The 1/4 Pounding

BATS Theatre, Wellington

04/05/2006 - 13/05/2006

Production Details

By and performed by Nicola Colson & Mel Dodge
Directed by Will Harris


The Quarter Life Crisis – Are you a believer

Haven’t heard of it? It’s been all over Oprah, Dr.Phil, novels have been written, websites made up but we in New Zealand are only just realizing the phenomenon here. The mid life crisis is widely understood, but the poor ole quarter life has been over looked. This period of life is full of more anxiety and fear than any other.

The ¼ Pounding is a Comedy/Drama based on the crazy life experiences unique to the world of the ‘pop psychology’ quarterlife crisis. Does it exist or is it still more talk show fodder and life coach jargon? In search of more clarity and inspired by personal experiences and research Brave theatre takes the sledge hammer to this generations burning issues. Sweetened by the irony that if this sounds slightly familiar you may find peace to that you are not alone. Or in contrast that satisfied smugness that you have just come out the other side and feel like screaming at the top of your lungs, ‘take a chill pill and grow up.’ This is the story of the ¼ pounding and the stark and at times humorous realizations that are unique to this formidable life stage. 

Theatre ,

Mid-twenties crisis handled with deftness

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 10th May 2006

Once upon a time it used to be the mid-life crisis that everyone talked about; the fear expressed by those reaching 40 and the trauma of those experiencing life after 40.  But now it appears there’s a new phenomenon, the Quarter Life crisis, recently gaining prominence in film and on talk shows such as Oprah

It seems to occur to those unmarried in their mid-twenties who have graduated, have massive student debit, are trying to forge a career for themselves and are supposedly too busy to find Mr or Ms Right.  As an escape they often take off overseas on their OE. The Quarter Pounding it’s called, and having experienced it two local actors, Mel Dodge and Nicola Colson have decided to write about it.

Their take on this situation is some-what cynical and at times very funny, but their play also has an underlying seriousness to it that highlights the problems of many of their generation.  Dodge and Colson are two very accomplished actors and using their own experiences have put together, with director Will Harris, a snappy production that races along with great fluidity through various aspects of the lives and how they have  – and are – coping with the Quarter Life crisis. 

Lively and animated, both work well as a team, interacting with confidence as they describe how the body begins to deteriorate once you’re 25 and the efforts that are made to counter the wrinkles, stretch marks and various other bodily aliments. Then there’s the 3am anxiety attacks of doubts and indecisions and the obsession of other peoples lives without getting on with their own. 

The desperation of all this leads to the big OE which isn’t always what its cracked up to be, hassled by lusty European males, lack of money, and of course mothers phone calls – all hilariously portrayed through many sharply defined vignettes. 

The down side of all this can lead to such things as alcoholism and unwanted pregnancies and although they deal with these successfully it’s the poignancy of these situations in contrast to the funny moments of the play that gives the production depth and a humanity and which makes it a very watchable piece of theatre.


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When trite turns true

Review by John Smythe 06th May 2006

In its publicity for The ¼ Pounder, Brave Theatre assumes we’ve never heard of The Quarter Life Crisis. "It’s been all over Oprah, Dr.Phil, novels have been written, websites made up but we in New Zealand are only just realizing the phenomenon here." I beg to differ.

The anxiety-ridden period of life we hit around 20 may not have been named as such in our media and exploited accordingly by purveyors of psycho-commercial remedies, but the stuff of which it is made has permeated all corners of the entertainment industry forever.

Hamlet springs to mind for a start. More recent examples of the many works that capitalise on the anxieties of becoming an adult include The Graduate (book, film and now play), a fair few Beatles songs and, closer to home, Foreskin’s Lament. Then there are all those flat-based plays that have permeated the Bats play list over many years …

What makes The ¼ Pounder different is that it is presented as a dramatised lecture on the subject. But the surprisingly uninventive introduction and narrative links, and the rather clichéd content, are thankfully superseded by some well-honed sketches and performances  that distil human experience into moments of truth that are inherently entertaining – in a sparse setting astutely designed and lit by Robert Larsen.

As perceived by co-devising actors Nicola Colson and Mel Dodge, and their director Will Harris, the 1950s ideals of domesticity were followed by decades devoid of any ideals, which will be news to all the idealists who think they completely transformed western society through the 60s and 70s – then went on to demolish and renovate further from the 1980s onward.

The quarter life crisis starts with graduation when too much choice can be overwhelming and the task of applying for jobs – of filling in forms that require you to extol your many virtues – can lead to extreme deflation when the umpteenth rejection letter arrives. Obliged to take on undemanding work at a message centre (that’s message not massage), Julie Richardson (Dodge) and Rachel Parrish (Colson) focus on getting trim and fit – for what?

While all their friends are getting married, buying houses and/or having babies, Julie and Rachel are only being woken at 3am by anxiety attacks. They become obsessed with other peoples’ lives – via New Idea and the like – then avoid making actual decisions about their futures by taking off on the big OE to London.

Further sketches cover dealing with foreign languages (including Scottish), working as shop girls to fund the necessities of life and further travel, looking for Mr Right … They see themselves as old ladies meeting in a park to ogle passing men … But finding a more motivating purpose in life that might steer them on a clearer course eludes them.

One false note is the way they depict both their mothers as shallow suburbanites, caricatured at a level one might expect of primary school kids. Maybe some young women are truly incapable of seeing their mothers as real people until they become mothers themselves – which, for most of the show, remains beyond their scope.  

The pub/club scene sees Rachel binge drinking salaciously-named cocktails to Julie’s disdain. Her letter to ‘Dear Alcohol’, suggesting a trial separation, is a highlight, as is Julie’s parody of the ‘Hush Little Baby’ lullaby and a hilarious sketch depicting the perfect modern marriage.

It is Rachel who finally finds her Mark while Julie is reduced to plying the bars alone. A one night stand – she wouldn’t have minded if it became more than that – has the inevitable outcome and she heads home to bear and face the consequences.

While the motherhood theme has been seeded throughout, this final turn of events remains unexplored in this first outing of The ¼ Pounder. It comes across as a conveniently fatalistic way of ending the show. But for my money the notion of a young woman allowing herself to get pregnant, because she cannot find love or a purpose in life any other way, is fertile ground in which to grow the work. (Conventional wisdom has it that this is relatively common among poorly educated girls in low socio-economic communities, but these women have degrees and come from Khandallah and Kelburn.)

The raw material is there. What’s needed is a core theme that takes is from the relatively trite to the relatively profound.


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