JUST ONE MORE
21/05/2020 - 21/05/2020
This is a show called Just One More.
But first things first, I hope you are well. If you are not well, that’s okay too. Personally I have been grateful for the opportunity to stop but at the same time I often fall into the trap of justifying my existence through the work I do and the forward momentum I gather.
We are moving into level 2 and it occurs to me that our regular parameters for success might have shifted over this period of isolation. I’m going to work my way through the phone book calling every registered landline in alphabetical order and I am going to ask New Zealand how we can both maintain and increase our success in this current climate.
I’m going to do this for four hours.
I hope you will join me.
Just One More is a durational work created by Arlo Gibson and Ross Mccormack for the Basement Theatre’s Season of Duration in the Auckland Fringe Festival. It’s a work that asks the audience to stay as long as they like and leave whenever they feel. It’s a cross between a call centre on the day of the Christmas party and a motivational conference with a dance overtones. It will be fun and hard and happy.
Most importantly it will be whatever I find on the end of the dial tone.
This production is a KOHA event. Ticket buyers may choose their own price ($5 – $25) and will receive an invite to access the show as an Attendee on Zoom. The show will also be available to watch online until midnight on Sunday the 24th of May. Ticket buyers will be given access via a link sent by email.
Thursday 21 May at 5pm
then online until Sunday 24 May
“Pay What You Can” $5 | $10 | $15 | $20 | $25
Webcast , Theatre , Solo ,
4 hrs - come and go as you please
Successful? You be the judge.
Review by John Smythe 22nd May 2020
Anyone who has called up random phone numbers to promote products, canvass for a political party or seek responses to a survey will feel the pain and joy of Arlo Gibson’s four-hour quest to ask New Zealanders “how we can both maintain and increase our success in this current climate.”
Working alphabetically through landline listings limits the field (increasing numbers of people only use mobile phones) although finding people at home might make them more amenable to answering his questions. On the other hand we have learned to be wary of evening phone calls, invariably from people wanting to sell us something. And “in this current climate” how many people working from home are in the midst of transitioning from their work to preparing for the evening meal?
Also, on Thursday 21 May 2020, political junkies and many ‘ordinary Kiwis’ will be tuned into radio commentary on National party leadership and hanging out for the latest poll results on TV1 News, destined to seal the fate of the current incumbent. So when the phone goes your first thought may well be, “Inconvenient!”
Zooming in from Auckland, Arlo – looking formal in black tie and dinner suit (such as radio news readers used to wear in the days of yore) – explains the two human body outlines on the wall behind him – one slumped with its head bowed, the other looking upward with hands on hips – represent Failure and Success. Soft jazz music is creating a pleasant ambience. He reads from the many pale yellow Post-It notes he has saved from the Basement Theatre’s Season of Duration in the Auckland Fringe Festival, when he got to the second page of the letter B in the phone book. “In order to achieve success: Stop wishing … Join the Merchant Navy … Bake a banana cakes … Wear flaming socks with flaming Crocs … Grab a friend who is fun-loving and playful …” etc, ending with, “Be useful to the trajectory of humankind.”
It’s not clear if he is still working from the Auckland phone book or, this being a BATS Theatre show, he is calling Wellington people. The first call he makes gets a “please leave a message” so he delivers his opening gambit anyway: “Hello! My name’s Arlo Gibson and I am making a theatre show and I wonder if you would have a few minutes to talk to me about success.” What? You couldn’t blame people for feeling this sounds dodgy. What’s he trying to sell – some kind of seminar? In the time of Covid? When? Where? Why? And in this case, talking to a recording, he invites them to call back “on this number” without giving it. But isn’t he calling landlines? Not everyone has call identification, do they?
It takes a while for him to do something below screen, which turns out to be jotting a note on a blue Post-It which he sticks to the wall between the two figures. The first actual answer he gets is not the last involving a woman who can’t hear him properly – is it her or is something wrong with his technology? Arlo accepts rejection graciously, brightly even. When he gets an answer but it does not proceed, he stick a blue Post-It by the head of ‘Failure’.
