Te Whaea - The Garage, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

07/02/2007 - 10/02/2007

NZ Fringe Festival 2007

Production Details

Director - Kerina Deas
Creators - Blair Ryan, Chris O'Neill, Ban Abdul, Kerina DEas, Jason Bryce


Control is only an illusion.

Based on the famous Greek myth of Medea, by Euripides, Escape is a challenging, visual feast, looking at living with the consequences of our actions.

In Euripides’ play, Medea, a stranger in a foreign land, murders her two sons to avenge an unfaithful husband. ESCAPE, by contrast, looks at her subsequent life, the consequences of her choices and the torture of memory.

ESCAPE, a technical one-woman show, stars Ban Abdul, Chapman Tripp nominee for best female newcomer (2003), well-known from such successful productions as “Disco Pigs”, and award winning “Baghdad Baby” and Weta Workshop’s animation “Jane and the Dragon”. Born in Dubai to Iraqi and Yemeni parents, her ethnicity further opens the debates around being torn between many worlds.

Innovatively edgy, this devised show is the first production to be offered by Tenacity Productions, a new and exciting Wellington theatre company founded by theatre professionals.  “We are really interested in breaking down the barriers between actor and audience”, says director Kerina Deas.  “We want to break away from the safety of tradition and create a new way of experiencing a show, a way that gives a stronger connection to the piece.  We are exploring the idea of guilt and hypocrisy and the show strips away some of the comfortable masks we hide behind.”

ESCAPE is a bold and visually breath-taking event that is set to rock the Fringe festival.  This is not a show to miss!

Performer - Ban Abdul

Theatre , Solo ,

50 mins

Medea trapped

Review by Lynn Freeman 22nd Feb 2007

At the Garage at Te Whaea a young theatre company bursting with ideas presented Escape, trapping Medea of Greek myth fame in a modern day room where she is constantly reminded of her decision to murder her two children.  They haunt her despite her strength of will and spirit. 

It is, director Kerina Deas says in her programme notes, about the "torture of memory". Now if I hadn’t read the programme beforehand I doubt I’d have made the Medea link, more likely seeing a connection with Lady Macbeth – I suspect because of the frequent hand washing motif. 

The technical side of the production is audacious and often thrilling and Ban Abdul is, as always, captivating to watch.  She’s given no words to speak, just snatches of a song to sing, and despite her on-stage skills the production just doesn’t come off.  Notably the overlong scene where she makes pottery while Radio New Zealand News talks of abused children and slain mothers. 

The company is trying something new and has made a gutsy start, I look forward to seeing their second production.  


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Enigmatic and haunting

Review by Michael Wray 11th Feb 2007

It was important for me to have read in the fringe brochure and the programme notes that Escape was originally inspired by the Greek myth of Medea. In Euripedes’ Medea, she is abandoned by her husband Jason (he with the Argonauts) for a new wife who could provide greater prospects. As well as poisoning the rival, Medea further punishes Jason by murdering his children – her own children.

On entry to the wide open space of The Garage, the audience is split into two groups according to whether their assigned entry ticket is a marble or jigsaw piece. One group sits in an elevated block of seats at the far end, whilst the other sits behind a small platform running down the side. Whether by design or not, this effectively splits attending friends or couples and serves to create a sense of separation and isolation before the show begins. A pile of sand and ash must be avoided as those sitting by the side take their seats.

The show itself presents a solo woman, Ban Abdul, who occupies herself with setting up and operating a pottery wheel while listening to the radio news. However, all is not well. We hear strange noises, the sounds of children around us and the woman is rattled.

A child’s toy is rescued from an attic space and the silhouette of a knife-wielding woman is presented. The effects continue for the entire show and are cleverly implemented. The pillars provide visual obstacles, obscuring the view from the side, which somehow seems appropriate for this style of show.

One or possibly two figures clad in black move somnolently around the space, operating the ropes that control the screen, ladder, sashes and mirrors that fall down in to the performance. On a practical level, these figures are stage hands, but their presence is subtle and menacing. They move in the shadows and hide behind pillars, occasionally appearing on the edges of our vision.

Finally, the woman takes a photograph, one of many that has fallen from the ceiling, and burns it in the pile of sand and ash. The pot produced on the pottery wheel is bisected, wrapped in plastic and joins a pile of similar objects. This has all happened before. We are watching a sequence of events that have repeated themselves, will repeat themselves.

Is Ban Abdul playing the spirit of Medea being punished for infanticide? Is this a woman being possessed by a Medean spirit? Has she done something to warrant this? It is impossible to tell and there will be as many different interpretations as audience members. The show ends with her leaving the space and taking no applause. A further sign of guilt, perhaps?

It is an enigmatic and haunting piece to both delight and threaten the senses.


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Ever Present Past

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Feb 2007

In The Garage at Te Whaea Kerina Deas has coordinated Blair Ryan’s lighting, Jason Bryce’s sound effects and the largely hidden but highly effective work of the crew of Emily Smith, Chris O’Neill and Claire Adams who all give sterling support to Ban Abdul’s performance of a woman haunted by her past and the choices she made.

With the small audience tucked away in two groups against the walls of The Garage, the vast pillared space becomes a frightening place where the woman’s shadow hints at terrible deeds in the past and where a few of her favourite things fails to bring comfort, and her working at a potter’s wheel is no escape from everyday life, particularly as the news on the radio is a constant reminder of terrible contemporary events.

Escape is an audacious piece, exactly right for the Fringe with its scarily effective technical effects, but maybe the audience (at least from where I was sitting) was too far away to be totally involved.


Gillian Duke February 9th, 2007

Technically, Escape is a daring and challenging piece of theatre which both thrills and intrigues its audience who are constantly surprised and excited by both the elegant theatrical effects and Ban Abdul's skilful performance. Well worth seeing, but hurry it closes on Saturday 10th Feb.

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Innocence wrecked by violence?

Review by John Smythe 07th Feb 2007

It was a surprise, after I’d seen Escape, to read in the programme – and then in the media material – that it was inspired by the Greek myth of Medea, who murdered her sons to avenge an unfaithful husband.

An altogether different interpretation has unfolded for me as I watch Ban Abdul slam into the space like a petulant teenager – or yes, quite possibly, an angry spouse – then, at real-time pace, find focus and relative tranquillity in her studio, at her potter’s wheel … As very recent Radio New Zealand National news reports the latest violence at home and abroad, she becomes momentarily still at a report of another suicide bombing in Iraq. Now  sounds of childhood haunt her, a distant window space opening onto a brick wall offers escape, she climbs out …

On her return a brown paper package tied up with string – yes, she sings the actual song – reveals a stuffed toy and I take it as her own innocence and childhood that she is recapturing, before war made her a refugee.

Escape arose from an MTA Directing technical exercise, and that side of it is wonderfully realised. Most extraordinary are the effects achieved with shadows, projections and reflections. Sand falls, water sprays, umbrellas fall, sound effects play fast and loose with our imaginations in darkness and often minimal light …

And through all this a pot is thrown, split in two, wrapped in bubble wrap and added to a growing pile of others. Make of it all what you will … For me the notion of an innocent past wrecked by violence and unrecoverable in a compulsively violent world is very clear and compelling.



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