Flights of Absurdia

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

17/10/2012 - 20/10/2012

Production Details

Final year students are proud to present Flights of Absurdia.

This show is a piece of devised theatre based on /provoked by Absurdist Theatre principles and Absurdist texts, such as Pinter’s Betrayal, Gombrowicz’s Princess Ivona, Albee’s Zoo Story, e.e. cummings’ Santa Claus, Albee’s Sandbox, Beckett’s Not I. Prepare to be amused, intrigued, entranced and maybe even disturbed as events unfold in surprising ways.

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
17th to 20th October.

Flights of Absurdia company
Katey Good, Brendan Theodore, Callum Braithwaite, Sad'e Peel, Julianne Boyle, Luke Johnson, Mohammad Al-Ghrabi, Eleanor Corfe, Jamie Graham, Kirsten Harvey, Ishtar Bell Hunter, Erin Cochran, Sinead Bradley and Amanda Wallace

Green tea for the imagination

Review by Gail Pittaway 19th Oct 2012

It’s great to see Theatre Studies students devising plays that query the whole point of theatre. Detached from the angst of plot, theme and classical narrative streams, absurdist plays float in our consciousness with comical but sometimes disturbing effects.

It’s an era and style which have been absorbed into our consciousness, especially since comedy shows like Monty Python and The Young Ones made such popular television. However, rather like what happened to Aristophanes’ Attic Old Comedy, after the Peloponnesian War, elements of ritual and the bizarre were lost and only farce remained in the New Theatre of Greece and Rome.

Today (after which war we might ask?) public theatre in the form of television has become netted up in situational forms or so-called reality TV. Modern play scripts, while occasionally delving into what is now called Magic Realism, tend to follow suit. We seem to take our populism very seriously.

Time, then, for a good visit to Absurdia. According to the notes by Director Gaye Poole, the students of the Creating Theatre course at the University of Waikato studied a collection of absurdist texts, from Genet and Camus, to Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and then devised plays which responded to the nature or core elements of each. From this a programme developed, with two parts and eleven plays, some only minutes long, which play out the themes of dislocation, and perturbation.

The company members are all attired in white cotton pants and pastel tops, matched by similarly pastel coloured honeycomb shaped poufs which serve as rostra, seating, barricades and a variety of structures. The entire design is well-considered and enhanced by beautiful patterns and effects of lighting, from circling pools, to dappled effects, bright daylight to dimness and well-chosen and cued music and sound. 

The production moves swiftly from piece to piece, and only the Beckett-inspired ‘Not I’ recurs as a voice piece, in full darkness, with mouths lit by torchlight and immaculate delivery: a triumph of simplicity and provocation. 

Opening each act with ritualised movement pieces – ‘Unwrapping’ and ‘Tea Ceremony’, each mysterious and carefully choreographed – has a cleansing effect on the imagination and allows the eyes and mind to expect the unexpected.

There’s a reverse chronology piece, ‘Cleaning Up’, in which a couple takes on a third party as flatmate, with clear reference to Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’. The three players, Ishtar Bell Hunter, Jamie Graham and Kirsten Harvey, perform with simplicity and innocence, making this more about boredom and loneliness than the tortuous relationship of the original.

Two longer plays, ‘The Aquarium Story’ and ‘The Resort’, source Albee originals, Zoo Story and The Sandbox, respectivelywith fine performances from Brendan Theodore, Katey Good, Sad’e Peel,Julianne Boyle,Luke Johnson andMohammad Al-Ghrabi. However the pet cabbage nearly steals the show.

There’s one corny piece that gets plenty of laughs. ‘The doctor’s surgery and the boat’, using the full ensemble, uses puns on fruit and vegetables –particularly leeks and carrots – about medical and nautical matters (leaking water, diamond carats) and so on, to show how these word and theatre games can still influence sketch comedy.

There are tantalising copies of the New Yorker magazine (perhaps in reference to e. e. cummings?) left on seats in the theatre and these recur as props in some scenes but come alive in the last choreographed piece, ‘Flight of the New Yorker’, as the ensemble first hold, read then coax into flight, the open – winged – magazines around the central area, making tracks in a central carpet of talcum powder.

In all it’s a fun and strangely restful night at the theatre: green tea for the imagination.


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