BATS Theatre, Wellington

14/02/2010 - 18/02/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

“Buddha on a bender” 

Meet Toby. He’s in a lot of trouble, he’s falling apart, has just run away from his Hare Krishna temple and desperately needs some onion and garlic in his life. Toby has seriously snapped! Hiding out in an alleyway, come see what happens when Buddha goes on a bender and Krishna has gone crazy. 

As part of Fringe 2010, Jangle is a theatrical response to Bill Hammond’s extraordinary painting “Jingle Jangle Morning”. Using the artwork as a creative starting point, the team from Company Moment-um have come up with a darkly funny little tale. 

Award winning playwright Mitch Tawhi Thomas (Have Car Will Travel) has finally dusted off his pen and teamed up with the mind boggling comedian Guy Capper, who is well known for his own offbeat brand of stand up comedy and animation artwork. 

Guy plays the character of Toby in the play and is relishing the role of being an actor on stage. Lighting designer Jennifer Lal adds her impressive experience to the team. [Note: due to unforseen circumstances, Mitch Tawhai-Thomas played Toby in the premiere performance, on book.]  

Jangle also features some fresh new talent. Up and coming actor Clare Wilson (Vienna/Verona) plays Kerri, the kind of blissed out young Krishna girl you may often see along Cuba Street. A haunting original soundtrack has been created by local singer and composer Jhan Lindsay. 

“We are having fun putting on a show with some beautiful art as our inspiration” says Mitch, “ The Krishna kids have always caught my eye clapping along the street… I wonder what has made them join and where will they be in ten years time?   Probably running for the Act Party in Kelburn somewhere.” 

BATS theatre
14 – 18 Feb. 6.30 pm. 
$16 full. $13 concession $12 Fringe addict card. 

Bookings: ph – (04) 8024175 email – book@bats.co.nz 

Exciting to watch

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 16th Feb 2010

A chance encounter between Toby, wondering the streets of Wellington and Kerri, a Hare Krishna devotee results in Toby finding enlightenment through the teachings if Krishna. But his human instincts soon take over with dire consequences. 

Mitch Tawhi Thomas has a history of writing quirky scripts and Jangle is no exception. Tight succinct lines full of dramatic content in contrast to flowing passages of dialogue make the play engaging and unpredictable, made more so by the excellent performances of Claire Wilson as Kerri and Mitch Tawhi Thomas, who appears to have come in at the last minute to play Toby due the unavailability of the advertised actor. 

Both are totally committed to their roles, Tawhi Thomas full of nervous energy that explodes across the stage from the opening moments while Wilson moves from the vulnerability of the naïve Hare Krishna devotee to anger and aggression with ease, making this an exciting Fringe Festival play to watch.
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Undoubted potential yet to be realised

Review by John Smythe 15th Feb 2010

Named for the sound of Hare Krishna devotees dancing and chanting down Cuba Mall, the state of Toby’s nerves and brain cells, and the general cacophony of urban night-life as manifested in Marty Squires noisy sound design, Jangle could evolve into a profoundly disturbing dark comedy.  

Amid the spraycan-tagged cardboard boxes, mostly collapsed, that litter the stage, a body lies. (I only discover from re-reading the media release that the setting is supposed to be an alleyway, in which Toby is “hiding out”. I didn’t get that at the time.)

Just beyond the emergency exit door that opens into the lane beside Bats, a woman with a large cotton-wool pad over one eye smokes as she calls and gestures to unseen acquaintances … The programme calls her Wendy, played by Jhan Lindsay. She has also composed the original songs which she comes in to sing at a keyboard, exchanging the ciggie for a bottle of booze. Her smoky jazz rendition of ‘Who am I?’, which signals the start of the play, is welcome respite from the aforementioned racket.    

The supine body turns out to be Mitch Tawhai Thomas, the play’s writer and director (not Guy Capper, as credited in the programme). ‘Unforseen circumstances’ have thrust him into the role of Toby on this opening night. He’s ‘on book’ and hyper-pumped with what seems like nervous energy, as he compulsively spews forth page after page of Toby’s take on the Vedic knowledge contained in the Bhagavad-gita.

Later I realise this manic behaviour is dramatically justified by what has occurred; what he has done. Guilt, fear, self-loathing and (presumably) P all contribute to his jangled state. Even so the meaningless pacing from side-to-side and the high-pressure tirade is less than engaging. Only occasionally do I get to connect with his raves about “the sweet nectar of immortality”, reincarnation and the value of ignorance – and I take it this is mostly a function of the ‘unforseen circumstances’. Given Toby is talking directly to the audience – a valid theatrical device despite the ‘hiding in an alleyway’ premise – making eye-contact and engaging us in his ‘conversation’ will help.

It’s when Toby starts apologising to someone inside one of the boxes, then drags her out feet-first, and when they flashback to their first meeting in Cuba Mall that the play begins to gain traction.  Initially Clare Wilson’s Kerri is an impossibly happy and fresh-faced Krishna girl on the path of joy. She is compelling all the same and becomes even more so when she suddenly rages at his absurdly idealised memory of her.

Spoiler warning
As manifested in what she points out is all in Toby’s jangled mind, Kerri is angry at having been murdered by him because he thought she was evil (not specified but clearly a P-fuelled frenzy). She wasn’t ready for the next level of incarnation and this is a terrible setback …
Spoiler ends

At its best the play works as a bizarre black comedy that juxtaposes the bliss of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ with the abyss of despair at life’s lack of meaning in a moral vacuum, challenging us to find some point of rationality betwixt the two.

The ending, however, comes out of nowhere and is unconvincing. Even if it was set up well, I don’t see how it could add value to the play. It’s a dramaturgical cop-out which, along with the long opening monologue, needs developmental attention.

That said, once pitched in script and performance so that we are willing to suspend our disbelief, Jangle’s exploration of lost souls seeking happiness without resolving the crap that corrupts their very cores could work a treat. Its themes of good v evil, ignorance v enlightenment, natural ecstasy v drug-induced ‘joy’, all wrapped up in the question of what death is and who has the right to inflict it on others or themselves, are universal and timeless, and well worth examining in a 21st century and local context.

Wilson’s fluency and command of her role reveal what the play could be with both characters rehearsed to the same level. Having no idea of how Guy Capper might have tackled the role, I have to say Tawhai Thomas is excellent casting as Toby and I rather hope that if Jangle is to live on, another director will step in to free him up to fully inhabit the role, and oversee the modulation – and elements of script development – required to see it reach its undoubted potential.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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