everything is ok

70 Cable St (opp. Te Papa), Wellington

06/11/2010 - 20/11/2010

Production Details

It can take an alternate reality to find out what life is all about

At first there is a bar, a bit of mingling and the murmur of laughter. Then there are the shadows as the lights slowly fade up. On the surface, at least, everything is ok.

everything is ok is a groundbreaking, irreverent and surreal satire of modern life that moves beyond the four walls of a black-box theatre.

The production is a multi-dimensional mash-up of installation art and performance that will challenge our sense of living in the modern world.

The production has been commissioned as part of BATS Theatre’s 2010 STAB Season, a programme that aims to push the boundaries of theatre performance. everything is ok runs November 6 to 20 at an off-site venue.

Occupying a 600m sq warehouse opposite Te Papa, at 70 Cable St, everything is ok explores themes of consumer culture. For the audience a healthy sense of voyeurism is an advantage.

The audience explores three separately-defined stages dealing with themes of what it means to be part of consumer culture.

Using a mix of shipping containers, discarded industrial implements and a rapid-fire psychedelic trip through old news reports and infomercials, the theatre becomes a canvas – a moving feast of culture-jamming and modern satire.

“everything is ok is like when we put ourselves in front of a mirror and can manage a smile and a sneer at the same time,” said creator Rob Appierdo from award-winning inter-arts company Storybox.  

“Our lives are defined to us by a bombardment of consumerism and imagery. We play by these corrupt rules, but when the pressure builds we’re stuck searching for our identity,” he said.

In this visually stunning and intellectually challenging production, the question remains: is everything really ok?

With thanks to Tiger Translate, Wellington City Council and the Freedom Card.

everything is ok
BATS STAB 2010 Season
70 Cable St (opp. Te Papa) Wellington City
November 6 – 20 2010, 8pm
Price: $20 Full / $15 Concession / STAB Season Pass $30
Length: 1hr 20min
Bookings: book@bats.co.nz or call 04 802 4175 

EIOK Website

Tim Carlsen, Jeremy Randerson, Jessica Robinson, Hadleigh Walker, Aroha White  

Director: Rob Appierdo  
Producer: Mark Westerby  
Designer: Stuart Foster  
Sound: Andy Cummins  
Lighting: Marcus McShane  

Mirror to society

Review by Lynn Freeman 18th Nov 2010

The opening sequences in this second Bats commissioned STAB show are nothing short of astonishing. In this post-apocalyptic world our greed and desire for consumer items has led to destruction and isolation. Still those left behind cling on to rituals, eating around a dinner table where dust and twisted metal are all the ‘mother’ can offer up. Advertisements still play, though there is nothing worth buying, and self-help gurus ply their manipulative trade. 

This is a play in two long parts and a short interlude. In the latter skeptical audio-visual messages play over and over again hypnotically. On either side are plays with the same actors but entirely different scenes.

While the first part is futuristic, the second is more of the moment, still looking at isolation with glimpses into four apartments, two by two, cleverly fashioned from containers. Here one young man can’t let go of his child star persona, a woman realizes her relationship has failed, a man packs up while trying to record a personal message for a funeral, and a young woman tries to sell people their freedom, in the form of loans.

The cast all played a part in creating the work along with the director Robert Appierdo, and that shines through in their excellent performances. Hadleigh Walker and Jeremy Randerson are especially strong as the hedonistic young men, one of whom dreams of escaping the nightmare and the other a possum in the headlights.

Jessica Robinson continues to impress mightily in her roles as the matriarch in the future world and the trapped partner in the other. Newcomers Aroha White and Tim Carlsen perform with impressive confidence and deserve the attention of directors with future challenging theatre projects. 

The production value are equally high, from Stuart Foster’s grungy set and Andy Hummel’s oppressive soundscape to Marcus McShane and Jennifer Lal’s striking lighting design and the AVs from Johann Nortje and Harry Silver. 

This is an uncomfortable experience – not just a long period standing and watching at the start, but the kind of mirror this collective holds up to us.


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Bleak picture of life reduced to lonely ritualism

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 14th Nov 2010

The second STAB production for 2010 was started with Robert Appierdo’s desire to work with shipping containers as a cross section of a block of flats but, as is the way of these things, it evolved into a sort of tone poem of contemporary life and where it all might be heading.

