BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

10/02/2016 - 14/02/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Ellen can see more than most people, Saul can’t see what he might have done. Did nobody see what happened to Jody….?  

Two actors, three characters – questions that can’t be answered.  

Where is Jody? What happened that night? Why is it that we all see the world so differently?

A new play from 1st Gear Productions (Affinity Best Theatre Fringe 2013; 2b or nt 2b – Pick of Fringe 2008, Circa Theatre 2014; 4 Billion Likes – Circa Theatre 2014).

1st Gear Productions presents plays for young actors and audiences of all ages.

BATS Theatre – The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
7pm, 10-14 Feb (60 min)
BOOKINGS: bats.co.nz TICKETS: $16/$13/$12

Youth , Theatre ,

A moving exploration of the creative process

Review by Lena Fransham 11th Feb 2016

Where She Stood, a 1st Gear production written anddirected by Sarah Delahunty, opens with the drone of the theatre air conditioning as apt accompaniment to a dislocated tableau: Saul (Maxwell Apse) sits in one chair to stage left, absorbed in some grim inner struggle; Ellen (Sophie Sharp) stands stage right facing the wings, equally absorbed in some invisible exterior view. Then the roar of traffic (sound design by Finnbar Johansson) heralds Ellen’s turn and approach, as if she has entered Saul’s room from a city street.

It takes me a little while to fully buy the characters of Ellen and particularly Saul, whose utterances are at first jarringly odd and a tad stagey. But there’s a compelling tension in the deceptively stilted initial dialogue, which is a slow dance of reveal-and-conceal scripting.

She pleads with him to talk, appealing to him in the guise of helper, while he makes bizarre, almost hallucinatory exclamations, accusing her of trying to get inside his head, or of being an agent for ‘them’ and trying to get him to comply with ‘their’ idea of the truth. She assures him ‘they’ are indeed visually surveilling her interaction with him, but that ‘they’ cannot hear anything he says. We, the audience, might begin to feel a little like the bad guys here.

We come to infer that Saul is incarcerated and under investigation regarding the disappearance of a woman, the events surrounding which he can’t or won’t remember, while Ellen, a well-meaning professional with an uncanny gift – “In the old days they would have burned you, or drowned you,” he tells her – is tasked, in the manner of psychologist or psychopomp, with guiding him to uncover his memories. 

As Ellen gains his trust, the story of what happened to Jody unfolds in flashes. Saul becomes a believable and empathic character whose eccentric pedantry and penchant for logic and routine might perhaps be associated with popular notions of Asperger’s, while his florid exclamations in the context of his incarceration might suggest paranoia or psychosis. But observing his relationship with Jody, our perceptions of these qualities subtly shift from the symptoms of apparent pathology to the features of his unique perspective on the world. His bemused, tender interactions with the contrastingly emotional Jody lead him into unknown and potent territory.

Sophie Sharp demonstrates strong versatility, slipping deftly between the characters of Ellen and Jody in alternations between stories. Michael Trigg’s austere lighting design aids these transitions effectively.  Saul’s character is sometimes let down by a tendency to overplay moments when I think understatement would work better, but overall there is a surprising naturalness in Maxwell Apse’s execution of what must be a very difficult role. 

There’s a surprising, complex unfolding in the writing of these characters. Their relationships traverse ideas of the disparity of individual perspectives, empathy, loss and the role of our stories in making the world. Saul’s struggle to discover his story is for me a moving exploration of the creative process and of speaking one’s truth in a world full of other people’s truths.  


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