WE'RE GOING ON A DEER HUNT
24/02/2015 - 28/02/2015
Two mates from the city decide to catch up and go on a hunting trip to avoid the hustle and bustle of bright light city distractions. They rendezvous in the pub of the rural hotel they’re staying at which is also where they’ve agreed to meet their hunting guide.
As the evening progresses a storm approaches and the two men become embroiled in a heated discussion as one discovers the other has invited him here on false pretences, he wishes to discuss a recent event in the others life that until now has not been spoken of. The storm arrives with intent at the climax of the friends’ exchange, knocking out the power in pub. As the rough weather settles so do the mates, finally they begin to talk openly and candidly about their lives to one another.
We’re going on a Deer Hunt is a new contemporary work by Travis Graham and Josh McDonald to be staged as part of the 2015 NZ Fringe Festival. It is a two-person black comedy that explores masculine identity in New Zealand.
Venue: Breaker Bay Hall, Wellington
When: Tues 24th Feb – Sat 28th Feb 2015, 7.00pm – 8.00pm
Ticket Information: General Admission: $16.00
Fringe Addict: $12.00
Admirable actors in need of a dramaturg and a director
Review by Alex Wilson 25th Feb 2015
One in six New Zealanders will experience depression at some point in their lives. While cases in women have higher rates of the illness, men are deemed to be more of a risk as they are less likely to seek help or talk about their depression.
We’re Going On A Deer Hunt concerns two self-confessed blokes in James and Pat (Josh McDonald and Travis Graham) who enjoy the compulsory Kiwi trifecta of beer, rugby and the outdoors. They also suffer from depression.
Despite being close friends, they have drifted apart over the years. Each man has had to deal with his demons by himself and in an attempt to reconnect James has organised the titular deer hunt. As a storm rises, the duo is forced to stay inside their base camp of sorts: a rural pub manned by a husband and wife (played also by McDonald and Graham).
The action of the piece is a mixture of dialogue and soliloquy. You can understand McDonald’s and Graham’s use of soliloquy in their script as it highlights what is left unsaid by their protagonists and the thousands of Kiwi males who suffer in silence. However the use of soliloquy also drains the play of any dramatic tension.
Within the first ten minutes the characters divulge to the audience the various tribulations and issues they face. It takes 50 minutes for the characters to then reveal this information to each other, leaving what should be the dramatic climax limp and impotent. We are simply left with two men admitting what we already know and agreeing to talk more in future. What would give this piece more dramatic weight would be to discover these character’s secrets at the same time as their stage partner. The soliloquys offer too much telling and not enough showing.
The action occurs rather awkwardly as one actor leaves the stage to either allow the other to monologue or to dress as Margaret and Barry, the local innkeepers. It would have been nice to leave these characters to simmer and talk about their lives and their friendships; it is quite hard to really see why or how these two characters are friends or why they desire to open up to each other. The times we do have with the characters are somewhat weak – discussing issues, which have no consequence, outside one character being aggrieved he is being plied with non-alcoholic beer.
A secondary storyline plays out regarding the inn keepers’ son moving away from ‘the sticks’ to the big city, and is a good example of how McDonald and Graham could have explored these ideas more effectively. The unsaid despair these characters feel and how they hide their feelings beneath thorny exteriors could be a good blueprint if McDonald and Graham decide to rework this piece.
The use of the Breaker Bay Hall is an astute idea. The Hall is kitted out like an old scout hall, bringing home the ideas of the New Zealand male’s emotional immaturity being part of a culture of machismo. The lighting is provided by warm bedside lamps and simple overhead lights which gives the piece a very ‘number eight wire’ aesthetic. Sound editing is simple, however the levels need to be reset because, as the storm rages on, the audience visibly lean in to catch the actors’ words. By the end, it is nearly impossible to make out what either actor is saying.
McDonald’s and Graham’s performances are admirable, but ‘Mangination’ would benefit from outside eyes from a dramaturg and a director. Moments are lost as actors do not allow their partner’s words to have effect. Moments are lost as drama is seemingly written out of exchanges.
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