IN BLIND FAITH

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

23/08/2022 - 27/08/2022

Production Details


Written & composed by Cadence Chung
Co-directed with Lewis Thomson and Hazel Perigo-Blackburn


Not all that glitters is gold – a fact Edith Waterford soon learns when she goes out to make her fortune in the Otago goldfields. After arriving in the new town, she soon meets Augustus, a charming dandy who seems to know everything about the world. Soon afterwards she meets Helen, who convinces her of her own desires, and eventually, Sybil, who tries to convince her to hate the world.

Finding herself allured by the various ideologies presented to her, Edith soon finds herself living a life of Hedonism and excess, despite her love for the simple gold miner Penny. But soon, Edith’s indulgences start to catch up to her, and she learns the true price of following blindly.

This musical is entirely run by young creatives, written and composed by poet Cadence Chung and co-directed with university students Lewis Thomson and Hazel Perigo-Blackburn. It was first put on at Wellington High School in August 2021.

In Blind Faith not only provides philosophical insights into the journey we all make as we try to reach our goals, but also provides a fresh diverse representation of colonial New Zealand, with a particular emphasis on Asian and queer representation. It features 14 original songs that showcase a range of genres, from ballads to bangers.

Thought-provoking, fresh, and humorous, the show will take you on a wild new ride through an age-old story, and perhaps you’ll learn something along the way.

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington, New Zealand 
23 – 27 August 2022
7pm
Full: $20
Concession: $15
Group 6+: $18
The Difference: $40
BOOK

book@bats.co.nz
Box Office: 04 802 4175


Directors: Cadence Chung, Hazel Perigo-Blackburn, Lewis Thomson
Writer: Cadence Chung
Composer: Cadence Chung


BAND MEMBERS:
Guitar: Alexa Lee
Keyboards: Arunan Noble
Drums: Ossian Lynch
Bass: Luce Brennan
Piano: Cadence Chung


CAST:
Edith: Kassandra Wang
Penny: Tara Terry
Augustus: Karmeehan Senthilnathan
Helen: Shervonne Grierson
Sybil: Lilli Street
Ava: Zoe Crane
Mabel: Issy Pearson 


CHORUS:
Mrs Cotteral: Sasha Crane
Mr Cotteral: Nathaniel Smith
Marianne: Jessica Gill
Woman: Parminder Kaur
Man: Tim Johnston
Girl: April Marshall
Postman 1: Dina Mitchell
Postman 2: Klara Talantseva 


CREW
Stage manager: Ethan Lawn
Costume manager: Earnest Cowan-Rauhihi and Cadence Chung
Tech: Seton Spence, Sevan Dalzell, Jet Cadwallader
Videographer: Leonid Wilson, Michael Hemming


Musical , Theatre ,


2 hrs

Intelligent story, delightful music, shining moments

Review by Cordy Black 26th Aug 2022

It’s always a treat to experience a new riff on a classic theatrical tale. In Blind Faith bills itself as a “Faustian” tale and has a few Faust stories in its DNA, but it manages to be its own, vigorous take on a story about manipulative personalities and the bargains we make with them.

This devilish myth doesn’t cop out on consequences, and that’s a fine thing. It is also explicitly a young person’s take on corruption, mortality, wants and not knowing what we want. That is also a fine thing; a younger person’s perspective can be a nuanced and intelligent one, and this is a well written and intelligent story. The audience clearly loves it, as well.

We’re introduced to Edith, our protagonist, via a classic and sweet ‘I Want’ song and a cutesy crowd scene – but by scene three, things are already twisting away from your typical high school musical fare and going down far more fun paths.

Each one of the devils – played to the hilt by Karmeehan Senthilnathan, Shervonne Grierson and Lilli Street – has a whale of a time diverting us away from anything as twee as a love story, though that is in there, and genuinely moving and sweet.

Kassandra Wang as Edith has a character arc that forces her into the role of foil for her demonic, unpleasant influencers for much of the show, but she gets the opportunity to unfold more as this marathon of a stage role tracks on.

Tara Terry’s Penny (a lesbian character here, but that may have been cross-cast, because it is very beige in its characterisation) stands in for an idyllic Dona Elvira / Marguerite-like figure, trying to redeem Edith from the brink despite the two lovers really knowing nothing about each other. At least the gulf of knowledge between them is explicitly called out in the script and lyrics!

I would struggle to call this a tale of gay romance or a tale about New Zealand. It is set in a sort of Commonwealth limbo, with no references to Aotearoa or even a name-drop of, say, Dunedin as the ‘colonial capital’. But perhaps that is the point. We have very Eurocentric devils feasting on a very Eurocentric set of characters, in a cycle devoid of place or meaning. It’s telling that the only vaguely ‘grounded’ character, that of Penny, is also the only character who acknowledges they live in a place that has dirt and birds and nature all around.

The music and musical direction is a kind of star character in itself, and it is arranged just delightfully. Composer-devisor Cadence Chung surveys the players from her place in the onstage band, keeping musical cues tightly wound to the performers and letting them breathe in a way that really lets them shine. The arrangements are both kind on younger voices and varied enough to give even small singing parts a chance to have a bit of fun. Really clever stuff.

The other directors, Hazel Perigo-Blackburn and Lewis Thomson, make up a trifecta of organising minds behind this youth-led show. This feels like it was a wise choice. Overall, the blocking, narrative flow of scenes and especially the liveliness in crowd and group scenes is done to a high standard. Crowd scenes and banter from bit players can be tough to balance against the larger dramas of protagonists, but this is well handled.

Some of the funniest lines and best reactions of the night come from our smaller parts, but it seldom feels hammy or like they are pulling focus. All in all it is a tight cast, and we can feel the rapport between the players and the stage band throughout.

If I had any feedback for our singers it would be to never underestimate ‘Sprechstimme’* and what it does to volume. Most of the lines are audible which is great because the lyrics in the songs are thoughtfully chosen and overall have a good rhythm to them. Even experienced singers can struggle to maintain consistent volume when singing with strong emotion or moving from speech to song – and this hampers a couple of the final songs. Each singer has their own pleasant shining moment, which is lovely to hear.

All my best to these young creatives! This show and its crew have a lot of energy and promise. I would enjoy seeing them build on their ideas and find new stories to share with us.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
*Sprechstimme, (German: “speech-voice”), in music, a cross between speaking and singing in which the tone quality of speech is heightened and lowered in pitch along melodic contours indicated in the musical notation. Sprechstimme is frequently used in 20th-century music. (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

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