11/01/2007 - 20/01/2007
created by Amanda Jelicich-Kane and Vaughan Slinn
written and performed by Vaughan Slinn
creative collaboration by Geoff Pinfield & Jade Eriksen
Set designed by Amanda Jelicich-Kane & Vaughan Slinn
Set construction by Geoff Pinfield
Production by Jessie Alsop
a theatreheuristic production
theatreheuristic presents a visually exciting new solo work that investigates the way we relate to the world and memory through sight.
Optometry, mortality, relationships and virtuality are playfully explored and contrasted through a range of media. Dynamic, poetic and wryly comic. IRIS is not to be missed.
Additional performanced (recorded):
I don’t get it
Review by Lynn Freeman 25th Jan 2007
The value, nay necessity of programme notes for new plays was borne out by the debut of Iris, written and performed and largely directed by Vaughan Slinn.
Then we might have had a chance of understanding a production that was clearly the result of a lot of thought and hard work. It’s so frustrating as an audience member to be effectively excluded from getting the most out of a performance, when all you need are a few clues.
Iris, as far as I can tell, is the story of two men who fly to Hawaii for different reasons. One is having some kind of crisis and goes in search of a monumental moment, armed with a camera and enthusiasm but not really any idea of what that moment might involve or if it will in fact be as satisfying as he anticipates.
The other potentially more interesting but far less developed story, involves a son arriving there to find his mother has died. We don’t get to know her, other than video footage at the start of the play of what I assume to be her at her hotel dressing table. We don’t know much about their relationship, or how he copes with her death, or even much about the young man himself, so it’s hard to care.
Slinn has written himself a play that gives him too few chances to show us what he’s really made of as an actor or as a writer. He co-created the work with Amanda Jelicich-Kane, who designed a small revolving set which is very clever in the way it is used and lit, but it severely restricts the actor. He’d have far more presence and impact if he was free to really work the stage area.
Iris feels like a work in the early stages of development, and there’s promise there, but it’s too early to start charging an audience to see it.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Does obscurity make it Art?
Review by John Smythe 17th Jan 2007
When a show feels longer than it actually is and the audience doesn’t realise when it has finished, its makers must know there’s more work to be done.
Opening night may well have been a different collective experience, replete with highly supportive fans. The Tuesday night following, with a smattering of audience – enjoined to sit towards the middle for a better viewing experience – is perhaps more demanding. More ‘real’?
On their website, theatreheuristic, the company that brought us the much discussed arcane, claims: “We are not only committed to high quality individual theatrical presentations, but also to a body of work that is reflective of a creative philosophy and making methodology. Included in their [sic] wider group of collaborators are performers, architects, designers, singers, filmmakers, builders and writers.”
I commend their idealism and commitment, and in that spirit will interrogate Iris in the hope of discovering its secret, for making things obscure seems to be central to their “creative philosophy and making methodology”. Is this a legitimate way of increasing audience interest or a pretentious way of trying to make the otherwise banal look like Art?
The old fashioned security booth at centre stage, cleverly designed (Amanda Jelicich-Kane & Vaughan Slinn) and constructed (Geoff Pinfield) to turn on the vertical axle of a revolving chair, does indeed display the versatility Mary-Anne Bourke extols in her review. But I have to question the validity of a design that is best viewed from the centre aisle where no audience is sitting. (If anyone sat well to one side and did not feel short-changed, please let us know via the Comment function.)
Assuming the design evolved to serve the narrative – which may in turn have been created to serve a greater purpose – the story must also be interrogated.
A woman, projected on the booth’s back wall, repeatedly arrives at a mirror (the camera) and slowly progresses her street make up …
A young man, later named as Richard Thompson, New Zealander, makes a phone call to his sister and a travel agent. Because solo performer Vaughan Slinn covers his mouth with the phone and his hand and his naturalistic tone is partly obscured by background music, we only hear snatches of his chat. It seems there is a crisis and he has to go to Hawaii.
Now Slinn dons spectacles and an American accent to address us as a non-descript guy who has suddenly realised he has yet to experience a “monumental moment” in his life. His emotionally damaged mother has turned to New Age philosophies and lesbianism, he has been confronted by a travel agent portentously demanding to know his travel destination and now – it seems – he is on a plane to Hawaii, lured by the mythological Fire Goddess …
Again vocal obscurity prevails but either the two guys are sitting together on the plane or the American is the alter-ego of Richard, as Mary-Anne suggests. She sees him as a Woody Allen clone. Maybe his anxiety was more intense on opening night. I see/hear him more as Jerry Seinfeld on Prozac. Either way their crazy talk – talking to himself? – gets a ticking off from a cabin steward, given the general nervousness that prevails on large airliners these days.
