Jeff Koons

BATS Theatre, Wellington

26/08/2008 - 30/08/2008

Mighty Mighty, Wellington

02/09/2008 - 06/09/2008

Production Details

"Ravishing… go and feast your eyes" The Times

Pop. Art. Flesh. Sex. Funk. Andy Warhol. Madonna. The award winning Almost A Bird Theatre Collective (Antigone, Angels in America, A Streetcar Named Desire) performs the New Zealand premiere of Jeff Koons by Rainald Goetz at BATS theatre (8.30pm, 26-30 August) and at Mighty Mighty (7.30pm, 3, 4 & 6 September).

Banality and gravity, discussion and idle chat, kitsch and art, party and distress, surface and abyss, the addiction to appearance and the desire for reality. Jeff Koons by Rainald Goetz is a playful assemblage of language; rhythmic and hypnotic, comic and profound.

Described as the Irvine Welsh of the new generation of German ‘pop’ writers, Rainald Goetz’s Jeff Koons is a collage of overheard conversations, drunken exchanges, post coital ramblings, monologues by tramps and idle chit-chat at art gallery openings.

Infused by the spirit of the famous Kitsch artist Jeff Koons, six characters move from the nightclub, to the bedroom, to the artist’s studio, to the street and beyond, exploring how we attempt to make connections, whether through sex or love, art or commerce, noise or silence or whatever.

Jeff Koons took German theatre by storm in 2000 and was voted Play of the Year by German theatre critics in the Theater Heute magazine. The Actors Touring Company commissioned the English translation of Jeff Koons and staged the UK premiere in 2004.

BATS Theatre
Tue 26 – Sat 30 August, 8.30pm, $18 / $13
Book @ BATS / 04 802 4175
Mighty Mighty
Wed 3, Thu 4, Sat 6 September, 7.30pm, $15
Book @ Almost A Bird

Colleen Davis
Nick Dunbar
Dan Musgrove
Sophie Roberts
Renée Sheridan
Robert Tripe

1 hr 5 mins, no interval

Pretty wacky

Review by Jackson Coe 08th Sep 2008

If art is a mirror to life, then there must be some pretty freaky artists out there. Jeff Koons, written by Rainald Goetz, is titled after one of the world’s most popular, and by necessity controversial, artists. The show is an examination of the late-80’s New York postmodern pop-art scene, and playfully mocks the looks, icons and lifestyles of the era in a bid to explore the nature of art and the temperament of artists themselves.

Directed by the incomparable Willem Wassenaar, Jeff Koons is a show which every art junkie should take a look at.

The show plays out as a collage of images, sounds, conversations and ideas. The back wall of the Bats theatre is painted a bright yellow, its strong visual effect matched by a truckload of yellow balloons and balls which drift across the stage throughout the show. When the actors emerge, it’s immediately apparent that this startling colour scheme was really the only option available to match the exuberant aesthetic of the costumes. Tacky in a wholesome kind of way, designer Daniel Williams relishes in ploughing the feel of late 80s kitsch pop art.

There’s no real narrative to speak of here. The show is presented as a series of fragments, mostly comprised of ramblings and musings which are shared amongst the cast, although at various points performers act as narrators to the stage action. Players Colleen Davis, Nick Dunbar, Dan Musgrove, Sophie Roberts, Renee Sheridan and Robert Tripe are a true ensemble, well paced, balanced and always smooth. Each member has a chance in the limelight, every one fluidly using their voices and bodies to flesh out the rich tapestry that is Jeff Koons.

What’s particularly intriguing about the show is that for quite a while you’re not entirely sure if it’s taking the piss or not. It soon becomes apparent that the show is totally taking the piss, but this mocking tone is cleverly used to call attention to the values and aspects of art which occupy the minds of those enmeshed in the postmodern art scene. As one of the actors neatly sums up: "Jesus Christ, an artist? What kind of life can that be?" If we were to look to this show for the answer, it would clearly have to be a pretty wacky one.


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Memorable assault on your senses

Review by Lynn Freeman 04th Sep 2008

From director Willem Wassenaar we would expect nothing less than a full-on sensory-overloaded primary-coloured production.  Jeff Koons is all of the above.  Wassenaar has the most distinctive directing style in the Capital, especially notable for his take on the classics, from A Streetcar Named Desire to Antigone. Modern classics too, his Angels in America was terrific at Downstage.

He’s distinctive, but not predictable.  This translated play by Rainald Goetz, set in the late 1980s,  is in your face from the moment you see the yellow balloon festooned stage and 80s pastiche costumes (oh god what a ghastly fashion era, evidenced also in the TV show Ashes to Ashes, how did we survive it?).

