BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

17/02/2016 - 19/02/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

The year is 2016… the planet is Earth… and Ray, an overly-optimistic alien from far away, is here to share her thoughts and observations on the human experience…

Ray’s got a documentary to pitch about her favourite species: Humans. But she knows the deal – Humans are super-lame, right? They’re boring, they die easily, and they don’t have any special powers. But Ray is a big fan. With her backpack, camera and 1989 Handbook of Human Pop Culture, she’s going to convince you that Humans are the COOLEST THING EVER since George Michael went solo. 

Thoughts and Observations is a live presentation by Ray, a passionate nerd who shares her findings on these two-legged fleshy creatures. Through her heartfelt observations on Humans, we learn more about Ray and her desire to leave her home planet. She discovers that it can be hard to fit in, despite knowing all the latest dance-moves.

Join her as she learns of the challenges of living up to personal and societal expectations and the disappointment of wanting Duran Duran only to get Meghan Trainor. 

Harriet Hughes is a member of the comedy troupe Discharge and a writer and performer. Her recent works include What is This, Woman’s Hour?, 28 Days: A Period Piece, The Good News and Stages of Cheer. 

Jen O’Sullivan is an improvisation and comedy performer. Jen is a member of the improvisation groups Playshop and Definitely Not Witches. Jen runs Fringe at The Gryphon, Wellington Improvisation Festival and regularly teaches theatre workshops. 

The Studio, BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace 
17th – 19th February, 9:30pm  

Music design:  Flinn Glendall 
Lighting design:  Tony Black 
Film director:  Rosie Howells 
Promotional image:  Josephine Salisbury Mills

Theatre , Solo ,

A ton of energy and unselfconscious charm

Review by Tim Stevenson 18th Feb 2016

The show begins. An alien life form lies on the stage. If it were human, we would read its posture and loud wailing as signs of grief. The life form closely resembles an attractive 20-something woman dressed as if for a retro-80s dance party, complete with pink wig and sparkly antennae – and funnily enough, there’s a plot-twist based on just that similarity, but I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

The alien life form lying on the ground holds an image in its hand. Is there some connection? In our human way, we impose anthropomorphic patterns on the scene before us: looks like boyfriend upsets girlfriend; girlfriend unhappy, despite the fact that boyfriend is one of those grey blobby alien types, so possibly not worth getting upset over; extreme sexual dimorphism possibly a thing on this particular planet …  

Well, the alien, Ray, soon puts us in the picture, and we’re off on a conducted trip to earth, backed by an Arts Fund grant of extra-terrestrial generosity – or is it? – and Ray’s passion for 80s pop music, earth-style. Again not wanting to give the story away, let’s just say that Madonna comes up a lot, as an ideal, soundtrack and plot device. 

The ‘alien observer on earth’ premise is an oldie but a goodie – like a sort of literary SUV, you can take it just about anywhere. You get the outsider observations about life on earth and, in turn, you can observe alien behaviour in all its variety, to entertain, amaze, provoke – whatever the artist likes.

Given a galaxy of choice, writer/performer Harriet Hughes and director/script advisor Jen O’Sullivan are happy to work in terrain likely to be familiar to Wellington Fringe Festival theatre-goers. Finding a flat, getting a job, making friends, money woes, boyfriend ditto, Arts Fund hassles, can I afford to go to the concert, can you put a price on having a good time …? These are the sorts of things Ray has to deal with, which she does in a spirit of, mostly, buoyant optimism. 

Thoughts and Observations from My Holiday on Earth is a solo show, so it’s obviously important that we like the character of Ray enough to stay with her and wish her well for the whole 55 minutes of running time. Harriet Hughes brings a ton of energy and unselfconscious charm to the part. She also gets good use from a performer’s gift of a face that is mobile and expressive.

Fifty-five minutes is still a solid chunk of time, and Hughes cleverly breaks up the monologue into different formats – phone calls, interviews, audio diary entries – and adds videos and backdrop visual effects. Credit for the latter – the videos are particularly well-received – goes to Rosie Howells, Alice Ralson and Ross Druge. Flinn Glendall makes the lighting and sound all work without a hitch.

Is there a hint of first-night nerves? If so, it is only a hint, which Hughes can hopefully now put behind her after a near-full opening show to a highly appreciative audience.

This run of Thoughts and Observations only has two nights to go – Thursday and Friday – so all you pink-haired alien-lovers need to book now to avoid disappointment. 


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