Wake Less

BATS Theatre, Wellington

11/11/2011 - 19/11/2011

Lower NZI, Level 1, Aotea Centre, Auckland

24/02/2012 - 25/02/2012

New Performance Festival 2012


Production Details

Put Reality Out Of Your Mind.  

We’re getting better and better at living the dream.
End of the day and you’re ready for a break.
Time to take time for yourself.
Grab a drink and a ticket, and let us transport you on your escape to sublimity.
No strings attached.
No catch.
No worries.

Welcome to Wake Less – a surreal cocktail of performance, projection, light and sound, where the stage is everywhere and the audience are the action.

From the risk-taking company that brought you Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish; Animal Hour and This Rugged Beauty, Binge Culture Collective continue their trademark deadpan, playfully chaotic style in this dangerous two-hander.

“Being part of STAB gives us both the freedom and incentive to do things we haven’t been able to even consider before, including inter-disciplinary collaboration with some amazing Wellington artists,” says director Joel Baxendale, “It really is an exciting opportunity to step up and push the boundaries and create our own voice; our unique approach to theatre and agenda of experimentation.”

Join us. Put reality out of your mind.

*** QUOTES ***

“This company of Gen Ys is producing the kind of theatre that speaks directly to its peers . . . They are bold and original” – Lynn Freeman (Capital Times)


“Their work is messy and explodes off the stage. Everything theatre should be.” – Jo Randerson (Writer / Actor / Subversive Genius)

“What I like with this company is the active sense of an intelligence at work. You can feel them actively searching for content that resonates; and us in the audience alongside them searching in response…the sense that we are ‘live’ is truly captivating.” -Christian Penny (Director, Toi Whakaari)


Wake Less
11-19 November, 7.30pm
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce. Wellington
BOOKINGS: book@bats.co.nz or 04 802 4175
TICKETS: $20/$15

*** STAB 2011 ***

Part of STAB 2011: commissioned by BATS Theatre with funding from Creative New Zealand. STAB originated in 1995 from BATS Theatre’s desire to initiate a commission that allowed theatre artists to experiment in a supportive environment. The STAB commission is an essential part of the BATS annual programme and can be accessed by all performance media: dance, theatre, opera, music, film, interactive media and magic!

Auckland Season

Binge Culture Collective is a Wellington-based theatre company who are collaborating with Interrupt, a collective of digital media artists, interaction designers, live video performers and sonic artists.  Read more »

Wondrous, Exciting, Demanding, Unfathomable, Unmissable” Theatreview

Friday 24 – Saturday 25 February:  9pm

DURATION:  90 minutes

VENUE:  Lower NZI 2, Aotea Centre

TICKETS:  Adult $25, Senior/Student/Group $20

Book at THE EDGE for:
Fri 24 Feb, 9pm
Sat 25 Feb, 9pm


Reg – Simon Heron
Linda – Isobel MacKinnon
Sceneographer – Rachel Baker
Sceneographer – Theo Taylor

Production Team:
Dramaturgy + Poster Design – Ralph Upton
Director of Design + Lighting Design – Marcus McShane
Music Composition + Sound Design – Stephanie Cairns
Lighting by Marcus McShane
Music and sound by Stephanie Cairns
Audio visuals by Johann Nortje and Angus Woodhams of Interrupt Collective. Sound Technician – Angus Woodhams
AV Design – Johann Nortje
Stage Manager – Kate Clarkin
Production Assistant – Jess Sweden
Publicity – Brianne Kerr
Photographer + Graphic Designer – Vanessa Fowler Kendall
Initial Dramaturgy – Fiona McNamara
FOH Creative – Hannah Banks
Producer – Claire O'Laughlin
Featuring:  Simon Haren and Isobel MacKinnon 

Pushing the envelope

Review by Lynn Freeman 17th Nov 2011

There are some plays you leave shaking your head, wondering if you have just seen a work of great complexity or something that was just trying too hard to be different. After sleeping on it, Wake Less falls somewhere between the two.

The Binge Culture Collective has always pushed the envelope, never more so than with this work. It plays with the theatre conventions, smashing down the third wall and taking audience participation to a whole new level. This is where it is at its absolute best and most absorbing.

One of the two actors, Simon Haren begins by touching members of the audience, invites them onto the stage. Isobel McKinnon (Linda) reminds us that we have paid to see him do something on stage and we are therefore encouraging his behaviour. They then get into character, with the help of Johann Nortje’s gorgeous audio visuals and a can of talcum powder, becoming Karori couple, Reg and Linda. They are able to fulfil Linda’s dream of visiting Cairo with Reg’s redundancy payout.

Now this is where things go from enticingly curious to impenetrably bizarre. Masked characters, attempted hypnosis suggesting we the audience were all expecting babies, a speech supporting Palestinian liberation – what the? Still puzzling but more engrossing is the supper scene where the audience sits at a table for a meal of popcorn under the initially benevolent gaze of a masked person.

Part three returns to Reg and Linda with Linda belly dancing on the table representing her now found sense of liberation.

So, it’s a conundrum, fascinating at times, interminable at others, definitely original, not for theatre goers who dread being part of the on stage action.

Haren and McKinnon are excellent in their multiple roles, and Rachel Baker and Theo Taylor do a superb job with scene changes and talcum powder. 


Editor November 17th, 2011

I have corrected 'Heron' to 'Haren' in the interests of accuracy but feel I must let "smashing down the third wall" stand, given that is what was published.  

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Travel in dreams offers big range of destinations

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 15th Nov 2011

I found Wake Less was like being in a dream in which I was caught up in an extended Monty Python sketch to which I reacted like I do to most Monty Python sketches by laughing and at times nonplussed as to why I was laughing and why others were laughing when I wasn’t.

It starts with Simon Haren dressed like a 1960s Public Servant in summer uniform of shorts, long socks, sandals, and short-sleeved shirt who warms up the audience with some acceptable touchy-feely interaction until a distraught Isobel MacKinnon arrives. In revenge for her lateness Simon organises – and thereby further uniting the audience – into tricks to upset her.

Then the scene changes and we meet Reg (Simon Haren), a surveyor just made redundant, who lives in a large house in Karori with his wife Linda (Isobel MacKinnon) of thirty years.

Instead of wanting to watch re-runs of Ghostbusters or clean up Bats Theatre they take a journey to expand their spiritual horizons in Egypt but they end up in Gaza by mistake – Michael Palin crops up on the way – and for a brief time a projected backdrop of the West Bank barrier (as the BBC calls it) and a stage Arab with a stagey beard (Simon Haren) bring a note of seriousness to the dream without it turning into a nightmare.

An interval follows during which ushers offer refreshments to the audience and then a long table is set up at which 13 members of the audience are invited by a bossy head waiter to dine. Then Reg and Linda end up in Pepe’s Night Time Swingers Club with Reg playing a card game with a member of the audience as he chatters on about the meaning of theatre. Meanwhile Linda strives for our attention by dancing on a table.

Two masked figures and two ‘sceneographers’, one of whom instantly ages Reg by sprinkling talc on his head, provide the fluidity of the dream-like state as does Johann Norge’s impressive AV designs as they flow from a Karori home to a map of the flight to the Middle East, the barrier and the Swingers Club.

The problem of interpreting dreams is that just when you think you have pinned them down they escape and you’re off on another journey. Binge Culture to its credit offers many journeys about life, theatre, the future. Take your pick.  


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Invigorating subversion of theatrical conventions

Review by John Smythe 12th Nov 2011

The logical corollary to ‘wake less’ is ‘sleep more’ – perchance to dream?  Deep down this surrealised blend of the conflicts inherent in theatrical creativity, suburban domesticity and the Middle East explores dreams of escape, discovery and even, just possibly, resolution.  

