BATS Theatre, Wellington

23/02/2013 - 27/02/2013

NZ Fringe Festival 2013

Production Details

Follow, Follow, Follow could be described as a piece of dystopian surrealism, as it is set in a vaguely disturbing imagined world (possibly present), yet the piece is also comic and provides wonderful openings for physical theatre.

Brief synopsis: Six children at the age of four were removed from their parents and placed in a secure environment, where they have grown and developed for the last twelve years without outside input. These young people are now sixteen and have created an environment in which all societal norms are dispensed with.

Follow, Follow, Follow therefore raises questions about what exactly is normal behaviour, normal youth development, normal social interaction. Further, the show combines absurdism with elements of startling realism. There are some wonderfully farcical moments as these innocents try to understand their world, as for example when the young people carefully count the hairs on one of the boy’s chins, trying to figure out why there are more than there were previously. Beside the comedy, the story has very poignant moments as the young characters wrestle with their relationships and sexual jealousies. The indeterminacy of their future (will they/can they leave their room?) will haunt the audience for a very long time.

Follow, Follow, Follow was written by award winning playwright Dr Angie Farrow several years ago.  At the time it was work-shopped, then performed in a group of secondary schools in the Manawatu.

The original performers were actors aged in their early 20s, which lacked authenticity.  Director Nigel Edgecombe wanted to produce this play for some time but didn’t have suitable actors in the right age bracket.  Finally after five years the “actors’ gods” were looking kindly on him and provided six exceptional young actors, with the right mix of experience, awards and confidence to bring this play alive.  The whole cast are aged between 16 and 17 years old, but don’t let their lack of wrinkles fool you.

The cast contains a regional winner of the Otago University Shakespeare competition; the leading lady from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and previous Fringe performer; a lead in ‘The Boyfriend’ and Gilbert and Sullivan ‘Pirates’ chorus member; the list goes on.  In total this young cast have over 40 different stage appearances between them, and two of the cast are already developing audition pieces for national and international drama schools.  They are young, they are talented, they are motivated, and they have the authenticity needed for Follow, Follow, Follow.

Director Nigel Edgecombe applied for the 2013 Fringe Festival and for a season at BATS Theatre and was accepted for both. ”This has been a fantastic script for the cast to develop, as the play provides them opportunities to express themselves more freely than society normally allows. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the cast have been having a huge amount of fun, exploring the story and ignoring how they are ‘supposed’ to behave.” 

Nigel Edgecombe’s background includes a BA in Theatre, an MPhil in English (for which he wrote a thesis on the work of theatre director Robert Lepage), a Graduate Diploma in Teaching, and he was the first person in NZ to obtain the Directing Diploma through Toi Whakaari. Nigel has taught high school drama, has tutored at the NZ Youth Drama School, and also tutored courses at Massey University. Additionally, Nigel has adjudicated at Regional level for the Sheilah Winn National Shakespeare Festival, has previously directed three shows for the Fringe Festival, and in 2010 adjudicated the Trans-Tasman Theatre Festival.  He began working in professional theatre 25 years ago, performs whenever he can, and his directorial work has been seen in three countries. 

The Crew involved in Follow Follow Follow enhances the skills and experience of the cast: Lighting Designer, Lighting/Sound Operator is Lydia Easter who has just completed a Certificate in Lighting/Sound from Whitireia. Lydia has worked in 2012 doing lighting on ‘The Hobbit’, and part-time for Metro Productions.

Design Mentor is Lisa Maule who has BA in Art History and a Bachelor of Design from Victoria. Lisa is presently Acting HOD at Toi Whakaari in Lighting Design and Production Management.

Marketing/Publicity/FOH is Crystal Mischief who has a National Certificate in Radio, a Certificate in Commercial Broadcasting, and a BA in Political Science and Criminology. Crystal is experienced in producing and marketing sell out shows, award ceremonies, graduations and corporate conferences. In 2012 she was publicist for Part Time Prostitute which won the Comedy Category for the 2012 Fringe Awards. 

Follow, Follow, Follow
at BATS Theatre, Corner of Dixon Street and Cuba Street
from 23rd to the 27th of February at 6.30pm.