The characters are young, selfish, extreme, hedonistic and to be honest really ghastly.  The artist’s muse is money not passion, the art critics are sheeplike the homeless are balls of drug fuelled anger, people talk and talk and say nothing.

In this play the characters talk constantly, often impossible to hear over the deliberately loud music and the popping balloons as they flounce across the stage.  It’s irritating, headache inducing and deliberately so, that’s part of what this is about.  Finding meaning behind the brands, the facades, the fashion, and perhaps more than anything, the B.S.

Whether it makes for a fully satisfying theatrical piece is debatable. Especially that old problem of being deliberately distanced from the characters who are so unpleasant that you can’t and don’t care for them.

You experience Jeff Koons.  It’s an assault on your senses.  While it’s not exactly ‘pleasant; it will lodge in your memory.  Nick Dunbar is manically good as the artist, energetically supported by Robert Tripe, Renee Sheridan, Dan Musgrove, Sophie Roberts and Colleen Davis.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Colourful show fun, confusing

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Sep 2008

Tucked away on a ledge in a corner of the bright yellow painted back wall of the Bats stage there is a small inflatable rabbit which is the only direct visual reference to the work of Jeff Koons in this hour-long teasing exploration of some of the ideas behind his art and the world that spawned it.

The contemporary German playwright, Rainald Goetz, has created what amounts to a show (an apt description) that is closer to performance art than it is to any conventional theatrical form. Performance art eschews narrative and though Jeff Koons moves from a club to a studio to an exhibition there are humorous references to the fact that there is no narrative for the audience to hold on to.

On a stage overflowing with yellow balloons, some with smiley faces on them, and with four large Swiss balls, the only objects that can be used as furniture, six actors talk, pose, recite and move in unison, individually, and in groups as they talk, some times at great speed, to the audience, each other, and unseen people about what happens to art, the artist, and the public in an age of consumerism, celebrity, lifestyles, kitsch, commodities, Madonna, Warhol – and Jeff Koons.

With a script with no stage directions it is up to the director to keep things moving along and Willem Wassenaar has his excellent cast constantly on the move except at the very end when a motionless Nick Dunbar has a monologue alone on the stage amongst the balloons that drift gently in a draught.

Nick Dunbar, Colleen Davis, Dan Musgrove, Sophie Roberts, Renee Sheridan and Robert Tripe work effectively together in cleverly fragmented but carefully orchestrated movements and vocal sequences that make the show fun, colourful, and downright confusing, just like the work of Jeff Koons.


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A ride, a blast … You really do have to be there

Review by John Smythe 29th Aug 2008

You had to be there. It was a desperate need. But only a select few gained admittance. Otherwise you were on the outer. Out on the street in the throng cajoling the gatekeepers to let you in, to the exhibition opening, the A-list club, the place to be, swearing you had an invitation.

Or swearing at everyone and everything from even deeper on the outer, in the underground, among the addicts who may once have been ‘in’ or may never have made it … Gottabes, wannabes, hasbeens, neverbeens … These are the people who clamour their frets and struts upon, behind or beneath the stage that displays the late-1980s New York Pop Art scene.

Jeff Koons, for those in the know (or who’ve read Tom Cardy’s Dominion Post Arts feature, 27/8), was a controversial late 80s / early 90s American Artist who epitomised the post-modern arts scene in New York. Apparently he rarely executed his works himself, he was the ‘ideas man’. So the play Jeff Koons, by German playwright Rainald Goetz, translated by David Tushingham (for a UK premiere in 2004) is not about him but about the ‘scene’ he was part of.

Here the distinctions between high and low art evaporate in a swirling miasma of anarchic boundary-pushing devoid of absolutes and wide open to interpretation, which puts the high-flying aficionados into a frenzy of anxiety, echoed by the flotsam straining at the gate, echoed by the jetsam draining in the underground … Wherever you are it’s the same difference.

In pop-art clobber, melding confirmation veils and boxing gloves, slick suits and tacky beads, high heels and plastic shades, amid a sea of yellow Smiley-Face balloons and four Swiss Balls (designer Daniel Williams), against a yellow wall, an extraordinarily adept ensemble of six actors – Colleen Davis, Nick Dunbar, Dan Musgrove, Sophie Roberts, Renée Sheridan and Robert Tripe – directed by Willem Wassenaar embody the desperate zeitgeist of the age.

To witness it in a constant yet volatile state of bemusement and confusion while trying to achieve some traction amid the fast-moving action is to share the experience of those who were there at one level of another, in bedrooms, bathrooms, state rooms; in sky-kissing galleries or clubs; grounded at street-level; buried in the underground …

Talk about posers! Talk about art. Talk about whatever … And move, in groups, pairs or singly … It’s a ride, a blast, delighting in having no story, just a place to be … You really do have to be there, to make of it what you will (at BATS this week; Mighty Mighty next week).


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