04/09/2014 - 12/09/2014
“The Mountebank” is Long Cloud Youth Theatre‘s original devised work; an interactive and immersive piece of promenade theatre bringing together characters and audience like never before.
You are invited to a party. A party in the conference room of The Mountebank Hotel. There are several other guests attending, each unaware of the identity of the host who has brought them together. The party is explicitly formal dress. A formal dress party, but make sure you wear comfortable shoes: you may get taken for a ride.
In Long Cloud’s unique production the stage bleeds into an entire building. Travel through an expansive, unfolding venue of endless hallways and secret doors to meet characters of the hotel and help solve the unravelling mystery of why you were brought here— and by whom.
A mountebank was a term originally used to describe a person who deceives others, who tricks and cheats other people. Like the magical trick of misdirection, a mountebank intends to distract the audience from the truth of the mystery. Each character offers you clues and information to solve the mystery of the absent host, but who can be trusted, who is speaking the truth, and who might be the mountebank?
Take a look at www.themountebank.co.nz to gain extra knowledge and clues before the hunt even begins…
4TH – 12TH SEPTEMBER, 7.30PM
NO SHOW SUNDAY 7TH
109 DIXON ST, TE ARO, WELLINGTON
$20/$15 | BOOKINGS PHONE (04) 238 6225 or ONLINE www.thetheatre.co.nz
In association with Urban Dream Brokerage www.urbandreambrokerage.org.nz
Devisor/Performers: Alexandra Taylor, Ashleigh Williams, Bella Guarrera, Briana Jamieson, Connor-Amor-Bendall, Drew Brown, Emma Weir, Hollie Smith, Java Katzur, Joe Witkowski, Jonathan Hobman, Josh McGowan, Josh Metcalfe, Keegan Bragg, Liam Whitney, Lydia Buckley-Gorman, Matt Bloomfield, Paul Boyle, Rebecca Tate, Ruby Urquhart, Thomas Hart, Todd Foster, Whitney Deck, Nicholas Rowell
Assistant Directors: Daniel Emms & Calvin Petersen
Production Designer: Oliver Morse
Lighting Designer: Rowan McShane
Sound Designer: Thomas Lambert
Production Manager: Daniel Emms
Stage Manager: Calvin Petersen
Website Designer: Matt Fannin
An audience left mystified – and not in a good way
Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Sep 2014
Devised works have become the norm for Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s annual production and while last year’s show had some semblance of cohesiveness and worked reasonably well as a piece of theatre, this year’s production is far less so and much more esoteric and self-indulgent.
The invitation is to a party at the Mountebank Hotel, at 109 Dixon Street in Wellington. The audience, the guests, meet and mingle with the staff, the actors, wandering about aimlessly from room to room gathering up clues in order to find out who the host of the party is – which they never do.
Though the beginning is slow and boring and the ending tails off into a chaotic shambles, the middle is reasonably interesting and intriguing.
Yet the only point of the piece would appear to be the point on the party hats each of the audience members wear to distinguish themselves from the actors.
The venue is an office block in Dixon Street with a rabbit warren of rooms that all make up The Mountebank Hotel.
In Conference Room A, where everyone first assembles, they are given drinks and lots of pieces of paper with clues to discover who or what the Host is. There is another large conference room, the Hotel Reception, rooms as hotel bed rooms and downstairs work rooms where no one is allowed to talk.
Everyone troupes off around these various rooms trying to identify who the mystery host is, helped by various members of the staff such as waiters, cleaners, musicians, reception staff. Eventually, everyone is herded back to the main conference room and released to shuffle off into the night.
Having said all that, it was interesting mingling and interacting with a group of strangers for an hour or more, trying to ascertain what was going on. And many of those present, the younger ones at least, seemed to be enjoying themselves playing “hunt the thimble”. And for once in a theatre production mobile phones were allowed as logging onto the Mountebank web site was a way of finding more clues.
Interesting and intriguing although not wholly enjoyable, this piece of devised work is certainly innovative and original. And for something totally different and mildly entertaining is probably worth going to see.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
A bit of a fizzer
Review by John Smythe 05th Sep 2014
What was once the Sharp shop and offices at 109 Dixon Street is now rebranded ‘The Mountebank Hotel’. Dictionary.com defines mountebank as “a person who sells quack medicines … attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc.”
The media release for The Mountebank adds: “Like the magical trick of misdirection, a mountebank intends to distract the audience from the truth of the mystery. Each character offers you clues and information to solve the mystery of the absent host, but who can be trusted, who is speaking the truth, and who might be the mountebank?”
The publicity promises “an interactive and immersive piece of promenade theatre bringing together characters and audience like never before.” The premise is that we are invited to a “formal dress party” and I think it was hoped we’d frock up accordingly but no-one does.
We mill about in the ground floor holding area until summonsed to the foot of the stairs for somewhat cryptic housekeeping notices from Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s director Stella Reid. Mystery surrounds the identity of the Host as party hats are distributed and we are told “The party isn’t over until the pregnant woman has sung with fire.”
Expectations, then, are high as we ascend to the Party Room where a musical trio backs a pregnant woman singing. What, is it over already? Ah but there is no fire. Waiters circulate with bright blue fizzy drinks. Is this a Kool Aid reference, testing our level of trust? They also offer written riddles and conversation starters …
We have formed small clusters, as at a party, and the room is buzzing now with puzzle-solving. A ‘poor nervous soul’, delegated to read an announcement from the Host, reinforces the question of who can be trusted and makes it clear our major objective is to discover the identity of the Host, aka the Mountebank.
Unclear as to whether we are competing against each other or engaged collectively in the quest, we variously set out individually, in pairs or in small groups, following leads and seeking further clues in an intriguingly set-up network of rooms (hence the choice of venue). Security personnel, a Cleaner, back-room Operatives, a Concierge and her Assistant are encountered and available to answer our questions. Physical items may or may not contain or reveal clues.
Some of us gain access, albeit brief, to a hotel bedroom. Another theme concerning surveillance begins to emerge. When my partner and I are interviewed in a locked room – much to the intrigue of those who are not – it becomes apparent that we are competing as individuals.
As one of us returns to the Party Room, the other is sent to another room where, we are told, the identity of the Host will be revealed. But it’s not. There are screeds of writings one could read through given the time (unavailable) and inclination (do we trust it to deliver?). Meanwhile in the Party Room the pregnant woman is not singing, let alone with fire. Yet it’s over. That’s it.
So, a bit of a fizzer. Yes, we have interacted and become immersed as we’ve moved about. What we’ve got out of the experience is arguably proportionate to what we’ve put into it But for all the complex and intriguingly mysterious set-ups, for all the commitment we’ve contributed to solving the mystery, there has been no pay-off.
Can it be that it’s one of those conundrums with an answer quite different from the one we were expecting – e.g. not a person but an entity, a force, a power …? Perhaps. But surely we all need to gather together and experience some final process that allows us to ‘get it’, preferably with some sense of catharsis.
As experienced on opening night, The Mountebank lacks even the structure of a treasure hunt, a game of charades or board game like Cluedo, let alone a piece of theatre. Which of course raises the question of what qualifies as ‘theatre’ when people are asked to assemble at a certain time and place, and pay for tickets (in this case $20 or $15), trusting it will be worth their while.
Every generation has sought to eschew established theatre conventions, break the mould, explore new territories and reinvent the very concept of ‘theatre’. A trawl through these pages will show that many such ‘breakout’ productions have succeeded, proving the value of such endeavours. And many that fail may well be an important step towards the sought-after breakthrough.
That said, I feel the need to add that it is also interactive, immersive and transporting to stimulate the human capacity for empathy by allowing us to relate to make-believe experiences that reflect our realities, take us beyond what we know and/or stimulate our imaginations into fantastical realms. In my experience the conventions of theatre that endure are those that do just that. And dare I suggest that people who find sitting in a darkened space, witnessing such a performance on an illuminated stage, to be a passive and an unengaging experience, may possibly be too self-involved to avail themselves of the opportunities on offer?
Whatever it was hoping to achieve, The Mountebank offers no opportunity to engage through empathy. It is simply a puzzle-solving game that fails to deliver because there is no answer. And if that’s the point (political or existential?), it needs to be restructured so the audience gets some pleasure from discovering that.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer