to give a very serious description of the big bang - as the greatest story ever. It is ruined by the enthusiasm of the other performers as they try to 'glam' his storytelling up with smoke machines, tinsel stars, electric guitars, and dance routines.

 It might sound quite funny here, but for an audience member it was incredibly chaotic, confusing, and most of all it infuriatingly avoided that sublime moment where the storytelling becomes fluent and beautiful. The more I think about it however, the more I realise that this was the point, and that the confusion was powerful - maybe not in a conventional theatrical, thematic sense, but in the way that it confronted the audience. We were challenged to question our relationship with storytelling, and with the sweaty aspirations of performance. It was theatre as an intricate kind of performance-art work. It didn't deliver a nicely packaged piece of writing. Instead it sat us down and made us ask some serious questions about what we had come for, and how we relate in the physical, social, political space of theatre.

 In the last moments of the work, the girl in the gorilla suit took her mask off and asked us if we still found her attractive. Then she delivered a gorgeous soliloquy about these closing moments of the performance - that soon the lights will fall, and we will be pitched off the end of this moment into darkness and silence. She set it up so beautifully, so eloquently that I was so ready for the silence and stillness that she promised. Maybe, finally I would find that sublime moment I had been looking for in the show. And what happened? The applause. Our applause destroyed it in a second.

 I don't think it is the critic's role to 'enjoy' performances, any more than it is the work of the artists to be merely 'entertaining' or 'dramatically compelling'. There is more at stake than this, and its a bit twee to go along to performances always hoping that you will enjoy it. I can say that 'Bloody Mess' was probably the best and the worse experience I have had in theatre, and that is what makes such a powerful and important work. And of course, Forced Entertainment are incredibly skilled performers, writers, and theatre makers - crafting this kind of confusion takes a lot of rigour, hard work, and discipline.



Fiona McNamara April 11th, 2010

Thanks for the review Caoilinn. Just a correction: the saxophonist is not the director Joel Baxendale (who performs in DBPF, but not AH). He is Jake Baxendale, performer and co-music composer for AH.

John Smythe April 11th, 2010

Dear ‘Pookles’, as with any audience member, the thing a critic wants most is to “enjoy the play”. And when they do, their job is to say why. Likewise when they don’t. In the process they write an ephemeral event into history – and in Theatreview’s case, open it up for discussion and debate.  

Reviews that say little more than, “It was very enjoyable” or “I was disappointed” are unlikely to make it to Theatreview – and where they have done, people have quite rightly been outraged.

pookles April 10th, 2010

zzzzzzzzzzz  Caoilinn why can't you just enjoy the play darl ? x

John Smythe April 9th, 2010

The full quote from that part of Forced Entertainment’s website is:
“The work we make is always a kind of conversation or negotiation. We’re interested in making performances that excite, frustrate, challenge, question and entertain. We’re interested in confusion as well as laughter.”

They might have added “contradictory” since confusion is not exactly conducive to conversation or negotiation. Confusion as a theme – as an evocation of human experience – is entirely valid, of course, and that comes through to me very clearly in Elimination Rounds. But confusion as a performance objective? I don’t see the value in that.

We in the audience take so much on trust and often work quite hard to make sense of what’s happening. I’m all for that, given good incentives to engage at that level. But the minute I realise something has no coherence and never will, I’ve got the point and am ready to move on, unless I’m getting value out of recognising / vicariously experiencing an incoherent world.

Does that make sense?  

Erin Banks April 8th, 2010

I think it is important to remember that Binge Culture began as an exploration of the work of UK performance Art/Theatre company Forced Entertainment.  You can read more about them on their website.


As I understand it their performances are intended to question, push, and indeed frustrate their audiences.  They are playful, open and intended to create dialogue with an audience. As Forced Entertainment say on their own website "We’re interested in confusion as well as laughter".

travis matthews April 8th, 2010

Thank you very much for this review. I found many of my own thoughts echoed throughout the piece - I'd wondered if I'd just been 'missing' something, as John's review was largely positive. How reassuring it is to know that I'm not alone!


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Generation Y’s epitaph for itself?

Review by John Smythe 31st Mar 2010

In my more paranoid moments I have perceived the plethora of so-called ‘reality’ television shows that inexorably eliminate contestants at each episode – Survivor, Idol, Dancing, Cheffing et al – as part of a conspiracy to condition us all into accepting that eventually, in actual reality, some of us will have to go; only then will the ‘chosen ones’ get the opportunities they deserve.

Then there is the voyeuristic ‘blood sport’ dimension of such ‘entertainment’, fuelled by our exhibitionist tendencies and/or the desire to claim our ’15 minutes of fame’. And basic survival remains the over-riding imperative, as it was back in Ancient Rome where it all began – or at least became formalised and popularised – at the Coliseum.

Both Animal Hour, which premiered in June last year, and Drowning Bird Plummeting Fish, which premiered in the 2009 Fringe, explore these themes, and now they return as a package under the collective title Elimination Rounds. (Given DBPF won Binge Culture accolades for‘Best Newcomers’ the NZ Fringe 2009 and ‘Most Original Concept’ in the Dunedin Fringe 2009, is there an irony there? Nah. Some forms of competition are constructive and affirming. Right?)

I had assumed we would get a blend of the two in one show but no, they play separately with a fairly long interval for re-setting. Fair enough. As the night wears on, the points are being made stronger as the action becomes more ruthless, relentless and inescapable. Given Generation Y has a reputation for having a short concentration span, it is a feat in itself to compel the attention of its target audience for more than two hours without offering them recourse to a remote, even when it is all about them.

We, the audience, are very present to the action and are constantly made aware that if it wasn’t for our insatiable appetites for such spectacle much of this would not be happening.

Animal Hour takes the form of a talent quest and/or audition (for life?). Host Ralph Upton’s challenges to the three contestants – Rose Guise, Fiona McNamara and Simon Haren – require them to capture images of human behaviour as singled, couple ot all together. And we do the thumbs up or down thing while the band, clad in animal costumes – Gareth Hobbs, Steph Cairns and Jake Baxendale – form the judging panel.

A further round involves animal behaviour. The total commitment of the contestants to getting these things ‘right’ makes them utterly compelling, no matter how trivial or fatuous the challenges may seem. And then it becomes no laughing matter ….

Assessments and judgements are made according to strict criteria, so that although Fiona appears to be dying a slow death with her entrails hanging out, her attempts to express her inner-most feeling are judged entirely on whether she has achieve the exact syllable count for a haiku. Form supersedes content.

The change in dynamic that comes with Upton announcing it’s not working, he doesn’t know what’s going in, they don’t talk to each other any more, etc, etc, perfectly captures the existential anguish of a failing relationship; so much so that I – being quite a lot older than those on stage – cannot help but wonder how come they are all so familiar with that stuff already. Then I remember, it starts in adolescence and even then – perhaps even more so – it seems like a strangely remote yet intensely personal perception of the end of the world.

The blind faith and obedience of a dog (or is she?) and the final instruction to the blindfolded contestants to consume – “When I say eat, eat. There are no other rules.” – brings us to intermission, as the blindfolded ‘victor’ (or is he?) burbles on in an undertone …  

While Animal Hour begins with a bubble-wrap ‘pathway’ unrolling, and the Host creeping down it in spooky silence save for the odd pop in his quest for the microphone that gives him power and control (a deeply compelling opening), Drowning Bird Plummeting Fish opens with a spool of magnetic tape being unravelled and a woman calling share market activity as a roaring leaf-blower blasts yellow plastic shopping bags about the cardboard carton-littered space.

The cartons are inscribed with descriptions of personality types or states of being which will be paraded by Rachel Baker, Claire O’Loughlin and Simon Haren ( freed at last from his blindfold), after they have introduced themselves according to their relationship status.

A moving – as in mobile – carton reveals Joel Baxendale, who turns out to be another game-show host with a suddenly denuded Simon the only contestant. A shopping bag of water covers his groin and as he attempts to give the ‘right’ answers for the Top Ten Screen Kisses / Ways To Catch Up with Australia / Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint … any ‘wrong’ answer incurs a pin-prick to the water bag, which hangs above a tin bath (go to the toilet in the interval or this will make you wanna).

What starts as fun becomes sociopathically ruthless until the water bag is empty, suffocation is threatened and water boarding takes over. Meanwhile the walls have been chalked with apparently random words that rarely – it seems – have anything to do with Simon’s answers.

In the sorry remnants of all this, stories are told of drunken, debauched and degrading experiences in the Courtenay and Oriental sectors of our fair city, which is indicated with the topography of the cartons. All have a ring of truth about them: the inevitable rites of passage into so-called adulthood. Few in the audience will not be relating strongly as they silently recall their own similar experiences.

Eventually what seemed like amusing stories disintegrate through tawdry to tragic and the storytellers lose their fluency. The leaf-blower – which has added its menacing off-stage tone to proceedings throughout – finally makes its entrance in the hands of a giant Panda, who confounds us with a conundrum concerning Albatross Soup. And in the end, most of the chalked-up words turn out to have some meaning.

As with Animal Hour, it is crystal clear what’s happening at any given moment (although sfx and/or music sometimes obscure the words being spoken, which may or may not matter) but what it actually means is up to us to divine / invent / put into words.

It is very clear that the performers are fully present to each beat of action, riding the swells and troughs of every emotion in the process, so the ‘truth’ of it all is never in doubt. What remains is an undeniable evocation of a ruthless, selfish, all-consuming world in chaos: Generation Y’s epitaph for itself?

As we head home, we older farts cannot help but compare it to the ‘happenings’ of the 1960s and 70s. They were very judgemental of ‘conservatism’, ‘the System’ and ‘the Establishment’. We are left to ponder whether the focus Elimination Rounds brings to its own generation is an act of relative maturity or further proof of its undying obsession with itself.   
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. 


Ralph Upton April 1st, 2010

For readers in Auckland: "Elimination Rounds" will be at The Basement 6-10 of April next week, so this review is more relevent to you folk as our short run at BATS has almost ended. Tour info is on www.bingeculture.co.nz. Thanks John for your review!

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