Not Vacant

BATS Theatre, Wellington

01/09/2009 - 05/09/2009

Dance Your Socks Off

Production Details

Three girls
Five bathrooms
One night

The women’s bathroom is more than a space of intermission; during a night out it becomes a place of laughter, honesty and a safe haven for three Wellington girls. Set entirely in five different bathrooms, a fusion of acting, dance, and sound creates their exploration through an ever-changing evening.

Not traditionally a place we consider a social setting, the women’s bathroom is where they show their true colours, gossip about what’s REALLY going on at the dinner table and show us what they actually get up to when they rush off to the bathroom together!

Mary Dimock - Jess
Karen Anslow - Karen
Jess Aaltonen - Sam
Jackie Shaw - Cassie
Jaci Gwaliasi - Dancer
Lucy Bryant - Dancer

Choreographed by Julia Giblin
Performance and Set Design by Meg Frauenstein
Original sound design and Music by Leon Magowan

'Wasted' song - lyrics by Ruth Armishaw
Lighting Design and Operation by Jimmy Sutcliffe
Production and Stage Management Michelle Fyson

Poster Design by Sam Trubridge, and Caspian Levers.  

Plot vacant

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 17th Sep 2009

A collaboration between dancers and actors, Not Vacant doesn’t know which genre it is in and fails to spark in either.

Repetitive dance sequences are interpolated as a form of social commentary and a way to introduce shadowy characters at the nightclub. The storyline is very predictable and fails to give any of the characters a chance to develop personality or relationships.

Sadly, Saturday night up Courtenay Place may very well be as messy and unsatisfying as this play depicts and the main dramatic question from this episodic visit to bathrooms and a club is, why bother? Better fun can probably be had at home. Giggly girlfriends who drink deserve to be dumped and the action is completely hitched to this situation with no plot to speak of.

Not Vacant had a good design and the publicity was excellent but the idea has been done before (and recently!) and this production disappointingly did not live up to the hype, nor did it have anything to do with the poster.


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Wasted indeed

Review by John Smythe 02nd Sep 2009

My glib response to Not Vacant is: yes it is; totally vacuous.

Sure the story is true enough: girl ditched by her fiancé goes out on the town with girlfriends only to see the girl they most like to bitch about prove she is a bitch by pashing him at a club; tears flow, nausea threatens; back home they bond over pizza and realise what best friends they are.

Set in a series of women’s toilets, as well as the said club’s dance floor, the story unfolds slowly and predictably with no great insights, revelations or plot twist to give it the status of drama. The actors act well with what they’ve got, the dancers dance well with what they’re given but as a story it’s not worth telling.

Most impressive is the way three actors – Karen Anslow (Karen), Jess Aaltonen (Sam) and Mary Dimock (Jess) – hold statue-like poses, for at least eight minutes to my certain knowledge, as the audience take their seats.

To be fair, as well as Karen managing to move on from Pete (the ex), Jess decides she no longer needs her ‘chicken fillet’ bra-fillers and Sam gets rid of a belt her friends want her to lose at the start (why, I have no idea; it looked pretty good to me). This is the sum total of story structure. And at the end the ring, ‘fillets’ and belt get ritually flushed down the toilet – which of course blocks, but hey, now they can ring a hunky plumber!

In her programme note producer/director Josephine O’Sullivan, who created the show in collaboration with the actors, dancers and choreographer – there were nine on stage, including two uncredited token males – says the impulse came from her noticing, during a night out with her girlfriends, how different their behaviour was in the ‘bathroom’ compared with at the dinner table. But Not Vacant offers no such comparison amid its recreations of standard girls-night-out moments.

What a shame so much creative talent, good will and valuable time has been wasted on something of so little consequence. Karen’s song ‘Wasted’, which marks the most emotionally true moment despite the sudden change of genre, could do with another verse.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Slice of life with potential

Review by Jenny Stevenson 02nd Sep 2009

The opening performance of this year’s Dance Your Socks Off Festival, Kite Theatre’s Not Vacant is essentially a play with dance interludes, featuring actors with varying levels of dance ability.  Set in a series of women’s toilets around Wellington, it details the minutiae of three women’s lives as they come to terms with their insecurities, during a girls’ night out on the town.

This is a Facebook world – the tongue-in-cheek cyber-networking world actually impinges on the creation of this work – with the result that it is somewhat less than it could be.  It has the flippancy of the instantaneous – blurting out what is on your mind – with only hints of commentary on the social mores that it is depicting.

The work has been co-devised by the director Josephine O’Sullivan and the participants, so that the performers’ familiarity with the material lends authenticity to their performances.  The three ‘girl-friends’, Mary Dimock, Karen Anslow and Jess Aaltonen, show a strong commitment and perform with enthusiasm and energy. 

The dancers, Jackie Shaw, Jaci Gwaliasi and Lucy Bryant performing Julia Giblin’s choreography, have good attack and are cohesive in their movements, but the dance segments are not given sufficient status within the work to merit inclusion in a dance festival.  The choreography could perhaps go further with the surreal atmosphere that is hinted at – seemingly depicting the dark forces of the night.

I can only applaud young people making new work, but what would seem to be missing in this instance is performance rigour and stringency in organising the material.  It is unclear whether the intention is to satirise or merely to depict a slice-of-life.  I suspect the latter.  In that case the slice is not interesting enough as it stands.  The work certainly has potential to develop.  Less of a rom-com ambience and sharper satire would go a long way towards creating something more substantial. 

The structure teeters on the brink of the musical with one song sung by Karen Anslow.  I think it could work well as a full-blown musical theatre work.  Unfortunately Not Vacant follows hot on the heels of a similar play, which was part of the Young and Hungry Festival held very recently at Bats Theatre, and as such it is bound to throw up comparisons.

A strong production team of Leon Magowan creating the music, Meg Frauenstein the set and Jimmy Sutcliffe the lighting design, underpins the work.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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