ONE HUNDRED REASONS FOR WAR
26/07/2016 - 30/07/2016
Tom Holloway’s extraordinary theatrical work One Hundred Reasons for War premiered in Australia 25th April 2015.
Do you think you know the causes of war?
Politicians? Ideologies? Greed?
Tom Holloway’s play digs deeper and arrives at a much more familiar answer. This funny, moving, inspiring and chilling theatrical adventure surrounds you and invites you into bedrooms, offices, kitchens, class rooms, lounge rooms and cafes to expose the all-too-recognisable and domestic reasons for war.
Thirteen talented young performers of the Long Cloud Youth Theatre Ensemble take you on a wild ride through history and time that encompasses quantum mechanics, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, the beginning of the universe, remotes, the violence of language, page five cartoons, Gallipoli, ceramic bowls, parthenogenesis, gospel music, electricity, Plato’s Symposium, terrorism, Bliss Symbolics, colonial wars, love, Middle East politics, coral, World War IV, shredded gearboxes, epilepsy, take-aways, sex, suitcases, bonobos, faith and lullabies.
A theatrical experience not to be missed.
Paul Boyle, Keegan Bragg, Leon Bristow, Libby Greatnews, Bella Guerra, Liam Kelly, Michael McAdam, Max Nunes Cesar, Thomas Robinson, Helena Roughton, Nick Rowell, Jessie Weber-Sparrow, Liam Whitney.
Set Design – Brett Adam
Lighting Design/operator – David Conroy
Youth , Theatre ,
1hr 20mins (no interval)
Complex, engaging and clear
Review by Patrick Davies 27th Jul 2016
Well known for its exemplary and exciting work, my companion and I are eager to see our first Long Cloud Youth Theatre show. This is the New Zealand premiere of the 2015 intriguingly titled One Hundred Reasons For War by well-known Australian playwright, Tom Holloway.
The script is part Oh, What A Lovely War, Hair (without the songs), La Ronde and Catch 22 with a dash of Ernst Toller. It matches the macro and micro, presenting personal conflict against the larger nationalist conflicts. This is not so much to ask or answer a specific question around conflict as more to bring our attention to how the larger conflict is a mirror to how we manage our personal, day to day relationships. We are left to ourselves to digest and sum up our own responses.
Strewn in amongst this fractured kaleidoscope – we bounce from scene to scene like a pinball – are discussions, musings and introductions on the discussion itself. To be clearer, the play brings up the idea that a bowl from which we eat is not a ‘bowl’ but a process whereby clay is shaped, glazed, fired and we name it so that we can share the idea of ‘bowl’ and thereby it ‘is’ the thing. Phenomenology 101.
We are introduced to the idea that by naming something, you can categorize and place it in a particular way in the world so as to attract a particular kind of attention. This idea will be developed (and given variations) in scenes where a lecturer and student discuss an essay defining, describing, delineating war through to a nightmarish scene which discusses how this becomes propaganda, which is, in turn ‘renamed’ PR.
There are plenty of heady ideas in here and the cast are extremely adept at delivering them clearly. It’s not often you have Rutherford’s Wave/Particle experiment described so elegantly and so lucidly for an audience. Of course religion is in there too and it’s pleasing to see that the playwright gives it only the amount of attention it deserves in the course of things.
Cleverly staged, we stand ‘within the round’ for the majority of the night like the groundlings (perhaps the pawns of war?). While it’s certainly welcome when we sit close to the end, it’s by no means a daunting ache to stand. Surrounding us, in a hexagon formation, are five raised stages and a floor level cyclorama. Each of the stages contributes familiar settings of everyday activity (and possible locations of everyday conflict): bedroom, kitchen, lounge, office, café. Fairy lights, (part of the eclectic design), arc from high in the centre to the edges of the walls that back the raised stages and it’s only later – with the advent of circular, fish-school like choreography – that I realise we are in the middle of a merry-go-round (‘literally’ [see the show and you’ll get that pun] and metaphorically). Clever, very clever: each aspect of the design reinforces the thesis that until we change tact we are forever stuck in the same result. It beautifully elucidates ‘Only a madman would do the same thing time and time again and expect a different result’.
As the script pillages cultures and history to bring up ideas and examples for our edification, so too the costumes are a reflection of this: toga, flapper, medieval, 80s, Steampunk, etc. Though it does seem to be very much a white person’s world. A number of times we are presented with examples of matriarchy being better, less violent and more caring than patriarchy. At the end does Holloway intend to tell us this is white mans’ doing?
In the programme the ensemble is listed as that; there is no identification of particular parts. And the ensemble work is very good. Actors meet, mingle and mix in, mostly in duo scenes, also working in ensemble (great gestus!) with some solo work interspersed. This allows wonderful gender fluidity and the cast works in a large number of permutations (I pity the maker of the rehearsal schedule). Some combinations are more mesmerizing than others and some don’t achieve the emotional honesty they’re after.
In an uncredited programme, Toga man and English Beige Army Man stand out for ease, characterisation and a natural audience connection. Vocally this group could teach Circa’s recent Lear a thing or two: crystal clear diction. They handle their scene work, solo work and group work with dedicated energy and aplomb. First nights are always a bit rocky but my hat goes off to this ensemble, as this kind of through-the-audience, almost promenade style is not easy to pull off first time out of the harbour.
There are many memorable moments. The declaration of love and the chilling presentation of the ring; the repeated relationship scenes giving more and more depth by different combinations; the bedtime story; the zuchinni … Especially moving is the leave taking, done in chorus, from each partner – very carefully and sadly effecting.
Brett Adam has created a complex, engaging and clear delivery of what could be a fractured mess. At times chaos reigns but always for effect and not for noise. Each element of the production is very carefully crafted to ensure that each part supports the whole. The performances he gets from these young actors promises much for their future and the future of Long Cloud Youth Theatre.
There are some elements we may disagree over. Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ (yes, the “what is it good for?” one), having been seemingly used in every Stage Challenge since its release, now seems to have gone past retro and is in danger of being twee. Using the entire song, given the length of the evening, is interesting. Like the religious song, we get the point very quickly. Is this to imply that even though we know war is stupid it still goes on, and on? I may be reading too much here. Though the development at the end of the religious number is chilling and worthwhile, it too could have come with fewer verses to achieve its impact.
But these are really minor blips. Both my companion and I are of the mind the script could lose ten minutes easily and pack a better punch, but the energy, enthusiasm of the cast, the attentive direction, keep us till the end. Having us stand in the round enforces our voyeurism and our participation – if you can’t clearly see you have to move. It’s delightful when the company engage us in dance, and a great way to get the blood flowing again!
I do wish there were a way to integrate those for who standing is a problem. Four or five first night patrons sat on the bank of seats outside the performance arena and would have seen little. I hope the company are already engaging in how this might be addressed. This is superb direction and it seems a shame for some to miss it.
As I walk away I am struck by the iconic image of Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes, crying “You maniacs!” But after tonight, in my mind, the Statue of Liberty has Trump’s face. In our current world, this is a timely production not to be missed.
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