Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

10/07/2015 - 25/07/2015

Auckland Theatre Company’s NEXT BIG THING 2015

Production Details

The outrageous comedy for anyone who has ever wondered why girls spend so much time in the bathroom is back. Following a sell-out season in ’09 we are taking another peek into a very private world. Set entirely in the ladies loos of a downtown nightclub  –  bring your bf, your bff and your bitches.

The Basement Theatre
10 – 25 July 2015
@ 9pm

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Abigail Laurent – Bell
Alex Dyer – Dan
Brittany Clary – Jen
Eliza MacKay – Carla
Emma-Mae Eglington – Frances
Grace Neely – Wendy
Irasa Siave – Tammy/Vanessa
Lauren McLay – Millie
Lucy Caccioppolo – Tammy/Vanessa
Martin Graham – Mike
Olivia Preston – Jenny
Rachel O'Connell – Mornica
Raven-leigh Faifua-Young – Bartender / AD
Ruby Payne – Joe
Caitlin Flower – Chorus
Rebekah Palmer – Chorus

Raven-leigh Faifua-Young – Assistant Director
Lynne Cardy – Producer
Whetu Silver – Project Manager
Tanya Muagututi'a – Production Coordinator
Kate Burton – Production Manager
Joamie Blackburn – Production Assistant
Christine Thurquhart – Set & Costume Designer
Rachel Marlow – Lighting Designer
Thomas Press – Sound Design Mentor
Ruby-Reihana Wilson – Stage Manager Mentor
Margaret-Mary Hollins – Voice Tutor

Youth , Theatre ,

Stereotypes aplenty

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 17th Jul 2015

It’s a short step from The Basement Theatre main house up the stairs to The Basement Studio and it’s invariably a journey saturated in anticipation. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing some exhilarating new works in this space over the past five years and discovered some extraordinary talent, so expectation is high on this late Tuesday evening with the prospect of seeing a remake of a show I missed when it first surfaced as part of the Auckland iteration of the ‘Young and Hungry’ festival in 2009. As I recall it had a mixed reception then but I remember being fascinated by the concept and, as a fan of director Ben Crowder’s work, was more than a little fascinated to see what he’d done with this quirky little concept and its re-worked script.

In his programme notes Crowder refers to Georgina Titheridge’s text as a ‘voyeuristic treat’ and as I make my way to the top of the performance space to a seat on the stairs leading into the back row I guess the almost all male over-full house bears out his observation. An almost all male, over-full house should always be acknowledged because it’s such a rare thing to see in a New Zealand theatre; something to be cherished and applauded almost forever. More of them please. 

So exactly what might entice this bubbly bunch to The Basement Studio at 9pm on a ghastly Tuesday night? The Playmarket website, which lists this and Titheridge’s other scripts, describes the play as a “wild comedy set entirely in the loos of a trendy nightclub while the partying rages on outside”. It goes on to add that “we see the no-holds-barred goings on as a troop of variously incapacitated young women trek in and out to repair themselves, pull themselves together, and occasionally pull someone else apart.”

Ah, so that’s the fascination, I think: a backstage look at a ladies loo with the volatile additive of drink, substances and uninhibited behaviour. Rather like Peeping Tom meets sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. And, on a blood red set, and so it proves to be.

My research tells me that Georgina Titheridge has had a most impressive hit rate with each of her four plays winning seriously impressive awards.

Her first script, BabyCakes, is described as “a character-driven no-nonsense comedy about lots of cake, trashy weddings, a call centre, and people that are overly bent on being normal.” BabyCakes won the ‘Playmarket Young Playwright of the Year’ award and played to a sell-out season at the Wellington Fringe Festival in 2008. Well done, Georgina!

In the following year, 2009, theYoung & Hungry Arts Trust commissioned her to write Sit on Itwhich had sell-out seasons in both Wellington and Auckland, and went on to be published by The Play Press in 2011.

Her next play, Sliderhands, has “Eve, the manager of a small chocolate shop, inviting current employee Louise and ex-employee Rachel over for a dinner that unfolds in an unexpected way, thanks to the food, the magic, and startling tales of violence. Her guests leave feeling weird and awkward having experienced a bizarre night during which boundaries have certainly been crossed.” Sliderhands was awarded Best Play by a Female Playwright and runner-up in the Adam NZ Play Award 2011. 

Georgina’s most recent work, Trashbag, was commissioned by Young & Hungry Festival of New Plays and premiered at BATS Theatre in Wellington in 2013. Playmarket promotes Trashbag by reasoning that “everyone wants to have a good time, until people get too wasted.” In the script, “old boyfriends turn up and are weirdos. People cry. People hook up but are not sure why. Things get dramatic. Someone potentially dies. There’s no moral message. No advice on how to be. It’s full of social insecurities that will make you cringe, and wonder – are we really having fun at this party?” 

So, why bother with all that (and thanks to Playmarket for providing all the data)?  Simply to remind us that Titheridge, seemingly without exception, scours the lower depths of the contemporary female social experience for her source material; that Sit on It can be seen as representative of her particular oeuvre, and that the awards she’s won suggest she’s jolly damn good at what she does.

Director Crowder, again in his excellent programme notes, describes Sit on It as “the experience of a night at this club feels a bit like a descent into hell”. He’s right about that. It’s ‘Dante’s Inferno’ in heels and spangles and clearly quite the place to be if you’re part of the ‘whatever’ generation.

It’s certainly somewhat different to my memories of clubbing but, if I’m honest, not that much, and in reality only the designer drugs seem to have changed. So, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: everything changes, everything stays the same. No surprises there. 

Christine Urquhart has surpassed herself with the set. It’s quite brilliant. The glitzy décor and the bright red stalls do seem ragingly familiar and it is only when ‘spending a penny’ (does anyone say that any more?) at the end of the evening that I catch on to a delicious in-house joke: the toilets on stage are almost exactly the same as those in the female loos at The Basement. I have an admiring chuckle at Urquhart’s idiosyncratic smarts and it reinforces for me just what a talent she is.

We enter the packed auditorium treading delicately past a raft of audience bodies lolling on multi-coloured cushions in front of the first row. Yes, it is that full and we are certainly not the last to arrive. A solitary cleaner in black is working away mopping the floor and cleaning the mirrors, surrounded, of course, by all the paraphernalia of the modern char. This goes on for a bit and eventually the lights dim and the pumping dance music builds to a level where all but the most basic communication is impossible. 

Yes, it’s just like a club atmosphere but I become anxious that if it stays at that level, which it does, I won’t hear much of the dialogue – and I don’t.

I check with others in the audience following the show and the consensus is the same: a lot of the discourse was missed which makes it difficult to follow the aurally-transmitted narrative, to catch on to the oddities of the array of seemingly super characters and, in particular, to follow the threads and builds of the comedy. I’ve since read the script and it’s great – droll, tart, eccentric and accurate – so it’s a shame that so much of it was lost. 

The same can’t be said for the performances themselves and Crowder’s classy direction. The flow through the one door is magnificently managed and adds to the effectiveness of the physical comedy: always a joy in any Crowder production. The actors are all totally on top of their work. There are moments of high, though not necessarily deep, drama and an endless array of high comedy opportunities most of which are grabbed with both hands. Sure, much of it is gross, but what of that? This is a piece about the human animal – with apologies to regular animals – and we all know that people behave appallingly when emotions run high and alcohol and naughty substances are in the mix. 

There are stereotypes aplenty but they all seem to work. There’s the totally trashed girl with the massive black handbag who ends up out of it on the floor of a stall that’s already covered in puke. There’s the neurotic, the obsessive hand washer, the girl who needs to phone her Mum, the crying drunk, the tampon bludger, the druggie, the girl with the selfie stick, the opportunist, and the horny chick who, despite her best efforts, just can’t get laid. 

There are boys too, each a total loser in his own unique way, and all the time there is the anger, the fighting and more and more booze. By the end of the night the stage is strewn with ‘night on the town’ detritus: the contents of the wasted girl’s bag, a panty-liner, spilt booze, toilet paper and vomit, lots and lots of vomit. 

I’m not going to single out any actor for special mention because they are all great and this is an ensemble show. I do wish I could have engaged with all the dialogue rather than snippets, even if this is a true reflection of what happens in real clubs on lost nights like this. It is, after all, a piece of theatre and not reality and, call me old fashioned, but I do like to be able to see and hear everything that’s going on.

Despite my misgivings I would willingly pay to see the show again and to hear Titheridge’s excellent script in its entirety. It wouldn’t take much; just to be cleverer with the sound.

Auckland Theatre Company has done a superb job in producing these three works and I take my beanie off to them. They’ve provided the resources for these talented young, and not so young, artists and, it seems, mostly just let them get on with it. The result is two exceptional works – Inky, Pinky, Ponky and Bed – and one slightly less so with Sit on It. All contribute to an exciting, invigorating and challenging winter season that I sincerely hope to see continue because, as Meatloaf sagely points out, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”


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