Meanwhile I sit brooding on why a New Zealand-based creative team has bought into the insulting proposition that existential angst is the sole prerogative of Americans. Or is the point that Richard Thompson, as a culturally colonised Kiwi, is conditioned to have such thoughts and imaginings in an American accent? If so, I want that tragic insight exposed somehow; not just left to drift there, on automatic pilot.
A sudden drop in altitude injects some drama. Passing through Customs sees Richard given an eye examination … Aha! The title Iris relates not only to how we see, are seen and see ourselves, it also goes to the very core of identity. But this was not an insight experienced while watching the show. It has taken this process of interrogation to realise it. Is that a valid way for theatre to work?
While the American persona makes like a tourist, including that hoary old gag about getting his first lei, Richard seeks out his mother who, it emerges, was taken ill at a ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ conference and is now in hospital … As projections people the booth with a woman alone, a snappy guy preening, a young loving couple, a drinker / climber … (who are these people?), the American persona muses on the genealogy of either cancer or chances. The latter I think …
He climbs through a trapdoor, referring to the wrath of the Fire Goddess, and asks us to believe he is at on a edge of a volcano, accompanied by the ghosts of those who have died here (suicides?). “I’m ready,” he says. For what? His monumental moment? “Is this it?” Is he planning to jump or what? If so, why? If not .. what does this mean?
The projection operator claps. Silence. Oh right – it’s over. The actor is taking his bow. Somewhat bemused, we clap …
My questions remain: what is Iris about, really? (Was the mother called Iris, perhaps – did I miss that?) What is the end that justifies the means? What is the play’s greater purpose? What are the terms of engagement: what do its makers believe will engage their audience? If it is a work in progress, how will it evolve?
These are not rhetorical questions. Thoughts, feelings and/or answers are welcome.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Subtle comedy instrumental in entrancing quest for meaning
Review by Mary Anne Bourke 12th Jan 2007
The booth stands in the middle of the stage. It is where everything happens.
Most light emanates from it. You could call it a toll-booth since it looks like it will cost this guy to go on this journey. It is also a phone booth, the cabin of a 747, hotel reception, Room 217, the rim of a volcano. The booth harbours the object of desire. It also serves as a screen for the projections (via video) of the protagonist’s fantasies.
Vaughan Slinn ‘plays’ the booth like an instrument to accompany his lyrical tale about a New Zealander called Richard Thompson who must travel to Hawaii to see his ailing mother. He is compelled to turn this trip into a personal quest for his ‘monumental moment’, the ephiphany that will give his life meaning.
Of all the dubious characters Slinn portrays on this journey, none is more significant or ludicrous than the skeptical, navel-gazing, spectacle-adjusting American pop culture geek who is his alter ego. Woody Allen Does Waikiki would not be wide of the mark here. Slinn’s lyrical, witty, pertinent writing stands up well in the comparison, being as funny as it is touching.
A sense of place and atmosphere is strongly evoked in every scene (with a degree of eroticism slyly generated in a false climax), but what I particularly enjoyed was the sense of anticipation, created not just through the quest structure, but also through an entrancing scheme of sound effects, deliriously kitsch music and discreet on-set lighting. In fact, a couple of fabulously eye-teasing Robert Le Page-type moments are effected, where video is made to seem astonishingly like live action and vice versa.
Come to think of it, at no point was I conscious that I was watching a one-man-show. Slinn’s clever use of the booth as a screen would contribute to this, but the main reason, I think, is that he sustains a subtle comedy in performance that is extraordinarily watchable; his slightest twitch speaks volumes.
Only momentarily did I feel that too much time was taken to wax philosophical within a speech at the expense of forward momentum – the latter part of an otherwise hilarious hotel reception scene would be a case in point – but the pace was always picked up again.
Amanda Jelicich-Kane and dramaturgs Jade Ericksen and Geoff Pinfold are among those who helped Slinn stage this solo gem. It will intrigue and amuse anyone interested in the medium.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer