15/08/2019 - 24/08/2019
Bold show revels in the wilderness of modern life… are we still Lovin’ It?
Te Auaha – The NZ Institute of Creativity proudly presents Lovin’ It – Wellington playwright Jo Randerson’s nuanced, wild and hilarious take on the modern condition.
This bold, contemporary work revels in the ridiculousness of first-world-problems while bringing the serious negative consequences of modern life in the developed world into brutal focus.
Trapped in a display case, a group of 20-somethings try to make sense of the enduring pop-culture artefacts and historical totems that have been captured alongside them. Surely there’s meaning in here somewhere…but how deep in the detritus and decay of the formerly modern ages is it buried?
“Lovin’ It was created by Jo Randerson working alongside devisers from Long Cloud Youth Theatre, so the work is firmly centered in the perspectives of young people,” say director Richard Dey. “That was a big part of what drew me to the work. I’m conscious that our younger generation’s voices are too often lost in the grown-up political melee – Lovin’ It provides space for those voices and is a fine example of how powerful they can be.”
Lovin’ It is about who we are, here-and-now. Tackling our unquenchable thirst for new information, the importance of memory, new senses of tribalism and community and our constant search to define and achieve ‘real’ social change, this explosive, dreamlike and wondrously playful work from one of New Zealand’s funniest and most politically active playwrights will bombard you with anarchy and steal your heart.
Performed by the graduating Stage & Screen students from Te Auaha – The NZ Institute of Creativity.
BATS Theatre: The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Terrace
15 August – 24 August 2019
PRESENTED BY Y3 STUDENTS AS PART OF THE 2019 STAGE & SCREEN COURSE FOR THE BACHELOR OF CREATIVITY (PERFORMING ARTS)
Youth , Theatre ,
Consistently engaging search for meaning in the muddle
Review by Jonathan Kingston-Smith 16th Aug 2019
While it feels as though every generation has looked to its future and despaired, this era seems even more fear-fuelled than those that have preceded it. Apocalypse threatens – feral, snapping and mad – at every turn. The earth is poisoned. Democracy is rotting. Charlatans and despots lead countries into a chaos of trade hostilities, isolationism and ceaseless sabre-rattling.
Then there is the digital clamour of a billion emerging technologies – all unregulated, all unrestricted. The chattering battle-field of social media. A cacophony of clickbait. A melee of memes, endlessly self-referenced into a form of auto-cannibalism. Vacuous ‘influencers’ have arisen as the new mentors. People are re-branded as commodities. Personal data is converted into a product to be bought and sold. Underneath it all, there is the gnawing doubt of self-image and slow suffocation by ‘fear of missing out’ (fomo).
This is an age of anxiety, outrage and uncertainty. Lovin’ It speaks to this era. Obviously, it is a comedy.
Created by New Zealand theatre icon Jo Randerson (whose work is typically bold and buoyant, insightful and sharp-toothed), an earlier version, called Assisted Living, was devised with Long Cloud Youth Theatre in 2015, directed by Aaron Cortesi.
Lovin’ It – billed as anarchic and dream-like; quirky, hilarious and dark – up-cycles its title from the slogan of a global fast-food empire. The visual promotional material is intriguing: an empty hamburger box, gaping open and spilling Holy light.
According to the press release, this play addresses the ceaseless hunger for new information, the importance of recollection, the need for community and a yearning for social change. The intention of this work is to give young people a voice – one that shouts loudly enough to be heard above the accumulated din of the older generations. It is a portrayal of youthful perspectives. Fittingly, it is presented here by third-year Te Auaha students, under the direction of their tutor Richard (Ricky) Dey.
