IVY BAR, 49 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington

26/02/2016 - 28/02/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

LAYMAN: “It’s like watching a birth: elemental and grotesque. The whole audience recoils and laughs at the same time” – Theatreview

From the company that brought the smash hit “The Pianist” and “Caterpillars” to New Zealand audiences, Wellington’s acclaimed theatre producer Show Pony brings another outstanding clowning productions to the New Zealand Fringe Festival 2016. Layman, the premiere of a New Zealand work, gets seriously messy in clay.

Show Pony has collaborated with recent Toi Whakaari graduate Patrick Carroll to develop his solo piece Layman into a full-length work, premiering in the New Zealand Fringe Festival. In the depths of an urban car park, we encounter the darkly hilarious Layman. Join our bestial hero as he takes his first stuttering, garbled steps into the world. Discovering companionship, carnality and loneliness – all within a cocoon of clay.

Layman was originally a 20 minute solo piece created by Patrick as part of his Bachelor of Performing Arts degree at Toi Whakaari in 2014. Using no text, but instead communicating through Carroll’s physicality (with his body completely enveloped in clay) Layman is an exploration of being born, being lonely, seeking company, seeking relationship, destroying relationship, discovering sexuality, discovering shame.

Since graduating from Toi Whakaari Patrick has gone on to perform in Silo Theatre’s The Book of Everything at the Auckland Arts Festival, and Indian Ink’s new work The Elephant Thief, which premiered at the end of 2015.

IVY BAR, 49 Cuba St, Te Aro
26-28 February, 8pm

Theatre , Solo , Clown ,

Outlandish, deeply unsettling and unforgettable

Review by Lena Fransham 03rd Mar 2016

The disorienting gloom of the Ivy Bar venue is appropriate to the kind of show that’s about to commence. I know something of what to expect because of seeing Patrick Carroll’s 2014 Toi Wahakaari Go Solo show, from which this one has developed. 

Our hero unfolds from his foetal crouch. He is flanked by buckets, one containing water, the other clay. His body is daubed liberally with more clay. And his face… well, you just have to venture into this netherworld and see it.

Carroll is a gifted physical performer. His bizarre, humanoid character conveys delight, dismay, fear, curiosity, love and shame in a kind of eloquent pre-speech language. A story unfolds in coos, barks and groans, shivers, cringes and a slowly increasing vocabulary of gestures. They explore an idea of innocence in a lump of (initially) featureless clay.

The moulding and manipulation of the clay evokes a process of burgeoning consciousness and self-awareness, playful exploration of Self and Other, the growing complexities of identity, gender, sexuality and shame. It’s like watching someone excavate themselves from the earth.

I don’t like to detail too much because Layman should just be witnessed first-hand. But he’s a creature with the qualities of a child, a creature in whom we recognise ourselves but who confronts us with the underside of humanness – those treacherous borderlands of the grotesque and the transgressive. Along with the shuddery horror and uneasy fascination, there’s a sharp pathos, an empathy with this vulnerable half-formed creature that makes it all the more uncomfortable and impossible to look away.  

There’s fearless confrontation, too, of taboos around public nakedness and sexuality. Two audience members are invited into a rather demanding participatory effort that is queasily hilarious and strangely moving, but correspondingly pushes some serious boundaries. The audience members involved handle it with due aplomb, but it is risky territory, not for the delicate. 

With director Anya Tate-Manning, Carroll has worked his extraordinary 2014 piece into a deeper, more articulate narrative with the same visceral power. I do get the feeling this now nearly hour-long work could be pared down, not much, but proportionately, to retain the temporal tautness of the compact Go Solo piece.  

Though there are comparisons and influences to be inferred – especially Olivier de Sagazan, and I’m frequently reminded of that gorgeous monster in Pan’s Labyrinth – you’ve never seen anything like Layman. Outlandish, deeply unsettling and unforgettable. 


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