Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

18/02/2015 - 18/02/2015

Production Details

Everything you hate and cringe about in theatre thrown into a hilarious pisstake of the artform everyone holds in such esteem.

Think unnecessary plot twists. Think bad singing. Think the worst acting imagineable. Think the shittest theatre you will ever see…

The Basement
18 Feb, 10pm 

Theatre ,

The shittiest review I will ever write*

Review by Nik Smythe 19th Feb 2015

An empty stage is oh, such a powerful canvas for potential theatrical genius, and this visceral allegedly CreativeNZ-presented work is potentially the most genius visceral theatre there is playing this particular timeslot in this precise venue at this actual Fringe Festival.

A mash-up between the fertile, edgy contemporary theatre-centric mindscapes of Wellington-trained Natalie Medlock and Auckland-bred Thomas Sainsbury, the script is a sweepingly challenging expose of the inherent pitfalls of trying to live and make sense of the random tragedies of life and in the news in this day and age, stretching the length of the nation from Whakatane to Ashburton.  And about time too! 

After excruciatingly timid stage manager Angella Dravid (the ultimate hero in this entire glorious shitfest) asks us to turn off cellphones and not take photos, Medlock herself introduces the ensuing thespianical event.  She wouldn’t usually, but tonight is a massive step forward for her and she thanks everyone from her absent partner to Michael Hurst and various mentors and sponsors with all the self-entitled open-hearted pretension she can soak in. 

The narrative centres on the chilling events in Ashburton last December, when a certain homeless fellow stole a bike, went to WINZ and shot some people.  This inspires Whakatanean protagonist Jared (Kermath; sic) to go to there with his friends and talk to people involved so as to write a play about hearing about it and going to research it and write a play, with the help of his friends.  

The man with the drive and the vision, Jared ensures he’s as much the focal point of any given scene, even when other people are talking, echoing the determined yet fragile ego of recently passed comedy hero Rik Mayall.  His culturally eclectic posse of reluctant friends work hard to get a few particles of the spotlight for themselves – Pippa the outspoken militant Tino-rangatira Scots woman (Corrie Diamond), Lana the earnest girl who’s only there because she fancies Jared even though he barely notices her (Lana Walters), and Carl (Tom Mannion), a quite nice young man. 

As we’re drawn into the compelling saga of their finding out about the WINZ double murder and stuff, along the way revealing past secrets and their inner selves kind of thing, the narrative takes a shocking turn when Jared gets a call from his old unrequited crush Izzy (Rebbekah Farrel) – a brilliantly vacuous unattainably beautiful Barbie doll who left Whakatane to be an international supermodel – with tragic news concerning their old mate Gazza.

The next act plays out an emotional reunion between Izzy and Gazza’s troubled missus Mo (Kate Rylatt), as well as local macho rugby hero Xavier (Edward Clendon) and cattish queen Quentin (Edward Cleandon) [sic].  Together they do some more revealing past secrets and innermost self-type desires and regrets and stuff.

And then a whole other thing happens with Medlock, filling in for a last-minute opening night scratching as Kelly, a troubled orphan youth made pregnant by bad decisions or something like that I think.   There’s a lot more even than all this what I’ve mentioned going on throughout the truly hour-long production. 

I composed a checklist of identifiable clichés that happened that I could say were like they’re on a checklist:
In-your-face-direct-audience-confrontation – check. 
Bad miming – check. 
Freeze-frame-cast-while-one-addresses-the-audience-directly – check. 
Snap-fade sfx car crash – check. 
Crappy maskwork – check. 
Unconvincing-and-inconsistent-American-accent – check. 
Bad haka – check. 
A list that goes on – check. 
The list goes on …

All available depths of bad taste and non-compassion are plumbed for the sake of aforementioned genius in-your-face visceral theatre experientialitism.  Like, real life murder plus suicide and rape and just all heaps of wrong shit like that like, it’s heavy man but you’ve got to laugh haven’t you, or those there ‘they’ people win, terrorists or whatever.  So good on them I say. 

The genius of the title is that whatever they throw at us, they can’t lose.  When it’s shitty it’s hilarious – the shittier, the more hilarious according to the response of the comped-out opening-night out crowd; and when it’s just weird shitty it’s our own lookout cause they told us so.

I’d be fascinated to see how it would play to an entirely non-industry, non-theatre literate audience.  Probably change their lives.



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