THE LONG WEEKEND
31/01/2012 - 04/02/2012
WHY GO AWAY WHEN YOU CAN SPEND THE LONG WEEKEND AT BATS THEATRE?
Wellington’s newest improv ensemble The Polaroid Collective has been invited back to BATS Theatre to present a full season of the NZ Improv Festival’s hit show The Long Weekend. Winning awards for Best Concept and Best Ensemble, the show was the critical success of the Festival in October 2011 (“pure bliss on stage together… and a group to look out for” – Theatreview).
“The Long Weekend is a story about old friends on a journey,” explains director and producerChristine Brooks. “The further they travel, the closer they get to home. Every night the destination is different, and the truth of the relationships between these people revealed.”
This very New Zealand show has drawn on training in Radical Improv and Tragic Improv from the US East Coast. Brooks describes the show as “challenging preconceptions about theatre improvisation and creating something New Zealand audiences have not seen before.”
“We want to tell stories in which New Zealanders recognise themselves. The long weekend at a kiwi bach is such a New Zealand experience and rich with stories and characters we know. We are thrilled the response has been so warm and to be back at BATS for Waitangi weekend.”
The Polaroid Collective has been formed to create spontaneous theatre about New Zealanders and includes some of Wellington’s most experienced improv artists – Brandon Brooks,Christine Brooks, Nicola Hill, Paul Sullivan, and Karen Anslow with Tane Upjohn-Beatson on music and Darryn Woods on effects.
THE LONG WEEKEND
BATS Theatre, Wellington
Tuesday 31 January – 4 February 2012 (Waitangi Weekend)
Directed and produced by Christine Brooks
Bookings at BATS Theatre: (04) 802 4175 or email email@example.com
Producer: Christine Brooks
Assistant Producer: Nicola Hill
Director: Christine Brooks
Assistant Director: Tai Samaeli
Cast: Karen Anslow, Brandon Brooks, Christine Brooks, Nicky Hill, Paul Sullivan
Music: Tane Upjohn-Beatson
Lighting: Darryn Woods
Graphic Designer: Graeme Offord
Publicist: Nicola Hill
Questions of trust
Review by John Smythe 31st Jan 2012
I leave this show a bit confused because I thought it was an improv show but the audience is not invited to pitch offers, there is no explanation of the premise or rules, there is no programme to enlighten us and it all plays out like an under-rehearsed semi-scripted play.
The Bats website, consulted in retrospect, tells me: “Nothing on today, check out what’s coming up next below” – but The Long Weekend is not among the shows promoted below. Do we have to belong to a special club? I wonder. Next stop, their Facebook page. This suggests if you happened to hear an Access Radio interview you might be a bit the wiser but there is no podcast link for those who didn’t.
There is a facsimile of yesterday’s Dominion Post Capital Day item which tells us the Polaroid Collective is “a new Wellington improvisation troupe” and “The story is about old friends on a journey. ‘Every destination is different, and the truth of the relationships between these people revealed,’ director and producer Christine Brooks says.”
The production info supplied to Theatreview (but not in advance to the average punter) reveals The Long Weekend was the hit of last year’s NZ Improv Festival where it won awards for Best Concept and Best Ensemble. Indeed Caoilinn Hughes’ review said, “last night’s world premiere rendition presented some naturally charismatic, believably eccentric and sympathy-inducing misfits that were pure bliss on stage together. Again, it’s a testament to the performers that the narrative seemed so purposeful and the dialogue seemed so nuanced and flowing.”
It makes such a difference when the audience is in on the game. Perhaps it was because they all seemed to know who they were, what the back-stories were and what would happen next in what order, that I felt this was more prepared than instant improv.
Was this a progression on what had transpired in that one performance back in October 2011, or were these quite different characters? Even knwing that much would have helped.
In this never-to-be-repeated second incarnation possessive Pete (Paul Sullivan) and his girlfriend Cath (Christine Brooks) have arrived at a bach with heir single friend Lucy (Karen Anslow) ahead of another old friend Brad (Brandon Brooks) who is bringing his new girlfriend Nat (Nicola Hill), a masseuse from Palmerston North.
It soon turns out that Brad and Christine were lovers back when they were 19 (I think they are thirty-something now) and Kiwi bloke Pete has a hard time dealing with this. Meanwhile Lucy’s biological clock is ticking and she wants Pete to do the honours but they avoid telling Cath who finds out – and in counterpoint to this trauma Brad proposes to Nat who transforms from alienated outsider to a very happy woman who is more confident in noting the failing of the others.
As a way of group-devising a storyline, it’s very clever. Obviously if you know what is predetermined and what is being made up on the spot, there is entertainment to be had in watching it evolve. Otherwise (and it is ‘other’ for none-the-wiser me), because the characters are talking out their back-stories and present needs, it plays out as a rather banal first draft that could develop into something better if stronger present actions were played while the emotional drama played out in relative subtext, and if it was rehearsed to a level where characters could be fully inhabited rather than sketched in with just the odd moment of total ‘being’.
Maybe because everyone seemed to know where the next scene would be played out, by whom and why, I could not credit the possibility that the broad story line was not premeditated. If this was not the case, the group must feel very clever and enjoy their achievement hugely, but they need to find a way of letting the audience in on the game.
When the audience makes offers, we know the improv is authentic. In this case, we can only go on trust – but how can we trust you if we don’t know what you are doing?
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