There's So Much to Live For
22/02/2011 - 26/02/2011
Written and directed by Freya Desmarais
Producer: Jennifer O'Sullivan
Designer: Penny Lawrence
Sound: Tane Upjohn-Beatson
Lighting: Natalie James
presented by Hungry Mile Theatre
Morrissey is just an ordinary guy. He has a stupid name. His mum liked The Smiths a lot.
One day he went wandering. He might have wandered a little too far this time. Now he’s found himself in a strange new world, a world away, where strange people call themselves the Romanox and who regard E Coli as some neighbourhood scoundrel, rhyming like the Mad Hatter and threatening to kill Morrissey, all in the same breath.
Will he get out alive?
There’s So Much To Live For is about the fears that plague modern society, pervading our cerebral spaces and sending us into a spiral of hysteria and panic.
Is it justified, or are we all just a bit crazy?
There’s So Much To Live For is about what scares us, what stops us from living our lives and what haunts us in our dreams. It is at times riotously funny, silly and strange, challenging and hopeful, yet sad, and, of course, frightening. It is the debut presentation from Hungry Mile Theatre, the newest company to come out of Victoria University of Wellington Theatre department.
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BATS THEATRE, 1 Kent Terrace
22 – 26 Feb 9:30pm
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Actors: Christopher Butler, Sam Hallahan, Mariya Kupriyenko, Alice Pearce, Kent Seaman
Fresh and original concept
Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 24th Feb 2011
There can be few plays grabbing an audience’s attention as There’s So Much to Live For by Freya Desmarais did on opening night.
A lone actor scurries around a darkened stage with a torch, as others stealthy invade the stage. As the lights come up it transpires that the character cowering in the corner is Morrissey (Sam Hallahan) who has lost his way and found himself in an alien world surrounded by a group of people who call themselves the Romanox.
There is Hamnet (Christopher Butler), Bo (Mariya Kupriyenko), Popsicle (Alice Pearce) and Alexander (Kent Seaman) who each creatively interrogate Morrissey with clever witty dialogue and innovative gestures and movement.
These four have escaped from the pressures of the outside world, each with a tale to tell. But when Alex washes himself, washing away his sins, he finds he has the courage to leave and does so. From here the dynamics of the Romanox world changes and all leave except Morrissey, who finds he can’t. Thus the tainted outside is now inside and the pure insiders are out, free to be contaminated.
While the play begins well with lots of pace and energy and the actors giving highly animated performances, this unfortunately is not maintained. Towards the latter stages the play gets bogged down in philosophical rhetoric, becoming drawn out and protracted and as a consequence the production looses momentum and lacks pace.
Nevertheless the play’s concept is fresh and original and the actors in this new theatre group have the potential for a bright future.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Elusive allusion makes for a riveting hour
Review by John Smythe 23rd Feb 2011
New co-op on the block Hungry Mile Theatre, the latest to come out of Victoria University of Wellington Theatre department, brings a whole new voice to our contemporary theatre scene.
Written by Freya Desmarais (who also directs), from initial workshops with the cast, There’s So Much to Live For is a twenty-somethings’ existential angst play with a rich vein of humour; a state-of-mind play with an absurdist, somewhat Lewis Carroll-esque, flavour.
Morrissey (Sam Hallahan) – his parents really loved The Smiths – has got himself lost in an environment strewn with books and beer crates (designed by Penny Lawrence), not that booze looms large in the tale, although the calming and uniting notion of a dinner party does.
Strange companions emerge. They call themselves the Romanox, have white face-painted eye masks, tell him they are lost too, no-one can leave and suggest that once he decides to be lost that will make it OK.
I see this as a response to the information overload and ‘who /what/ why am I?’ overload that afflicts highly educated students confronted with making life-directing decisions about themselves and their futures. Given There’s So Much to Live For, what does one choose? How, when, where and why does one take the next step?
Morrissey’s fractious clown-like companions turn out to be drawn from books he studied in high school: Hamnet (Christopher Butler), son of Shakespeare, not to be confused with that “Danish emo prince”); Bo (Mariya Kupriyenko), short for Boudica, a.k.a. Boadicea, from the histories of Ancient Rome and the Britons; Popsicle (Alice Pearce), who seems to have roots in Greek mythology; and Alexander (Kent Seaman), who I took to refer to a Russian Tsar – Alexander the Blessed or Alexander the Liberator, both of the Romanov line – although my notes refer to Alexander the Great (who also hails from Ancient Greece).
Maybe the curdling of legendary archetypes is an intended reflection of how it all jumbles in an educated mind preoccupied with finding some foundation on which to stand and from which to proceed.
As with a well-produced Beckett play, the inherent truth in this state of being makes for a riveting hour despite the elusiveness of the allusive action and outcome. Desmarais and her actors – abetted by a superb sound design from Tane Upjohn-Beatson (operated by Lauren Gibson), and lighting designed and operated by Natalie James – inspire great trust and empathy by creating a very real state of mind in theatrical form.
Given logical analysis is probably irrelevant, I can only say I intuitively feel its theatrical resolution takes longer than necessary and can probably be tightened and more focussed according to whatever hidden logic drives the drama. But then who is to say that a play about losing one’s way cannot quite validly lose its own way?
Notions of ‘freedom’ are intriguingly explored, including the freedom to confine one’s realm of being or even opt out altogether. The way stories-within-stories make us who we are – or who we thing we are; or who others think we are – leads to the deliciously oxymoronic notion of profound ordinariness.
There is a beautifully centred confidence in the staging, uncluttered with superfluous action or effects, so that the simple act of wiping away the white eye-masks becomes a stunningly effective symbol of self-recovery.
Underlying all, inherent in the title and the publicity image, is the unspoken thought that the ultimate opt-out may sometimes arise as a possible answer … And anyone caught in that vortex can only find strength in this play’s recognition of that truth.
Rather than attempt to decode the action further, I’ll simply add that There’s So Much to Live For has the wit to save itself from being over earnest, the resolution suggests there is liberty to be found when one is ready for it – although whether one simply moves on from being lost in one place to being lost in another is open to debate – and it is well worth engaging with.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer