Vacant Space, corner of Manchester and Cashel Street, Christchurch

17/12/2013 - 21/12/2013

Production Details

“Dreaming a people’s tomorrow, with tomorrow’s people’s dreams” 

It is 2028. Nouveau Monde Global is taking over the world. Their next step is Christchurch. The empty lot on the corner of Cashel and Manchester has been set up as a press conference with a backdrop of shipping containers and a labyrinth of construction fencing. This is where the flagship ‘Inspirational Development Hub’ will be erected.

Nouveau Monde Global has called the public here to give an insight into their values and ambitions. It quickly escalates as the unsuspecting public are enlisted into the company as a slave labour force under the direction of the intimidatingly friendly management staff. Who will be chosen as the ‘representatives’ and have the honor of sacrificing family and fortune for the good of NMG? Who will be labelled ‘defective’ and be sent deeper into the maze for an uncertain fate? 

The Powerful event is based on dystopian-future, science fiction films and the theatre works of Gob Squad (Berlin/UK), Barbarian Productions (NZ) and Future Hotel (NZ).

Two Productions is the newly formed company of Thomas Eason and Holly Chappell, graduates of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. The Powerful Event is their second site specific show in Christchurch this year, following the sell out success of Breaking Wonderful with Original Scripts Youth Company. Two Productions will continue to collaborate with youth performers with The Powerful Event, with members of OSYC forming the assistant stage management team and supporting character roles.

As an immersive performance art experience, The Powerful Event aims to create a rebellion of cheekiness within the audience to overthrow the parody of modern corporation.

WHEN: 17th -21st of December, 7pm and 8.30pm, two shows daily.
WHERE: Vacant Space, corner of Manchester and Cashel Street.

STARRING: Tom Eason and Alice Canton
DIRECTED BY: Holly Chappell
DESIGNED BY: Owen McCarthy and Roseann McKie

Theatre , Site-specific/site-sympathetic , Outdoor ,

45 mins

Bizarre corporate rituals

Review by Erin Harrington 18th Dec 2013

How wonderful it is to be watching theatre again in the Christchurch CBD, especially something non-traditional. The Powerful Event is a piece of immersive site-specific theatre, which takes place on an empty central city lot ringed by ruined buildings. 

Firstly, we are introduced to mysterious super-corporation Nouveau Monde Global by its CEO (via iPhone, naturally), and welcomed by two hilariously enthusiastic key members of staff (Tom Eason and Alice Canton) who extol Nouveau Mode’s virtues. One happy site-specific accident is that the amplified sound from this introduction bounces off of the exposed walls of what buildings are still standing near us, creating a peculiar echo effect that makes it feel like they addressing the whole city.

We are separated into three groups and corralled into inspirational development hubs (shipping containers, of course), where we are asked to don Nouveau Monde branded ponchos (empowerment vests) and participate in a parody of corporate training exercises and team building games. These are overseen by a bevy of manically grinning Nouveau Monde team leaders and analysts who lead us through chants of empty platitudes (“A dream of tomorrow, tomorrow a dream!”), make mysterious marks on their clipboards and sing the Nouveau Monde song with gusto.

But something else is going on around us and as we’re led further through the compound and the exercises get more bizarre it becomes increasingly obvious that something is very wrong with Nouveau Monde itself.

A lot of effort has gone into the look and feel of The Powerful Event, from the characters’ branded uniforms and props, to the extensive social media campaign (see the slick website, complete with dozens of video testimonials), to the compound itself.

It’s also a very funny piece that asks us to question and mock the bizarre corporate rituals, as well as the language of the Christchurch rebuild, while making us complicit in them through our participation.

However, The Powerful Event feels like a work in progress or a proof of concept, although I don’t mean this in a negative way. There is a great deal of potential here but there are a number of areas where it needs to be fleshed out.

The first is the narrative. It is clear that there are story beats happening around us at certain points, especially when it becomes apparent that there is some broader conflict going on that the analysts are loosely encouraging us to ignore. But by the time we hit the piece’s climax, during a bizarre team building game in the courtyard of the compound, it’s uncertain what’s actually going on and what the implications and stakes are, over and above the fact that The Powerful Event is playing heavily on the idea that neoliberal corporate ideology is cultish.

The second is specificity. Logistically, this is a challenging piece and while the performances are all committed, there are lots of conceptual points that are introduced but not teased out to their full potential in and amongst the mayhem. At the outset we are asked what work, workers and community all are – highly relevant questions in post-quake Christchurch – but at the end there is not much advancement on this front, so the implied social and political commentary isn’t explored fully.  

Likewise, are we at a conference, an induction or a job interview? What happens to people when they fail the exercises? What is Nouveau Monde, exactly: corporation, person, monster, a front for something more sinister? (I was hoping for monster.)

As a concept, The Powerful Event is very strong, and the company (ha!) of performers creates sharp characters and a convincing sense of environment. As a finished piece, though, while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it needs further development. It is well worth seeing but as parts of it are outdoors, given the unseasonable pre-Christmas cold, you may want to take a coat.


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