Bookings: $16/13 

1 hr

Fun with strange characters

Review by John Smythe 25th Feb 2013

The premise of Angie Farrow’s Follow, Follow, Follow (written eight years ago) is that six children at the age of four were removed from their parents and placed in a secure environment where they have grown and developed in isolation for the last twelve years. The only ‘outside input’ is a daily delivery of a box of food by some mysterious means, and a DVD of The Wizard of Oz on continuous reply.

These young people are now sixteen. Presumably clothes that fit them (as they are now almost fully grown) have also been delivered. And their language skills have developed via the one and only DVD they have.

Biddy* (Elli Neal) is blowing up like a balloon to the fearful fascination of the others. Hairs are appearing on the chin of Rowley (Cole Edgecombe). He is also given to violent outbursts and running obsessively in a circle. Things – that is they – are changing, which only increases their perennial sense of uncertainty.

Despite having little confidence and no charisma, but presumably because he is the tallest male and has recorded how long they have been there (4,392 days), the ironically-named Libertine (Mats Olsthoorn) is the leader. He gives the orders, reminds them of the house rules and insists on the rituals they have developed.

For example the arrival of food precipitates a routine that gets a table cloth laid while he randomly selects someone to utter a quote from The Wizard of Oz, to which the group responds with the next part of the screenplay.

Apple (Pasquale Orchard) is an idiosyncratically hyper-expressive Munchkin while Arthur (Callum Garnock-Jones), who wears a lion’s head scarf, is hyper-timid and mute.

The most intelligent, aware and inquisitive of the sextet is Serena (Lauren McNeil), who is given to disappearing behind a blanket curtain and telling Rowley not to follow (“Not this time”). We never do find out what that’s about.

Toileting, other ablutions, laundry needs and rubbish disposal are never attended to or mentioned. Neither are periods, erections or nocturnal emissions despite the mysteries of maturation being central to the play. Obviously sex has been discovered but it plays no part in the action. There are soft toys that look remarkably new and bright. A skylight is mentioned and it projects a trapezoid shape on different parts of the wall at different times of the day.  

Most of the play is given to establishing, challenging and reinforcing their daily routine while Apple predicts the advent of “a glorious light and all doubt will disappear.” Biddy’s dreams provoke vague memories of the time before …

Meanwhile the unknown factor of Biddy’s pregnancy takes its course – and this is the major issue I have with the production (directed by Nigel Edgecombe): the bump is too high and utterly unconvincing. It looks like another childish game and it needs to be totally realistic for the play to work.

The food gets away with not being real because every time the box is opened there is a time shift to later in the day. The sudden cessation of food delivery over a number of days tests whether faith in imagination can be sufficient and makes someone caution the boys not to fight in order to conserve their energy – which seems like a very knowledgeable insight from someone with no education or senior role models other than characters in The Wizard of Oz.

[Spoiler warning?]

When a parcel is opened, despite being forbidden, and a telephone is revealed, the way they work out what to do is credible and quite dramatic. But the recorded message they get is of no help. And that, along with no food, leads us (in the audience) to wonder whether civilisation, as we know it, has ended.

The birth of Biddy’s baby, behind the curtain, heralds a brave new world and somehow fills them all with fresh energy despite their starving status. Suddenly they are aware that they are the new mothers and fathers. And it is Serena who, despite being told by Libertine it is forbidden, climbs to the skylight to report on green fields and trees … [ends]

I suppose it is up to us to decide if this is a happy ending or a false dawn, depending on what we imagine has happened in the outside world and why these six were incarcerated in the first place. But there is no satisfaction in inventing answers to such questions because the play and this production offer insufficient clues to convince us there is a credible conundrum in there to solve.

What we are left with, then, is the spectacle of watching young actors (and their director) having fun playing with the premise and performing strange characters in the process. So if that floats your boat …
– – – – – – – – – – – –
*Apologies if I have some names wrong but they are not mentioned in the programme, some are infrequently mentioned and the one I’ve called Biddy is invariably mumbled.  


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