In Compass

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

22/04/2010 - 25/04/2010

Production Details

Joint Ventures and Company presents a devised production that explores the meeting places – geographical and metaphorical – between cultures.
In this piece where land meets sea and light meets dark a series of negotiations take place. Directed by current Theatre Studies’ Masters student Erica Newlands, In-Compass is unique performance developed using stories from within the company. From these stories, the piece follows our characters as they traverse across borders and map out their own identity. By travelling the path laid out before them and exploring the potential of ambivalent spaces, the characters define themselves through a mutual recognition of what it means to be at home.
In Compass invites the spectator to consider where on a map of the world you would plant your feet?
This project is testament to the ways in which Theatre Studies and the University of Otago is supporting research that is conducted in a practical context through the ‘theatre laboratory’ environment that Allen Hall Theatre provides.
Allen Hall Theatre
April 22-24 7.30pm
April 25 4pm
Prices: Adults = $10 | Students/Senior Citizens = $8
Door sales: cash only.

For bookings: phone 03 479 8896

Programme Credits:


Erica Newlands – Director/Co-ordinator

Rua McCallum – Devisor/Performer and Kaitiaki

Nylla Ah-Kuoi – Devisor/Performer

Jennifer Aitken – Devisor/Performer

Emere Leitch-Munro – Devisor/Performer

Lyndon Katene – Devisor/Performer

Clare Thomson – Devisor/Performer

Charlotte Waalkens – Devisor/Performer

Kane Holmes – Devisor and Cultural Advisor

Martyn Roberts - Devisor/Performer and Lighting Designer

Janis Cheng – Lighting Operator

Aimee Wilson – Sound Operator

Stage Manager – Michelle Cameron

Themes handled with kid gloves

Review by Patrick Davies 26th Apr 2010

In Compass: A play about NAvigaTION is a series of meetings where “negotiations” take place based upon the stories and memories of the ensemble. Characters return, come and also live in New Zealand in a number of storylines that inevitably weave by and through each other. We see journeys being made both on international and internal levels as we are presented with fictionalised perspectives, stories, remembrances about home, place and culture.
The theatre is stripped back to hanging blacks at the back so that these stories can stand alone in space as the theatre become various locations and even the map of New Zealand, created as the scenes unfold, from the actual props that have significance and carry personal/cultural history – photo albums, music (CD covers and guitar), clothing, etc. Even bodies create a landscape of texture and place of identity as tattoos are discussed as historical signifiers of whakapapa.
The work is mostly in the ‘bi-cultural’ tradition whereby Maori and Pakeha methodologies and subjects meet, and the production is well supported with a number of dualities.
We meet two people on a plane to New Zealand, one returning after many years, one arriving for the first time; one male, one female. The lighting for a number of the scenes is by two lights. Two women intersect through mau rakau. An old woman and an old man from two different cultures connect over the map of this country neatly bisecting the playing space. One side of the theatre’s windows are curtained, one side not, allowing for some intriguing (if not well understood) silhouette play. The map of the earth on the floor is neatly balanced against the stars (Christmas lights) in the grid. 360 degrees of coverage of space, time and place neatly portrayed in the actual space before us.
I would say there has been a lot of thought about this production but it all feels very safely packaged and handled with kid gloves, as if the participants in the devising process may have had a robust procedure but compromised in the final product to hear every voice. The energy through most scenes is relatively low key and they vary little in length. These aren’t so much ‘meetings’ to be explored/exploited/investigated as ‘brunches’ that are tasted.
I felt that scenes could have ventured deeper in both material and time. Sometimes the images presented fail to connect as the meaning for the participants dominated over the need to communicate with the audience. The level of ambiguity or certainty of some images meant that I was aware they held significance, but not for whom or why (begin writing comments now – if you haven’t already started).
That isn’t to say the performers don’t inhabit their varied characters well. Lyndon Katene and Clare Thomson, especially, have a natural ease onstage, and the ensemble cast perform well together. I don’t think the variety of the cast is utilised to its potential – a number of characters, while obviously different from each other, have similar rhythms that are maintained throughout.
The pacing/dynamics of the scenes within the narrative tend to lead us gently and are more complementary to each other than building to a thesis. The overall effect is slightly soporific as though our [the audience’s] relationship to bi-culturalism and its place in our contemporary history were relatively smooth.
If this is In Compass’ message then it is achieved: there is no high drama here, the stories and politics displayed are not new but there are honest emotions and an honest intent. 
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