The Paradigms of the Square

Bar Bodega, Room 101, Wellington

30/04/2008 - 03/05/2008

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details


Generally Dr Kristoffer Ransome would only share his profound knowledge with the most privileged faculty of the most prestigious Universities in the world, but Dr Ransome has made a discovery which must be shared with the World. Dr Ransome has arrived to spread the word of a better life. 

A life embracing the Square… the source of all knowledge… the source of all enigmas.

This Lecture is for those ready to renounce the round!

Dates: April 30th – May 3rd, 8.30pm
Venue: Room101 @ Bodega, 101 Ghuznee St
Tickets: Adults $12 / Conc. $8 / Groups 10+ $8 (services fees may apply)
Bookings: 0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 5385)
Show Duration: 50 minutes  

CHRIS DAWSON as Dr Kristoffer Ransome
SCOTT RANSOM as Dr Scott Doorson

55 mins

Square whatsit in the proverbial round thing?

Review by John Smythe 02nd May 2008

First a brickbat to the Bar Bodega venue, or rather the young basement barman who banged doors, and clinked glasses (taking trays from a dishwasher) and bottles without the slightest awareness his customers, just a metre or three away, were attempting to engage with a live show.  Either he or Bodega should refund the venue hire they charged ShadowFlare Productions last night (Thursday).

Next, good on Dunedin-developed theatre practitioners Chris Dawson and Scott Ransom for tackling intellectualism as their contribution to the comedy festival. The idea is that Dr Kristoffer Ransom (Chris Dawson) is here to reveal his stunning new theory about the square being at the root of all life, in a public forum facilitated by Philosophy lecturer Dr Scott Doorson (Scott Ransom).

But a convoluted welter of word, words, words later – it felt quite a bit longer than its 55 minutes – The Paradigms of the Square proves to be yet another show that needs a dramaturg (to help divine its purpose, discover a more truthful source of dramatic conflict, define its characters, give it better dramatic structure) and a director (to help them realise those values and pursue their well focused intentions in an effectively paced performance).

As it stands, the show is reasonably intriguing, sometimes amusing and eventually too long for the ground it actually covers. Given the simple interview setting, I can’t help but compare them to the masters of the genre, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, who for all their broad characterisations stuck absolutely to the conventions of interview. Chris and Scott don’t, and their conflict seem silly and contrived by comparison. And not funny.

But can we expect humour from post-modern, deconstructed, philosophical debate on metaphysical planes that defy the gravity of our daily realities? Hell yes. Consider the most playful plays of Tom Stoppard with their fully dramatised scenarios and richly complex characters, whose pursuit of their objectives is utterly serious as well as stylish. Given Dawson and Ransom are experienced students of theatre, these references and models are very relevant.

Challenging our entrenched belief in the cycles of life – in virtuous circles and "what goes around comes around" notions – with the straight-edged claim that the square is the fundamental building block of life. Certainly we constantly frame our perceptions, our views of ‘reality’ in rectangles at least. And establishing the premise that the purveyor of this theory is at the effect of a father who was a corporate pie chart technician does suggest there’s a dramaturgical consciousness at play.

But so many things have to be distilled to exactly the right piquancy of truth to extract laughter on the night, and in The Paradigms of the Square, they are not.

As for the tangential deconstructing elements that seek, artistically, to disrupt the central conceit with linguistic and metaphysical analysis, or by breaking the ‘fourth wall’ (which was never established in the first place, given the interview format) to engage with the technicians (but never, strangely, the audience) … All that seems to me to be way off topic, so it dilutes the potential of the core material rather than enriches it.

And speaking of language, the title of their media release [click on the show title above; I left it intact] reads: DIVULGE IN THE MYSTERY OF THE "SQUARE". And their debate is riddled with locutions like, "the circular structures from which it operates on." In this context, that is a worry, not funny and certainly not conducive to our willing suspension of disbelief in their characters.

Oh, and their promotional pic (see above) does not illustrate the show as presented. Would than it did. But maybe I’m just too square (a pejorative term from the 1960s which never gets a mention). Or maybe, in a direct opposition to the conclusion they do arrive at by way of a dramatic resolution, their show is just a square whatsit in the proverbial round thing.


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