One Day

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

26/03/2009 - 30/03/2009

Dunedin Fringe 2006-9

Production Details

One day Paddy and Karen meet on a beach. One day. Like any other. But this day will change their lives. Because one day can be different from all the rest. Because one day is all it takes.

Dates: 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 March 2009
Venue: Allan Hall Rehearsal Room, Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago
Time: 8pm (Duration 70 mins)
Prices: Full: $15 Concession: $10
Tickets: Door Sales Only

Paddy:  Simon O'Connor  
Karen:  Barbara Power

The extraordinary experienced in an ordinary room

Review by Poppy Haynes 28th Mar 2009

RBS Productions’ devised theatre piece One Day demonstrates the rich possibilities of ‘poor’ theatre.  The play begins with an encounter between two strangers at Vauxhall beach and follows in real time the next hour of their relationship.  As Paddy (played by Simon O’Connor) and Karen (played by Barbara Power) get talking, at first haltingly, and later with less embarrassment, we start to learn about the larger currents in their lives that have brought them to the beach.

The gentle humour of the initial awkward meeting gradually gives way to friendly banter and more frank disclosure of personal histories and memories.  Throughout, the naturalistic acting is understated and nuanced.  The particularly memorable O’Connor negotiates emotional and thematic gear-changes with subtle proficiency and Power deploys a broad emotional register to honour the slightly off-beat Karen. 

The naturalness of the performance perhaps bears testament to the method through which the play was collectively devised by O’Connor, Power, and director Richard Huber.  The group used Mike Lee’s devising method, in which actors use a person from their own life to spark the development of a fictional character.  They then brought the two characters together and developed One Day from improvisations. 

The actors have learned scenarios, rather than a written script and it perhaps partly because of this that the dialogue captures the rhythm of conversational speech so well.  In this play the characters talk over the top of each other, interrupt, trail off, repeat themselves and stumble over words in a way that is closer to real speech than most scripted drama.

The play is performed in the Allen Hall seminar room without set or stage lighting.  A single row of seats along each side-wall marks out the traverse performance space.  It might be tempting to stage this play in a subtly lit black box in a working theatre, with the waves breaking in surround sound.  This, however, would make One Day a totally different play.  The ‘un-theatrical’ performance space – a wastepaper bin and a fire extinguisher in one corner, and fluorescent tube ceiling lights illuminating both actors and audience – becomes central to the play’s exploration of the extraordinary being contained within the ordinary; in this ordinary space the extraordinary transformations of theatre occur.

The staging is not overly spare, but the economy with which props are used imbues these objects with greater significance.  It leaves space for the characters’ speech and action to paint in the scenery: windsurfers and kiteboarders, passing traffic, the bays scalloping the edge of the harbour.  The props that are used seem to tap into larger elemental forces.  Karen’s dripping wetsuit brings us close to the sea, there is the naked blue flame of a primus, hot water is poured from a thermos and the smell of cooking Kibbih adds sensory richness to the uncluttered performance.

Huber’s staging makes the audience part of the performance.  Paddy and Karen’s connection is paralleled in the sense of community between audience members who can watch each other, make eye contact, notice who laughs and who is quiet.

The structuring of the play is deceptively simple: for an hour a nurse and windsurfer talk and share food.  However, like the soundscape of breaking waves the play ebbs and flows, building and releasing tension, bringing the characters in physical proximity and then drawing them back to opposite ends of the performance space.  As the characters reveal more to each other, parallels between their lives become more apparent and certain themes begin to surface.  Loss, displacement, dignity and the possibility of happiness in adversity all seem to echo across the stories they tell.  We come to realise that this is a meeting of two people both travelling but paradoxically unable to move forward in their lives.  The only way they know how to be is now untenable. 

There is the suggestion that this meeting will spark change for both characters. 
The play ends with two significant gestures: Paddy, who hates water, allows Karen to stand him on her windsurfer and in a languid, dreamlike sequence imagines sailing around the world.  Karen, who has vigorously refused to try Paddy’s meal because she "doesn’t like ethnic food", finally tastes the fragrant Kibbih. 
From these two small gestures, we imagine, the characters both push off from their past and reach out to the future. 

We leave the ordinary room having experienced something extraordinary.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council