The First Time
New Athenaeum Theatre, 24 The Octagon, Dunedin
30/05/2018 - 02/06/2018
Following the critically acclaimed inaugural season of Jo Randerson’s FOLD, Arcade Theatre Company is proud to present our second play for 2018 – Courtney Rose Brown’s The First Time.
“Everyone remembers their first time. The small details, the nitty-gritty moments. Five young women share upfront confessions about the beautiful chaos that being a twenty-something brings.”
The First Time won highly commended in Playmarket’s Playwrights b425 in 2016 and was shortlisted in Plays for the Young 2017. In 2017, The First Time had a successful debut at BATS theatre followed by seasons at The Little Theatre and Circa Theatre with rave reviews.
Content warning: Contains adult themes & language and sexual violence & mental health themes
7.30pm at New Athenaeum Theatre
TIckets at the door or at www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/the-first-time-by-courtney-rose-brown-tickets-42267348778
Starring Mikayla Renee Cahill, Kat Kennedy, Sahara Pohatu-Trow, Kate Skinner & Beth Waite
Theatre , Comedy ,
Challenging script boldly tackled
Review by Jordan Dickson 31st May 2018
The First Time, by Courtney Rose Brown, on now at the New Athenaeum Theatre, is a distinctly New Zealand work that gives the audience a sliver of insight into the lives of five women as they tackle relationships, mental illness and all the chaos that comes be with being in your early 20s. Each character shares with the audience a number of different ‘firsts’, through a series of intermingling monologues, intercut with a handful of brief scenes where they engage with each other.
The cast are a mix of familiar and fresh faces; director Heidi Geissler has done a brilliant job in bringing this group of women together to play a diverse range of characters. There’s OMG-ing Alana (Beth Waite), fabulous Te Rina with her stunning holographic manicure (Mikayla Cahill), softly reserved Mereana (Sahara Pohatu-Trow), loud and proud Jess (Kate Skinner) and resident bad bitch Elle (Kat Kennedy).
Each character starts their journey alone, then as the show progresses we start to see their stories wind together as relationships within the group appear. Sometimes this is hard to follow and a little confusing, but ultimately it is satisfying to watch five worlds become one.
Everyone has a moment to shine. Alana’s LOLs and IDKs, and Te Rina’s primping and preening are particularly enjoyable, and Elle’s restrained yet heart-breaking monologue near the end of the show (you’ll have to see it before Saturday to find out which one) is especially crushing.
Behind the scenes Shannon van Rooijen and Anna Sinton, responsible for the set and lighting respectively, have done a great job of utilising a few resources thoughtfully to bring some life to the space. Given that for most of the play the characters are sitting on stage, adding some texture is vital. Van Rooijen’s eclectic collection of chairs and Sinton’s simple shutter gobo do a great job of creating interesting visuals without overshadowing the storytelling.
And what a group of stories to tell! From breakups to make ups to *spoiler* motorcycle accidents, it’s a hard-trodden road for these characters. It’s curious, then, that by the end of the show I’m still not really invested in any one of them. 95% of the action in the script has happened in the past, which creates a huge challenge for these actors and saps the theatricality of throwing the audience into a harrowing moment with a character. I want to be there with them, not hearing about it in hindsight.
I leave with a lot of questions. Some are personal (what would I do in their shoes?), but my biggest question is why is this play important now? For me it doesn’t cast a new light on any of these perennial issues but hey, maybe I’m being a little cynical. By the end of the hour and ten minutes it all feels a little too neatly bundled, too tidy, too… nice? I want these characters to take the metaphorical bull by the horns and take control of the situation. Instead we get a passive retelling of events that happened in the past that really robs them of their agency.
The production is very slick, there’s no question about that. Presenting a polished show that seems free of opening night nerves is no mean feat and the cast and crew are to be commended for boldly tackling some very delicate subject matter. Make sure you catch these five actors now, there’s a lot of promise in their work and I can’t wait to see what they’re on to next!
The First Time is on at the New Athenaeum Theatre until Saturday; you can get your tickets over at Eventbrite.
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