BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

26/06/2019 - 06/07/2019

Production Details


In a corporate think tank, a team is asked to design the unthinkable in 90 minutes.  

Can they construct a proposal to liquidate a population before soccer practice? How long can they maintain the air of professionalism as they dig deeper. Over coffee and petit scones they begin to question themselves and each other as they follow the twisting paths of logic towards unsettling conclusions.  

Are they developing something that will save humanity or participating in something monstrous?

As they work on the complex problem following the twisting paths of logic toward increasingly unsettling conclusions, they begin to realise how little they know about what they’re working on.

Ideation examines the horrific through the lens of the mundane and asks, what do you really know?

Veteran actor Paul Kay (Ted), who is a great fan of conspiracy thrillers and has worked for over a quarter of a century in the corporate world, says Ideation feels like a dream project.

“The insidious part of the play is just how normal so much the of environment feels. How would you react if you were presented with the ethical dilemmas which follow? History suggests not so well for most of us.”

Lisette Prende in the role of Hannah says Ideation is definitely a dark comedy. “It explores the realm of logic versus empathy and you can’t help but question what you yourself would do if you were in their (the characters’) position.”

Jatt Ranchhod in the role of Sandeep says “It’s always exciting to find a challenge as an actor, either in your character or in the narrative’s subject matter and Aaron Loeb’s Ideation delivers on both fronts.

He says the show has sparked some interesting debates during rehearsals regarding morality and he can’t wait for the audience to get involved in the conversation. “I want to hear how they would react if put in a similar situation as the characters in the show.”

“Ideation urges us to consider what we know and what we are trying hard not to know about the world we live in.” Karen D’Souza, Bay Area News Group

About the company:
Lightbringer productions is a theatre company that aims to explore the issues and intricacies of the modern world through the use of new and historical texts and techniques. We aim to create experiences that are accessible to anyone. With products designed and produced by the local community, the team includes a collection of new and emerging talent supported by experience, providing a platform in which to upskill and gain proficiency in both performance and crew work.

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage
26 June – 6 July 2019
Full Price $22
Concession Price $17
Group 6+ $17

The Random Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.  

Lisette Prendé as Hannah
James Bayliss as Brock
Paul Kay as Ted
Jett Ranchhod as Sandeep
Slaine McKenzie as Scooter
and Hamish Boyle as the voice of J.D.

Director: Devon Nuku
Lighting design and operation: Bekky Boyce
Sound design: Phil Brownlee
Set design: Jenifer Mason O'Sullivan
Stage manager: Alida Steemson
Assistant stage manager: Lauren Hourigan
Producer: Troy Mihaka  

Theatre ,

1 hr 30 min

It’s a wake-up call

Review by John Smythe 27th Jun 2019

This play is finally very funny. And disturbing. It’s actually very serious. But what can we ordinary mortals do about it?  

We live in a world where the unthinkable is happening. The so-called ‘leader of the free world’ is starring in an actual reality show that we can’t take our eyes off even though we recognise how clearly his personality, value system and behaviour replicates that of history’s worst despots. What’s worse is he is surrounded by sycophantic enablers and a large proportion of the gullible voting public continue, it seems, to back him out of blind self-interest, wilfully ignoring the evidence that his claims and promises are false.  

But before we claim the high moral ground, we should each consider where we stand in the hierarchy of power, knowledge, free will and self-determination – at work and within our other communities, family groups and intimate relationships, especially the ones we count on for our sense of identity, self-worth and even for our survival.  

Where does the information we base our lives on come from, and what is the effect of our consequent actions beyond our inevitably limited horizons? Who is driving what for the benefit of whom? Is there a master plan to manipulate the masses for the benefit of an elite, or is it all plays out simply the inevitable consequence of age-old human nature? Are we in control or being controlled?

These are the questions we are left with after watching Ideation – corporate-speak for what you do in a Think Tank or Brainstorming session. A specially selected team has to design a system for saving the majority of humanity by dealing with the outbreak of a lethal virus. It’s a hypothetical scenario, of course (or is it?). It must be top-secret to avoid … what? Panic? Rebellion? The impossibility of containment? And in 90 minutes time they have to present their plan to the unseen but all-powerful J D (voiced by Hamish Boyle).

Each character is indeed an ‘ordinary mortal’ with personal wants, needs and relationships outside this job. In an extremely impressive set – pale slatted walls against an impenetrable brick one; the furnishings and team-building accoutrements of a small meeting room, designed by Jennifer O’Sullivan – the first person we see is a young man idly snapping apparently random things on his phone …

This turns out to be Scooter (Slaine McKenzie), an intern who has recently graduated in Engineering and has an ingrained sense of entitlement thanks to his father’s relationship with J D. Scooter’s job is simply to take notes – but can he be trusted?

Heading the team is Hannah (Lisette Prendé) who has a husband, a mortgage and a wide circle of long term friends. Sandeep (Jett Ranchhod), from Delhi, who has a PhD in Engineering, is vulnerable both in terms of his visa and because he is lonely.

The ‘Alpha male’ in the room, Brock (James Bayliss), has trouble getting over his ego while Ted (Paul Kay) takes the lead at the white board and wants to focus on the task without the distortions of emotion – until his own come to the surface. Both Brock and Ted have been brought back from Crete for this special assignment.

Everyone clearly has a thorough understanding of their character and they hit their emotional marks well, responding to provocations from each other and from with their sometimes tortured minds. This opening night is somewhat sabotaged, however, by too much unnecessary shouting which, apart from robbing the play of valuable ‘light and shade’, undermines the ‘top-secret’ premise.  

Playwright Aaron Loeb is also an American video game executive who, according to Wiki, has overseen “the development of mobile games based on the Avatar and Marvel Cinematic Universe intellectual properties”. Director Devon Nuku and his cast have chosen to locate the play in New Zealand (they go to Mojo for coffee) which is good: this could happen anywhere and there’s no need to put on accents. An online link to the script simply says the play is set in “an office conference room with chairs, a whiteboard and a speakerphone” yet here, in this Lightbringer production, they refer to it as “the Vid-Com” which becomes very significant when … (I’ll say no more).

The question of whether this project is hypothetical or linked to an actual impending need permeates the proceedings throughout, along with why they have been tasked with this it, and for whom exactly, beyond this somewhat elusive J D person. Power plays inevitably arise, and what is supposed to be an objective and analytical exercise becomes emotive and personal. That’s humanity for you.

Conspiracy theories abound and it’s when paranoia becomes rampant that the spectre of atrocity collides with comedy: laughter as release of tension; shocked laughter at recognising our own fallibilities and vulnerabilities.

We, in the audience, are engaged throughout with the same questions that arise for the characters, although our ‘outside eye’ perspective allows us to remain relatively objective. So when their fear and trepidation escalates, we can more easily consider what may be ‘hiding in plain sight’ – which allows for another level of insight into how ordinary people can so easily become blind to morally reprehensible things.

Ideation interrogates human behaviour we’d have liked to believe the supposedly ‘civilised’ world had moved on from, until recent events in the USA and Britain proved we remain collectively, and individually, capable of participating in world-changing events without really knowing what we are doing. It’s a wake-up call. Go. 


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