Shadows of Care

BATS Theatre, Wellington

16/02/2006 - 20/02/2006

NZ Fringe Festival 2006

Production Details

Jawbone Co-operative

Two award-winning short plays of love and obsession: in Glockenspiel an elderly couple tease, game play, and deal with the absurd puzzle of existence. Water is rhythms, questions and murder. The words, the light and the water play on.

"The Glockenspiel Dockyards"
written by Lisa Norriss
directed by the cast

cast -
Marjorie McKee as A
Barry Lakeman as B

"Just Add Water"
written by Barry Lakeman
directed by Marjorie McKee

cast -
Andrew Bartle as Matt
Ross Conland as Detective Sergeant
Eleanor Metcalf as She
Jean Slobbé as Detective Inspector

stage manager and triangle wrangler - Julia Gretton
technical wizard - Don Blackmore
publicity and graphic design - Marjorie McKee

Theatre ,

55 mins

The lightness and darkness of love

Review by John Smythe 17th Feb 2006

The Jawbone Co-operative’s Shadows of Care offers two short plays that use non-naturalistic conventions, executed with great skill and confidence, to articulate very real dimensions of love and obsession in contemporary life. In one case, however, I may have added more meaning than was intended.

Barry Lakeman’s Just Add Water, as directed by Marjorie McKee, interrogates, dissects and reveals the what, why and how of a double murder by cutting back and forth between an older couple’s intensely focused enquiries and a younger couple’s recreation of the salient events.

By casting a man and woman apparently past retirement age (Ross Conland and Jean Slobbé) as the investigators, and having them dance like a couple, I took them to be either the parents or grandparents of the young man, Matt (Andrew Bartle). It then seemed very clear to me that their intensely focused concern was to protect him from the consequences of his crime of passion, and that they were deeply implicated in indulging him to the point where, just because he felt betrayed, cheated and lied to, he also felt he had the right to respond as he has.

Only when I check the programme afterwards do I realise Conland and Slobbé are playing a ‘Detective Sergeant’ and ‘Detective Inspector’ respectively. By then I am way too wedded to my version to let go of the ‘indulgent/protective parenting’ dimension. Besides, it really fits the ‘shadows of care’ concept.

The decision to dress all four in skivvies and trousers (a retro 1950s-60s ‘drama quartet’ feel) – the older couple in white and the younger couple in black – only adds to the potential for diverse interpretations. Marjorie McKee has also designed an elevated lavabo-of-light in the foreground, which adds a church-like feel to the young couple’s home, and a triangular tower in the background, that turns with an urgent graunch to denote location changes.

While the action plays out through almost sculpted physical relationships, with no meaningless movement, and the pace cracks along, McKee ensures the uniformly excellent cast – including Eleanor Metcalfe as emotionally conflicted ‘She’ – give due time and space to the subjective truths of the unfolding story.


A letter in this morning’s Dominion Post (from Neville Martin of Khandallah) speaks of age edging people towards the margins of society. “In the modern world, to grow older is to haemorrhage relevance.” This captures perfectly the fate of the couple in Lisa Norriss’s The Glockenspiel Dockyards, although I have yet to divine the relevance of the title.

Another theatrical flavour of the 1950s and 60s is recalled with an absurdist rendition of a real perception of the human condition. Think Beckett’s Endgame meets Ionesco’s The Chairs, except Norriss’s A and B, as played by Marjorie McKee and Barry Lakeman, are delightfully imbued with a joie de vivre that belies their social isolation. They are a joy to watch.

Her Sisyphus-like project is to pile chairs in a meaningless heap while he makes lists and clips them to an ever-thickening bunch. The question of having a cup of tea raises further issues concerning the lack of milk and cookies and what it will take to get some. Late in the piece, Connor’s corner store emerges as part of his world.

The paucity of postal deliveries also bewilders them. They both use “Was that the door?” as a ploy to distract the other. And the story he tells, but never finishes, about a sullen and stubborn boy gives them both comfort. It is their spirit, their chronic inability to lapse into depression, or to play the embittered battlers, that makes this work especially poignant.

But, as they remark, the task of Sisyphus can end in only one way – and it does.

What makes the Shadows of Care double-bill worth watching is the alacrity with which both productions use their craft to distil emotional truth and expose light and dark parts of the human condition.



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