11/11/2016 - 03/12/2016
Couple A arrive home from holiday to find their house out of sorts. Couple B had been housesitting and haven’t paid the electricity bill. Couple B arrive home to find that Couple A have let themselves in and have moved their things around. It’s all a bit perplexing.
Kicking off just like any other domestic comedy, PERPLEX quickly devolves into a nonsensical game of blurred lines and morphed characters. From the appearance of an elk, Nietzsche and a Nazi, to nude discussions of Darwin — this is one hell of a mind bender.
German playwright Marius von Mayenburg throws theatrical conventions at the fourth wall till it breaks. Actors swap characters like hats and there are absolutely no rules in this wild, absurdist deconstruction of personal identity and theatre itself.
Riffing on the realities we create and the constant reinvention of ourselves, PERPLEX is a deeply funny and incredibly bizarre farce about nothing and everything at the same time.
HERALD THEATRE, Aotea Centre, Auckland
11 Nov – 3 Dec 2016
Tues and Wed at 7pm
Thurs through Sat at 8pm
Sun at 5pm
Preview: Thurs 10 Nov
Premiere: Fri 11 Nov
$ 24 – 55
This is a Review
Review by Nathan Joe 17th Nov 2016
Nic (Nic Sampson) and Natalie (Natalie Medlock) return from a holiday to find their home not quite in the same state they left it. Their friends, another couple, Sam (Sam Snedden) and Kura (Kura Forrester) have been housesitting. It begins by establishing a premise that echoes many others, but soon derails off course. While the domestic setting stays the same, the characters’ roles randomly change and morph at the blink of an eye. Partners swap, adults become children, backstories alter. And as the plays progress, the fourth wall begins to break down too (if it was ever really there).
This is Marius von Mayenburg’s Perplex, a piece of German absurdist theatre that takes the well-worn domestic drama as its subject, but isn’t satisfied with merely poking fun at the genre; it has to squat and take a dump all over it too. [More]
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Funny, thought-provoking, very entertaining and genuinely uplifting
Review by Leigh Sykes 12th Nov 2016
“In Perplex, everything changes, and nobody is safe,” Sam Brooks tells us in the play’s programme. His essay perceptively goes on to tell us much more about the play and how it resonates with us here in New Zealand in 2016. He unpacks the nuances of the mechanisms that the play uses to shed light on its subject matter, and I urge you to read and enjoy this thoughtful and interesting response to the play.
More than this, I urge you to go and see the play, because as well as being a witty, clever and insightful piece of writing, this production of it is a strongly performed and uproariously funny piece of theatre.
The action begins as a couple returns home from holiday to find some odd things have happened in their absence. Nic (Nic Sampson) deals with this quite stoically, while Natalie (Natalie Medlock) is much more perturbed and angered by the situation. Medlock’s speed with the dialogue makes a few lines difficult to catch in this opening section, but both she and Sampson play the physicality of their characters with a level of detail and energy that draws us into the play immediately.
Their demeanour changes drastically as their argument is cut short by the arrival of Kura (Kura Forrester) and Sam (Sam Snedden), the couple who have been looking after their house.
From this point on, the play takes off on a constantly shifting but always highly engaging journey, where ‘everything changes’ with remarkable speed. Partners and characters are swapped at the drop of a hat, and situations take unexpected and hilarious turns. All of this is aided and abetted by uniformly strong performances from all of the cast. There is a fearlessness and commitment about their performances that make the meta-theatrical elements of the play work particularly well.
For example, when they are completely aware of the audience, they commit to this totally, without any reservations. They also display the same commitment to the hairpin turns that their characters make as they travel through the twists and turns that are thrown at them. Some of the funniest, freshest moments come from the characters’ complete acceptance that they are characters. As Sam speaks directly to the audience, Natalie admonishes him, reminding him that ‘we agreed we wouldn’t do any monologues’, and later, all of the characters struggle with the ‘wall’ that may or not be there between them and the audience.
The absurdist and surreal elements of the play are handled with assurance by the cast under Sophie Roberts’ deft and perceptive direction. We are encouraged and supported in surrendering ourselves to the play, accepting the swift changes of direction, secure in the capable hands of Roberts and her creative team. Elizabeth Whiting’s costumes range from the real to the surreal and back again, beautifully supporting and enhancing the swift changing action. Thomas Press’ sound design is unobtrusive and effective and Sean Lynch’s lighting design is subtle and audience-involving.
With all these elements in place, all the swapping and changing seems very clear to me, and I never feel in danger of losing what little plot there is, which I feel is a testament to the effectiveness of the entire production.
While Snedden and Medlock both display moments of physical and performative courage, both Sampson and Forrester are outstanding in the way that their smallest gestures and expressions can illuminate and enhance their characters and the play. Forrester’s drunken ramblings have me in stitches, while Sampson’s responses on opening the mysterious parcel (referred to numerous times throughout the play) are both delicately performed and extremely funny.
The writing threatens to lose some steam in the final quarter of the play, but the cast carries us along with their energy and desire to keep exploring the changes that come their way. Forrester addresses us, urging us to think about the part we are playing in this complex web of action and reaction, and just as we begin to think that the self-referential nature of the play cannot possibly be taken any further, the action takes a turn into even more surreal territory. The very fabric of the set – attractively designed by Daniel Williams with some gorgeous detail that helps to both support and subvert the action – is challenged and re-formatted.
As a play, there are many threads to unravel, think about and enjoy. Everything changes, but everything also carries on. Meanings are obscured and then clarified and the play forces us to consider the order that we can make out of chaos as well as the chaos we are all capable of making out of order.
The play is never pompous, but it does allow us to recognise and consider our own responses to our surroundings. This play may be many different things to many different people, but as an experience, this production of it is deeply satisfying. It is funny, thought-provoking and very entertaining, and if you want to experience a genuinely uplifting evening, I urge you to see it.
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