Why is Everybody so Full of Technique?

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

24/07/2012 - 28/07/2012

Production Details

This is the surreal tale of a besieged Vatican from 530AD, as pieced together by blind-drunk historians from the distant future.  

An ill-advised PR campaign involving Sheena Easton sets off a chain of events that can only end in stylish, demented tragicomedy and biologically extruded clerics.

Will the Empress Theodora finally break into the Vatican and burn it down? Will Silverius find out which one of his confidantes betrayed him? Or will the beleaguered Pope be brought to his knees by the combined forces of paranoia and high-IQ stupidity?

Rest assured that, whatever happens, it’s about a million miles away from what actually occurred in the sixth century… 

A bizarre comedy that pits the faithful and the faithless against each other, while tackling issues of survival, church politics and raising the age-old question, “What happens when the Vatican has a Pope who does not believe?”

Tues 24 July – Sat 28 July, all shows 8pm
The Musgrove Studio, Maidment Complex, Corner of Princes and Alfred Street, Auckland

Concession $18 | Adult $25 | Group 5+ $20 | Group 10+ $15
www.maidment.auckland.ac.nz or phone 09 308 2383 

Peter Hibberdene, Haemia Foote, Mayen Mehta and Sarah Eloise James.

Set Designer: Stephen Brookbanks
Stage Manager: Steph Van Geete
Lighting Design & Tech: Sam Mence
Costume Design: Lauren Gunn  


Review by Aidan-B. Howard 25th Jul 2012

This story has a whacky premise. Pope Silverius (an actual sixth-century pope) is under seige from Empress Theodora (an actual Byzantine empress and wife of Justinian I). The two are at loggerheads over various issues, including that of monophysetism versus dyophysetism (whether Christ had one nature or two). Sounds riveting? Actually, it is hilarious.

The devices are technologically from the future, complete with laptops and flashing lights; the mood music is from smoky 1920s speak-easies to Sheena Easton to electronic squeaks; and the humour is sometimes elevated and sophisticated and sometimes directly from the gutter.

The pope is paranoid and blasphemous and obscene and drinks gin straight from the decanter; a female cardinal, which the Vatican apparently has in the future, is possibly a lesbian (she sleeps with other women in a big bed); and the papal press secretary is (if I interpret it right) genetically manufactured or ‘extruded’.

In this quaint little piece, which lasts only about 70 minutes, we find ourselves watching a delightful contrast of characters and a plot which is refreshingly novel. The director, Benjamin Teh, has in fact done a good job in taking the ‘contrast of characters’ inherent in Hibberdine’s work and setting them up against each other to create an entertaining dynamic.

The acting is good: not flawless, but certainly lively and humorous enough. The appearance of Empress Theodora (Sarah Eloise James) near the end may have been a bit of an extreme of contrast, because she is very dour and unemotional, but since her accent and speech made her sound a little like Lynn of Tawa, even she was essentially humorous.

With only three major characters (played by Peter Hibberdine, Mayen Mehta and Haemia Foote) it is difficult to identify any that stood out as superior: they all work together well and play off each other in a very competent fashion.

Even the set design (by Stepehn Brookbanks) is more than just functional: it contains elements of humour in itself, from a tower from which a paranoid pope could overlook the city to an unsuspecting ‘elevator’. This play was clearly thought of as a whole in which all of the ingredients work together remarkably well.

I suppose that the only disappointment is an ironic one: the play could easily have been longer. If Hibberdine ever does a ‘Version 2’, he could comfortably get away with another ten to twenty minutes without any discomfort. But if you want a good laugh for an hour and a bit, you won’t go wrong here.

[If I have got the actors Sarah and Haemia the wrong way around, my apologies: there was no programme available.] 


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