Impressively staged in a large warehouse with room enough to house four containers Everything is OK begins in the future, a world of urban desolation where a huckster pedals with religious fervour the snake-oil of self-improvement, television ads extol the virtues of sun cream, and young men dream of escape in fast cars but the only cars are wrecks and oil has presumably long ceased to exist.

In the middle of this stark arena is a dining table at which a ritualistic family meal is created with cartoonish exaggeration by a mother who serves up fine sand and what looked like from where I was squatting bits of old computers. An old ritual is carried out but without meaning. 

After this fractured vision of the future the audience moves to an area behind the containers to find comfortable seating facing four well furnished rooms designed by Stuart Foster in a contemporary apartment block just like the ones in Cable Street. For a moment I thought we were in for an Ayckbourn-like comedy of middle-class people trapped in their comfortable prison cells. 

In one apartment a TV sit-com star (Tim Carlsen) is trapped in his own success, in the apartment below a couple (Jessica Robinson & Jeremy Randerson) are trapped in a disintegrating relationship. A lonely young woman (Aroha White) spends her time phone marketing and below her a man (Hadleigh Walker) is practicing the eulogy he is to give at a friend’s funeral. Every now and then loud claps of thunder create a sense of foreboding amongst the apartment dwellers. 

When forced to evacuate the apartment block the five people stand in the rain on the street but when contact with other people is possible, and under the circumstances likely, none is made. They return to their cells and their lonely ritualistic lives. 

It’s a bleak picture of contemporary life and a bleaker one of the future, which keeps the audience at a distance, not allowing us to empathise with any of the characters.
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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It has scale but rarely engages

Review by Helen Sims 08th Nov 2010

Sometimes things that are incomprehensible are still oddly satisfying – like an e.e. cummings poem. Sometimes they are not – like why Wagner is still on the UK version of X Factor after performing a mash up of ‘O Fortuna’ and ‘Bat Out of Hell’ (YouTube it, if you have not seen the horror already).

I’m not quite sure what camp the second STAB show, Everything is OK, falls into, but this strange mash up of a theatre piece did leave me scratching my head. There were many aspects of the piece I enjoyed and some that just simply did not connect with me – and I suspect the rest of the audience.

This would be the place where I would usually describe what the show was about – but to be honest I’m still not sure, aside from its broad criticism of the emptiness of the consumerist drive. So in order to avoid just recounting what happens, which I think would ruin the experience of seeing this show as it is comprised of layers of surprises, I’ll describe aspects that stood out instead.

The first thing that strikes me is the sheer scale of the work – using an empty warehouse really allows designers to stretch their creative muscles and creates endless possibilities for inventive lighting, audio visual and other effects. The space is broken up by the set into several different ‘worlds’ in which the actors perform. How (or if) these worlds are connected is not clear.

Neither are the sight lines – I couldn’t see a large part of the first thirty minutes of the show, which proceeds like a manic and poorly curated museum piece. I’m sure the actors were doing something interesting; I just couldn’t see or hear them at times and immediately found I just wanted to inspect a piece of the set instead.

This part of the show seems to have the common failing of many devised works: it was probably great fun (and possibly deeply profound) during the rehearsal/devising process, but it fails to connect with the audience in performance.

Fortunately, there is a second part to the show, which hangs together more, although it retains a quirky and inventive tone. Again, the set, comprised of shipping containers (designed by Stuart Foster) is magnificent. This time, the mysteries surrounding the characters and their stories are satisfying rather than distracting and annoying. The actors seem far more comfortable in this space and with these characters.

There is a particularly brilliant scene between the dysfunctional and disenchanted couple played by Jeremy Randerson and Jessica Robinson that is a standout for its raw realism. The moody atmosphere is beautifully complemented by the sound design of Andy Hummel.

The extent to which the scene between Randerson and Robinson, which occurs late in the piece, stands out shows up how the rest of the piece lacks content with which we can emotionally engage.

Given the heavy themes expressed in Robert Appierdo’s director’s note, I suspect the work is meant to be far more confronting than it is, and give us pause for reflection on the often vacuous nature of modern existence. Unfortunately there are too many other elements going on in this vast work for that to occur.

So while I would praise the scale of this ambitious production and consider it worth seeing for its originality alone, it ultimately left me unmoved.
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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