Instructions to a Double

Mighty Mighty, Wellington

25/02/2009 - 28/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details

Young Melbourne-based trio Unicorn Productions are returning home to perform their most ambitious work for a Wellington audience. Instructions to a Double is a piece of experiential intimate theatre revolving around a table at which the audience is seated.

The audience is strictly limited to twelve per show to intensely immerse each individual in the experience.

They are guests at Viscountess Kasmira Auchinleck’s dinner party, and she has a terrible secret. This darkly inviting piece challenges the audience on a sensory level and integrates multimedia through film and projections.

Following their run at Mighty Mighty, they will tour the show to Christchurch and then back to Melbourne. As well as the Kakano grant from the New Zealand Fringe and Creative New Zealand which enables them to premiere their new show in Wellington, the company are also recipients of a highly sought after Young Artists Grant from the City of Melbourne.

"We are proud to be bringing our work home. We have learnt a lot in Melbourne, including training with the world-renowned physical theatre company SITI Co from New York, and we have brought these skills to this show," said Erin Hutching who performs as Kasmira as well as producing the show.

The Melbourne-based experimental theatre company is made up solely of New Zealand artists. All three members trained in their craft at New Zealand universities and moved to Melbourne in early 2007 to form Unicorn Productions.

They went on to perform in several Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe Festivals with their self-devised projects, creating a stir and receiving favourable reviews in both cities with a controversial film installation "Alex London Dies in Public" in 2008.

Kakano grants are given for the development of innovative new work by New Zealand artists. The Young Artists Grants administered by the City of Melbourne are allocated to high quality diverse applicants under the age of 26.

Instructions to a Double
25th February at 6pm, 26th February and 28th February at 5.30pm and 7.30pm
Mighty Mighty, Upstairs at 104 Cuba Mall
Tickets: adult $15 / concession $12 / Fringe Addict $10
TO BOOK visit 

50 min, no interval

Total failure to engage

Review by John Smythe 26th Feb 2009

It’s hard to feel invited to this piece, despite the premise that we are guests at Viscountess Kasmira Auchinleck’s dinner party.

First there is no mention of Instructions to a Double amid the Mighty Mighty signage on Cuba Mall (someone may have stolen the poster). Nothing up the stairs either, nor any indication of a show in the offing once in the bar itself. The end usually used for shows (e.g. Six O’Clock Swill) looks unpromising. It turns out the opposite end, with a black curtained-off section, is the venue although there is no sign, poster, label, etc to say so. No programmes either. People do gather – and just before it we go in I retrieve a Fringe judge from the other end, waiting patiently at a table … Talk about a poor show.

Anyway, we troop in to arrange ourselves around an oval table at the behest of the white Restoration-wigged Viscountess (Erin Hutching) who speaks with an imperious European accent (high German or Dutch?) and informs us this is her 100th birthday and ve are very velcome … We are supposed to be in a grand mansion despite the stacked ABC beer crates that adorn the wall most of us look at. Neither the crates nor the constant loud hum of bar noise through the curtain are referred to so I assume we are supposed to pretend they’re not there.  

A servant called Lucius lurks under the table (publicity suggests this is either Julia Campbell or Jenine Kerr, the other one being the director, I suppose) and variously distracts individuals by fiddling with their shoe laces, gazing up between their knees, etc. Is this the "intimate sensory experience" their promotion promises? I think not.

The Viscountess has a ‘keeping up appearances’ manner, pretending all is fine when clearly it is not. Her meandering and repetitive talk – delivered in an unmodulated and stressed-sounding tone – about her twin sister, whom she blames for the death of their mother in childbirth, is interspersed with silent gazing into her hand-mirror. She also apologises for forgetting us.

The bloody raw head of a butchered animal sits on a platter and is referred to as the "special meal" we are to be served but mostly she is in front of it and we don’t get a good look at it.

An overhead projector gives us table-settings and multiple black-gloved hands set and reset the utensils, sometimes logically, sometimes not. Film of modern young sisters playing is randomly projected onto the table cloth but upside down for the majority of the audience so it is almost unintelligible, and its timing seems unrelated to the live action.

The projected girls play with a rabbit, later a raw skinned rabbit is projected in triplicate on the table. A kitch-jewellery ‘K’ necklace features in projected image and in the live action. But what it all adds up to is a mystery to me.

The "double" of the title presumably relates to the twin sister and the "instructions" are to "Lucius" but there is no ‘aha’ moment that makes us get a double life or double cross is being enacted. Nor does the ending, involving a meat cleaver, clarify anything. Maybe ‘double Dutch’ is the key.

All I can say is Instructions to a Double totally fails to invite or engage its audience at any level. The supreme confidence of their publicity material is matched only by their incompetence.


Review From Canta Christchurch March 27th, 2009

Canta Magazine - review by Jon Andrew

Held in the small confines of the Salamander Gallery, in the Christchurch Arts Centre, with a very limited audience, and staring Julia Campbell and Erin Hutching (with Jenine Kerr), Instructions To A Double is an experimental short play that uses live acting and multimedia to tell its story.

On arrival at the Salamander Gallery I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of Instructions To A Double. Forewarned, as I was, that there were only twelve audience members and that the show was interactive, I was slightly apprehensive for no particular reason. It was probably just a feeling of something unknown.

As we were led into the makeshift theatre, Viscountess Kasmira Auchinleck (Erin Hutching), in full pre-revolution French dress, invited us to sit around her dinner table.

As we sat down, the Viscountess walked around us and the table, welcoming us to her 100th birthday. It was at this point I noticed a general dog’s body crawling round under the table. As the Viscountess continued to walk and talk to us, her guests, the dog’s body (whose name currently alludes me) stole shoes from the audience members (most notably shoes without laces as they were easier to take).

Erin Hutching, doing a bulk of the work as the Viscountess, easily held the attention of the “Party goers”, whilst Julia Campbell crawled round on all fours stealing shoes and making many breaks for the food just to the left of me.

The visual work was equally as impressive as the action. Never once did it strike me that it was out of place, being, as it was, perfectly integrated into the live action sections (except for one small hiccup during the performance where one of Jenine Kerr’s (Multi-media artist) friends popped up online on MSN messenger – no one noticed).

As the play progresses, we, the dinner party guests, eventually find out that the Viscountess has for a very long time been hiding a particularly damning secret. Which, for some reason, on her 100th birthday she tricks herself into revealing. I won’t spoil the twist for to do so would ruin the experience.

Both Erin Hutching and Julia Campbell are very gifted actors. Conceptually the play is well executed. I look forward to witnessing what next work they have to offer.

Jerome Chandrahasen February 27th, 2009

I haven't seen the show reviewed, but does anyone else have similar feelings about that venue? They leave the bar running while a show is on, they don't turn their music down or make any attempt to keep patrons quiet. I understand they're a bar and make their way from drinks sales, but so does Fringe Bar and San Fran and I even went to a production at Syn Bar last year that wasn't too bad. Don't pretend to be what you're not, sure its a great bar, but as a venue I think it should stick to 21sts and work drinks. Still I suppose have people the choice not to perform there, but they still do. 

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