Our protagonists (a group of twenty-somethings) inhabit a devastated, post-apocalyptic world where they are stranded inside a huge display case. From their actions, it is clear that the case is mirrored on the inside, reflecting only themselves – over and over. They caper and frolic amongst a sprawl of pop-culture bric-a-brac and seemingly-worthless tat: the accumulated refuse of the last few millennia. They dance (be warned, ‘flossing’ is involved). Sometimes they march, goose-stepping even. Other times they pose for imaginary selfies. An umbrella is turned slowly around and around. Behind them there is a mattress – stitched and battered – leaning on a wall.
They are kitted out in oddments: Mickey Mouse ears, a cowboy costume, a wedding dress, a tiger onesie and more crochet than I am emotionally prepared for. Music plays: a hotel-lobby muzak reworking of Billy Joel’s ‘Don’t Go Changing’. This is their world. Anything beyond it is unknown. Unknowable. It falls to them to make sense out of it; to find some shred of meaning amongst the detritus and debris of the now-collapsed civilization.
We watch as they navigate this. They don’t understand mortality and have only a fleeting sense of individual identity. So, they pretend death and play-act grief. Gender is only a concept, an act of role-playing. Their communication is through slogans, quotations, declarations and references that range from political to pop-cultural. Sometimes they talk of war – delivering furious mash-ups of inspiring speeches from histories both real and fictional. They bestow each other with characters, roles. ‘Mother’ is defined by what she does rather than who she is. Often they imitate one another, seeking group approval in their bid to understand themselves.
They are mutable, fluid and nameless (quite literally – these characters have no names).
Our protagonists seem happy. But there is tension. Bubbles of disquiet fleck the flurry. Often exploding in cathartic acts of pretend violence (and furious, word-salad style swearing). Fragments of identity begin to appear. There is some nameless threat looming. When their world is dark and they are huddled together in kneeling ‘sleep’ poses – humming snatches of jingles – there are moments when they startle awake, jolting back into consciousness. During this time one of them always patrols the perimeter – keeping watch against something …
We witness the collective unravelling of their unity. A breakdown that is both societal and personal. It is the dichotomy of human existence – both the need for rules and the desire to break them. It is an exploration of the fine line between structure and freedom, rules and anarchy, that which is acceptable and that which is not.
The pacing of the play is perfect. Gradually it builds tighter and tighter until it finally spirals apart in a climax that is inspiring and profound.
The staging is superb. The confined space is used extremely well and there are many clever quirks (an umbrella used to signify an artificial sun; a wall planner that dictates the shape the days will take). The lighting design by Paula van Beek complements this exquisitely with fluid transitions and subtle shadings. The sound design by David Owens and Weston Symes – a combination of upbeat, ersatz synth-pop and ominous electronic churning – is phenomenal.
Randerson remains an astute observer and commentator upon the past and the potential future. Her work is always challenging and unconventional, yet it resonates with so many people and remains both accessible and hugely entertaining. This is very true of Lovin’ It.
Ricky Dey’s direction is intelligent and perfectly suited to the material and the performers.
And as for the actors themselves – they are: Cole Sharland, Unity Brown, Calvin Randal, Henry LaHatte, Huda Tadesse, Jonathan Beresford, Josh Kenny, Ryan Macauley, Yumi Christina Hall, Zoe Snowdon, Abby Wutzler and Eli Payne.
I mentioned before that their characters are unnamed. This makes individual credits difficult. In many ways this seems only appropriate as all the performances are top-notch. These actors are energetic when they need to be and delicate when the script requires it. Each among them is able to imbue their amorphous protagonists with humanity and individuality. Much of their diction is impeccable and their delivery is consistently engaging.
The future of our world may be uncertain and daunting, but with these young actors emerging onto the scene, the future of New Zealand stage and screen looks bright.
In contrast to my introduction, there is nothing bleak or fatalistic about Lovin’ It. Instead it reveals revelry amid the ruins. It is a belly-laugh and a brandished fist against the void. Lovin’ It searches for meaning in the muddle. And finds it.
We live in tumultuous, turbulent and troublesome times. But we are not without humour. And there is still hope.
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