Thistle Hall, Cnr Cuba & Arthur Streets, Wellington

25/02/2015 - 01/03/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Devised theatre collaborates with sonic artists and film makers to tell you about last Saturday night. 

All the little moments, odd conversations, strange encounters and awkward hook-ups, or that time you had to walk home alone and it was 4am and you didn’t know what happened to your friend.

Venue: Thistle Hall
25-28 Feb, 1 March at 8pm

Theatre , Musical ,


Epic Saturday night relationships

Review by Lena Fransham 26th Feb 2015

Katabasis – from the Greek for ‘going down’ – is said to have referred to a journey from the interior of a country to the coast, and to the mythological hero/ine’s descent into the underworld: see Orpheus the legendary musician, and Dionysus the god of partying.

I probably don’t have to tell you I’m no Classics scholar. But it’s interesting to see that two cast members – Briana Jamieson and Bella Guerrara – were in Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s 2013 production The Bacchae, adapted from Charles Mee’s interpretation of Euripides’ Dionysian tragedy, so there’s a thematic continuity for them. Nick Rowell, also formerly with Long Cloud, directs this sound-driven mythical journey into a Saturday night.

Eight characters are arranged in typical party scene poses. Their low murmured conversations merge with those among the audience as we settle into our seats. The set consists of two tables and some lines of fairy lights arranged on the floor to delineate separate spaces; a kind of Dogville setup, but more festive. After a while the interaction of audience chatter with murmured conversation among the characters seems to constitute part of the performance.

A girl – Mia (Briana Jamieson) – drifts through the muted crowd, listening, observing and unobserved.  Boom! Scene shift. An otherworldly space opens up, the disorienting sound scheme and the strange revelry of the dancers manifesting that palpable, collective altered-state of advanced party mode.   

Scene shift: The rambunctious Lana (Guerrara) running into awkward but mysterious Milo (Will Evans) after the gig, asking him for a light, inviting him to her friend’s party.

A feature of this show is the lovely, naturalistic interaction that seems to come with confidently executed devised theatre. Guerrara and Evans are just neat at this and give us an easy entry into the efficiently-established web of relationships between the eight characters: Outsiders Mia and Milo; Lana and Finn (Kris Evans-Fee) who used to be together; Trent (William Barrett) and Maddie (Alexandra Taylor) who love each other; Thomas (Lucas Neal) and Alice (Lucy McCarthny) whose relationship undertakes something of an epic journey over the course of the night and inevitably ends up at the beach. 

I’m told the budget was tiny. The lighting (Hannah Wilson) involves the resourceful use of bedside lamps and naked bulbs. Matt Taylor’s AV design adds texture and an intense sensuality with large background close-ups – lips speaking, or fingers stroking a jaw – like visual echoes of the conversations. But from the echoing voices under Mia’s monologue to the fine moulding of mood with ambient noise and eerie soundscapes, it is sound that is most brilliantly deployed as a driving partner to the drama. In fact I think it’s the main character.

The play’s wobbly moments are where the dialogue seems to falter. It gets a bit too naturalistic in parts where the volume occasionally drops to a point where it’s difficult to follow, particularly with Thomas and Mia, which is troubling because I fear I am missing important bits. This is probably partly to blame for my sense that the Thomas and Alice story lacks a certain conviction after their fight. I can’t quite believe their crisis.

But the nicely gestured social dynamics, the endearing quirks of some characters, and those fabulous adventures with sound keep me following them all through the peaks and troughs of their Saturday night. And Milo’s out-of-tune karaoke rendition of ‘Ring of Fire’ makes him a star for me.


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