PROJECT T – six short plays
Hagley Open Stage, Christchurch
10/01/2019 - 12/01/2019
“…you wanted to play. So let’s play.”
Simple Truth Theatre believes in the importance of mounting original works and this production performs 6 original short plays written by Kiwi playwrights in a three night season at Hagley Theatre Company’s Open Stage.
The idea behind the project is to create a platform of performance for local artists; Christchurch is crying out for more art in the community and Project T. aims to rectify this.
The piece is produced and directed by Unitec graduates Rhian Firmin and Tyler Brailey. Brailey being a born and bred Cantabrian wanting to bring his art home and Firmin works locally as the Voice Tutor at Hagley Theatre Company so is constantly involved within the artistic growth of youths in Christchurch.
They have also sourced a large majority of their cast and crew from within the Hagley Theatre community in order to support youths who are trying to gain a footing in the arts industry. They aim to bring life to the community with this mini theatre festival and recognize that it can often be hard to afford a night out of entertainment so plan to price tickets from $10.00 in an effort to create a performance that is more accessible.
This production itself is all about exploring the human condition and the relationships and connections we make with ourselves and with other humans. The show will see 6 short plays being mounted, with each piece having a cast of just 2 or 3. Each play is approximately 10 minutes in length and with live music and singing.
Project T. will be a 3 night season of fun and delight, where you will be taken on a journey through drama, romance, comedy…horror-comedy and even existentialism. Each piece is its own new twist and turn, exploring what it means to love, to push the limits and boundaries of life and even what it means explore our own vulnerabilities and lay them out bare. The plays themselves are:
Breaking the Routine – written by Aaron Richardson
Explores the lonely nature of existence and the relationships we form in order to escape our fears of being alone.
Are you there God? It’s me Dog – written by Chris Wood
What it means to try to live when you are dying.
Concept – written by Tyler Brailey
When it feels like the words problems are on top of you sometimes the only way is to write your way out of it. With a never ending list of global problems now more than ever all you need is some feedback.
Eat, Pray, Elevator – written by Rhian Firmin
What happens when the man you love’s humanity is literally disintegrating before your eyes and you can’t escape him, will you survive, or will he take a bite?
Beach – written by Ashleigh Hook
Let’s pretend that in another life…we belong together.
Ludus – written by Rebekah Dack
Explores how the human psyche weaves a connection between two fated humans
The Open Stage, 510 Hagley Ave, Addington
Thursday 10th January – Saturday 12th January 2019
Senior (65+): $10
Student (with ID): $10
A sense of thematic and visual cohesion
Review by Erin Harrington 11th Jan 2019
I’m a big fan of ‘smell of an oily rag’ theatre – the sort of no-budget productions that encourage playfulness, creative risk-taking and artistic development without financially leveraging producers and playwrights out of existence. Simple Truth Theatre’s first Christchurch production Project T fits this bill well. It’s a cheap and cheerful presentation of six short one-act plays by young New Zealand authors, performed by young and emerging professionals, that offers an earnest and sometimes heartfelt account of the way that our relationships sustain and challenge us.
Company founders Rhian Firmin and Tyler Brailey take on directing duties, and they are to be commended for their emphasis upon strong movement and physicality, and for drawing clear, grounded performances from the actors. The plays use minimal props, make up and costuming, and unfussy lighting and sound, allowing the actors to hold their own in the broad space of the black box theatre at Hagley’s The Open Stage.
The evening starts strongly with confident, comic performances by Harrison Searancke (who also provides the evening’s music) and Aaron Purdie in Concept, which pits two opposing characters against one another as they try to pitch new stories that might bridge the divide between the funny and socially-conscious, and the misanthropic and offensive.
Aaron Richardson’s play Breaking the Routine explores the dissolution of a relationship that has both sustained and enabled two of its characters. It also features some lovely physical comedy, and I am left wanting more of the show’s gentle clowning.
Chris Wood’s play Are You There God? It’s Me, Dog centres on a conversation between a terminally ill woman who is frustrated at others’ emphasis upon her death, and her buoyant dog Lexi. The script feels a bit slight and unfinished – that, or it doesn’t stick its landing – but it provides the opportunity for some playful character work, even though there’s scope to push some of the canine characterisation further.
Firmin’s vignette Eat, Pray, Elevatorfeatures some entertaining comic and physical work from its two actors – one a lovesick semi-stalker, the other a doctor whose research has left him with an unfortunate case of incipient zombification.
The evening’s highlight is a particularly risky piece of casting: the stage debut of toddler Julian Brailey in the two-hander Ludus, who plays the son of a woman (Firmin) who strikes up a meandering, poetic conversation with a stranger (Brailey) at a park. The play itself could easily get bogged down in pretention, but the boy’s roaming and his excited squeals, and the way that the adults must incorporate his activities into their action, reframes the looping philosophical discussion, grounding it playfully in the here and now.
The evening ends with Ashleigh Hook’s short Beach, in which a woman and her boyfriend’s friend imagine the relationship that they might have had, had things turned out differently. It’s a neat concept, driven by clear-hearted performances by Rheanna Walsh and Bailey Cropp, and wrapped up with a beautiful final image. It hits full speed too early, though, racing from tentative to assured, which means that the emotional arc of this alt-universe coupling isn’t as well developed as it could be. It just needs time to breathe.
It’s probably a truism to say that a collection of disparate shorts can be a mixed bag, and at times some of the pieces nearly get a little bogged down in their own seriousness. Nonetheless, there is a sense of thematic and visual cohesion that binds the six pieces, even if I’m not entirely convinced by the show’s closing, full cast musical tableau. There are also some proper belly laughs, and I might have embarrassed myself by bleating loudly at the unfortunate, absurd demise of a character.
I appreciate the company’s commitment to new talent and new work, too. This show fills a gap in terms of accessibility, and in the creation of performance opportunities for young creatives.
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