More often than not in the first half hour he gets “Not-available-to answer” or “The number you have dialled has either changed or is no longer obtainable” messages. So we just get to hear him deliver the same spiel again and again with no response, then watch him write his note and stick it up. His unfazed persistence is quite interesting to watch. And we get to cogitate on the lack of landlines in this day and age (long since known to render surveys limited to them invalid) and the wonder if people are not home because this is the first day bars have been allowed to open.
Each of the few people who do answer has trouble understanding the word “success” or what he means by it, let alone the notion that this is for a “Theatre show”. Most cite being retired, “too long in the tooth” and having “had a long day” as reasons for declining. And being in the middle of cooking dinner becomes a frequent reason. The head of ‘Failure’ becomes surrounded by squares of blue and the line down the middle had reached way below frame.
But people are with him on Chat, so an hour into the show he asks anyone who would like to participate to give him their phone number and he will call them. Thus he gets to pop his opening question to Adeline and follow up her keen response with, “A number of people are listening into our conversation for training purposes, is that OK with you?” What? Why does he say that? On the messages he’s left inviting people to call back he has said the show is “going out live on the internet” so why this lie about “training purposes”? Sure, Adeline has bought into the Zoom ‘webinar’ and been observing the ‘show’ so is up to speed with the game, but this turns out to be Arlo’s follow-up statement to anyone who shows an interest in proceeding.
Anyway, now we get to the nub of his quest concerning the nature of success. He asks: When was the last time you felt successful? When did you experience success under Lockdown? What is the best way to fail? Do you have advice for anyone who is not feeling successful right now?
Adeline impresses us with having, within the past few hours, wired a new radio into a car and cleaned a chimney! She offers helpful details. More generally, under Lockdown, she feels just getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement. And her advice is to try, just attempt things, whether you ‘succeed’ of not.
Arlo is ecstatic that he has at last been able to ask his questions – and now the first pink Post-It note tags the other figure. I am reminded in Allen Curnow’s famous lines:
Not I, some child born in a marvellous year,
Will learn the trick of standing upright here.
Yet more blues are added to the collection before Arlo scores with a genuine cold call to a chatty man called Tony, now retired from his job as a supermarket team leader. His experience of success is firmly connected to his varied work history back in the days. When asked, “Has Lockdown and Levels changes the way you feel about success?” he says, “We didn’t have things like that in those days,” which may exemplify a generational difference or simply represent the view of anyone whose sense of self is inexorably connected to their employment. Not that Tony sounds negative. “Confidence,” is his answer to the advice question. “And respect. Respect for other people.”
Clearly Arlo enjoys the success of getting a positive response – and here is where I realise his unwavering upbeat demeanour and genuinely respectful responses to those he calls, regardless of what they say, is a living, breathing example of how to experience success. Nothing quite tests your resilience like cold-calling strangers in the hope they will trust you enough to converse and contribute.
I need to catch up on the recorded news and have dinner When I return a healthy array of pink Post-It notes festoon the ‘Success’ figure. I tune in and out in the lead up to 9pm. One young woman sounds eager but is walking out the door to be picked up by her girlfriend. Otherwise Arlo’s further successes seem to be with more people found via the Chat space.
By comparison with the Auckland season, the conversations about how notions of success have changed through the experience of Lockdown and Level Two are the most interesting aspect for me. Career-based success is no longer as important as “phoning my mother”, “being naughty and getting away with it” and realising “the Earth is in the perfect relationship with the sun to allow life to exist.”
Arlo closes the show with a quick recap of what’s written on the pink Post-Its. So has it been a successful solution to how to keep theatre going in the time of Covid? You be the judge. For those who purchased tickets. For those who have purchased a ticket, it will be up until 11:59pm on Sunday the 24th of May. Otherwise anyone can gain access by purchasing a ticket to support Arlo, the artist, at: bats.co.nz/whats-on/just-one-more/
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