09/02/2007 - 11/02/2007
Devised and performed by Nigel Edgecombe, Ants Heath and Rosie Otley
‘Generations‘ performed by Nigel, Ants Heath and Rosie Otley, tells a story which covers 90 years and four generations of NZers at war from Gallipoli through to Iraq. This performance piece has been created for the practical section of Nigel’s Masters thesis utilising Robert Lepage’s production values, methodologies and the concept referred to as; ‘The Actor/Audience Communion’. Nigel explains, “Generations is a journey through history seen through the eyes and minds of NZers caught up in differing war-time situations where stories can change each time they’re told, endings are never predictable but often infinite”.
Work in progress
Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 12th Feb 2007
Generations is a work in progress and the first of three short plays that Total Theatre and Sharp Productions are performing on the same night. It tackles an enormous subject – why we still go to war – and, not surprisingly, comes to no conclusions. It is told by three performers on an empty stage (marvellously lit by Glenn Ashworth) save for two metal filing cabinets on their sides which make effective trenches and sound effects for the wars New Zealanders have fought in.
It is a mélange of scenes: a mother (Rosie Otley) sings over and over that she didn’t bring a son into the world to be cannon fodder, a sergeant major screams abuse at a private, a Kiwi (Ants Heath) challenges a British Army officer (Nigel Edgecombe) over an order and gets court-martialled for his troubles, a father teaches his son to be a man, and so on. It is a work in progress.
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Well dug over ground
Review by John Smythe 10th Feb 2007
Presented as a work-in-progress, and part of an Masters in Theatre Arts (MTA) project, Generations is a long way short of telling “a story covering 90 years and four generations of NZ soldiers at war from Gallipoli through to Iraq,” as asserted in the programme. Nor does it “explore the common links between warring generations, and ask the question: Why haven’t we learnt?”
Also misleading is the claim that it “has been developed using the production values and methodologies of internationally recognised director Robert Lepage.” Certainly the core idea blends the intimacy of personal experience with epic reach, à la Lepage, but that duality has yet to emerge in this production. Likewise it doesn’t deliver on any expectation of extraordinarily ingenious theatrical technologies being part of what wows us in the audience.
What we do get – after an intro from Nigel Edgecombe explaining its WIP status – is a series of scenes depicting war, dynamically performed by Ants Heath and Edgecombe, punctuated with songs sung solo by Rosie Otley, who also plays a wise-to-the-ways-of-men nurse. The soldiers’ uniforms are officer’s parade jackets that could belong to any era. So could the scenarios and monologues, although the prevailing feel is of WWI and WWII.
Only the use of songs like ‘Stop in the Name of Love’ (1965) and ‘Baby Love’ (1964) hint that we’re into more recent times. If the repetition of a scene where two soldiers in adjacent trenches decide to get the hell out of it, together, was supposed to belong to two different wars, I didn’t get it – probably because trench warfare is not the flavour of more modern wars.
The rain and mud, a soldier on charge for assaulting an officer, flash-backs to a small boy helping his dad on the Dannevirke farm, being wounded by ‘friendly fire’, tripping out on morphine, a Sar’ Major reducing recruits’ sense of self to the level of pond scum by way of building an efficient fighting machine … All this could indeed belong to any war.
The use of two filing cabinets on their sides for the trenches works well when hitting them strongly evokes the sound of gunfire. But failing to use them as filing cabinets as well, renders the device more expedient than ingenious. Otherwise smoke haze, vertical spots, a gauze and a spotlight shone into the audience are all used to good effect – but not in ways one might equate with Lepage.
The instant transitions from solders in the thick of it to Dad and Son on the farm, and the parallel drawn between Dad lifting and running with Son as a game, and a soldier running with his wounded mate over his shoulder, are very well executed.
For all their commitment in delivering them, however, the ground these stories cover has been thoroughly dug over before and nothing new is being unearthed here. Lepage is on record as saying his methodology is a means to a greater end and certainly not “the message” in itself, so I doubt he’d bring all his resources to bear on such a hackneyed topic. .
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