And as in a dream, any grasp on ‘reality’ is as elusive as the performance elements are allusive. Just as you think you might have a handle on what exactly is going on, everything changes. But while it is a ‘make of it what you will’ experience in many respects, it does turn out to have an inner coherence that means you can trust it to deliver on your investment of time and attention.

Meanwhile we are treated to an engaging range of unusual experiences.  While a silent and ever-smiling Simon Haren – dressed in Roman sandals, longs socks, walk shorts and a short-sleeved shirt – awaits the arrival of someone, he dabbles ever-so-nicely in invading our comfort zones.

When Isobel MacKinnon arrives, late, from her “other job” and seamlessly recites her litany of ideological / moral dilemma-inducing / guilt-ridden angst, while preparing, onstage and off, to perform, Simon gets us to collude in some disorienting activities which, on opening night anyway, increases the sense of fun and bonds us all even more. Thus the central conflict theme of individual moral responsibility versus group behaviour is established.

The sudden jump to a suburban domestic setting – purported to be in modern-day Karori although the projected backdrop image is more Victorian era – is surprising. Reg (Haren) attempts to pontificate on “journeys” while Linda (MacKinnon) reveals this relationship has gone sour – until he reveals the double-edged circumstances that allows her to fulfil her dream of ‘escape’, albeit with Reg in tow.

The third layer of Wake Less is an evocation of a typical tourist trip to Egypt and the Gaza Strip involving some unexpected exotic experiences and confrontation with the political realities.

A variation on the large white Basel or ‘larval’ mask (not fully defined in its facial features) is employed to suggest some Middle Eastern characters while a more defined mask may or may not be closely related to intrepid traveller Michael Palin.

The prosaic, sublime, ridiculous and magical interweave as the 90-minute theatrical journey transports us to other climes and states of being only to jolt us back into the here and now, at Bats, before launching us back into elsewhere. As we abandon ourselves to it all, we may or may not choose to interrogate the artefact that is Wake Less and place ourselves and our own lives in its context.

As with the Binge Culture Collective’s previous shows, Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish (2009), Animal Hour (2009) and This Rugged Beauty (2011), the normal conventions of plotting, structure and pacing are eschewed – allowing, in this case, for some sequences that take the time physically necessary to set them up and play them out (e.g. a shared meal at a long-table, presided over by an enigmatic host whose attitude to the ‘foreigners’ at his table is ambivalent).  

Staging elements and incidental roles are handled with dexterity by ‘sceneographers’ Rachel Baker and Theo Taylor, while black-tie waiters and sweet-sellers, who greet us in the foyer then become part of the later action, are wrangled by ‘FOH Creative’ Hannah Banks.

Director of Design and lighting designer Marcus McShane has reconfigured Bats to seat us in an L-shaped auditorium facing an L-shaped scrim on which scenes are projected and though which some action is perceived. The AV design, by Johann Nortje, becomes more and more sophisticated and – abetted by McShane’s lighting and Stephanie Cairns’ music composition and sound design – transports us to different realms and ways of seeing with dream-like ease.

It would be easy to say some sequences appear not to earn their keep given the content, thematic relevance or time it takes to play them out, but I doubt a poll of audience members would agree on exactly what should go and why. This is an experience to which you must abandon yourself, for better or worse, then – as with waking from a dream – evaluate it according to whatever principles you deem appropriate.

The ending is clever, with a bumbling Reg/Simon drawing the disparate elements together by attempting to articulate the lesson his journey has taught him and the vision he has for their future. But is Linda/Isobel buying it – are we? – or is he dreaming?

The opening night audience was warm, friendly and receptive. It’s tempting to wonder how the show might fare attended by total strangers. But I think, by its very nature, it will ride whatever waves, shallows or depths it finds itself in. Given these variables it may well be worth a random second visit. Meanwhile, book your first visit now.

The way Wake Less plays with, subverts and reconfigures theatrical conventions is invigorating. 


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