Young & Hungry 2006

BATS Theatre, Wellington

16/06/2006 - 01/07/2006

Production Details

Playwrights/Directors: Laura Staples/Penni Bousfield, Rochelle Bright/Damon Andrews, Thomas Sainsbury/Kate Tarrant

Young & Hungry

Since 1994 the Young and Hungry Festival of New Works has been getting together the hottest young theatre talent to bring Wellington an annual festival of new plays. Young actors, designers and technicians get to stretch their creative legs under the guidance of professional directors, writers and mentors.

How to Live in a World Full of Terrorists by Laura Staples
Three friends find themselves barricaded in their own flat with only a gun-touting soldier for company. How did they get there? What on earth are they going to do? And who will be the first to inflict bodily harm on the others!

Generator by Rochelle Bright
It is Pauly’s 21st. They’re all celebrating in true Kiwi style, camping in the bush, telling tales, making up urban legends….. The Generator starts playing up and secrets come to light when the ghost of Lotte, Pauly’s ex-girlfriend, appears.

Butt Ugly by Thomas Sainsbury

Claudia is fed up with the way the world treats ugly folks. She organises a resistance movement made up of fatties, gingers, stumpies, bucktoothed and bald students to shed some light on institutionalized uglyism. All seems to be going well until the fat lady screams and Tyler (Mr Popular) is kidnapped.

Theatre , Youth ,

3 x 1hr

Young take on dark side

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 19th Jun 2006

Two comedies and a drama about a ghost-visited 21st birthday party are the three new works by three young playwrights that make up this year’s Young and Hungry festival. They have nothing in common, even though the two comedies, Thomas Sainsbury’s farce Butt Ugly, which is like a Kiwi Revenge of the Nerds, and Laura Staples’s satirical How to Live in a World Full of Terrorists, which is like a cartoon, both start well but run out of energy and invention by their last scenes.

Rochelle Bright’s Generator is like a Kiwi I Know What You Did Last Summer in which the dark events that occurred at Pauly’s 16th birthday party return to haunt him and his friends at his 21st which is held, as was his 16th party, in a remote shed in the bush where binge drinking can be indulged.

In Terrorists, directed by Penni Bousfield, Sophie, Carly and Andrew find themselves barricaded in their flat for more than 22 days without food or electricity, supposed victims of plague, while soldiers toting sub-machine guns keep control on the street below. How they get food and water, if they get any at all, is never made plain. An element of realism in comedy is necessary to make the situation dramatically sustainable.

The production suffered on opening night from gabbled speech. I think there were references to the poet Cavafy and his poem Ithaca but the point, if there was one, was lost. However, in their boredom and between bouts of bickering the three flatmates play a game of Monopoly. This scene is a lovely piece of comic writing as are the brief sequences when a narrator provides warnings and helpful advice should one get caught up in some terrorist outrage or natural disaster, and the advice is as idiotic as most official advice is on these occasions.

Butt Ugly deals with stereotypes in which some ugly folk (fatties, gingers, stumpies, bucktoothed and bald teenagers) form The Butt Ugly Brigade and take on the advertising world (an overlong sequence) for only promoting beautiful people. When that backfires they kidnap the god-like Tyler (1st XV, head boy, etc) and then the Brigade falls apart as we see their resolve fail as guilt and fear take over. The fast action is supported, interrupted and enhanced by the presence of a small, wacky rock band who add to the cartoon-like presentation by the hard-working cast under Kate Tarrant’s direction.

Generator is a much more sophisticated piece that is successfully anchored to a well-structured foundation of clearly drawn characters and finely etched scenes that cut back and forth in time between the two birthday parties with occasional freeze-framed moments when characters step out of the action to address the audience. The cast of six actors give committed performances, individualising the stereotypes. It is strongly directed by Damon Andrews and well served by Jimmy Sutcliffe’s lighting and Amelia Guise and Dana Gaebler’s sturdy set.


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Generator shines

Review by John Smythe 17th Jun 2006

One great value of the annual Young & Hungry season at BATS is that it reminds us why most raw talent benefits from moving on to fulltime training at a professional performing arts school. Like athletes and dancers, actors need to train comprehensively to get every relevant muscle group ‘match fit’ – not least their organs of speech.

How to Live in a World Full of Terrorists
by Laura Staples, directed by Penni Bousfield

In a world riddled with fear of terrorism, and political forces only too keen to exploit that fear, theatre has a key role to play in getting things into perspective.

Laura Staples’ thesis is that being suspected of having The Plague in days of yore, and of being a Terrorist nowadays, amount to much the same thing. In both cases suspects are denied their fundamental human rights in the name of the Greater Good.

How to Live in a World Full of Terrorists is punctuated by a female American TV presenter whose homilies finally make it clear that the biggest thing for us to fear is fear itself.

But as a dialogue-rich play, it suffers from the afore-mentioned lack of voice training. And the background sound track doesn’t help when an actor’s breath runs out or an inflection falls on the key final word of a sentence. Speed-speaking is also a problem when articulation is slack.

Thus I cannot say why Sophie, Carly and Andrew finish up nailed into the girls’ flat by external forces who accuse them of having The Plague, why the soldiers on the street below wear black balaclavas when they are apparently instruments of the State and why they are so trigger-happy. Perhaps that’s an attempt to parallel nervous young soldiers and naïve young terrorists.

Are they in this trouble because Andrew’s focus in life has been to find himself and save people, or is it some divine retribution for his inability to sustain a relationship with Sophie (they broke up a year ago)? And given their food supplies run out on day 3, how come by day 21 Sophie and Andrew are picking over the corpse of their failed relationship while Carly is developing feelings for the handsome young soldier below that cannot be fulfilled?

The set-up requires their values and ideals to be challenged by the fundamentals of human survival: their need for food and drink. My assumption is that the foundations of credibility have been undermined by some intellectual agenda that finds sufficient sustenance in poetic references to Ithica and character-revealing games of Monopoly.

When the participants are all so clearly committed to their tasks, it’s a shame so much is lost. I sense a good play in there somewhere but cannot tell if it’s been hijacked by poor script-development or a simple failure to clearly transmit the written work.

by Rochelle Bright, directed by Damon Andrews

Far from restricting creativity, working within a dramatic genre can liberate a writer’s capacity to characterise their world and explore their themes. Rochelle Bright’s Generator, as directed by Damon Andrews, is a case in point.

It starts with spooky stories told in hand-held torch light. A bunch of friends has gathered in a generator-powered bush bach, to celebrate Pauly’s 21st. The obligatory ritual with the yard glass of beer cues a sudden switch to his 16th birthday where shots of Tequila are being skolled …

As Rochelle Bright’s Generator flips back and forth across the five-year gap, aided by the dodgy electrics, a ‘real life’ whodunnit-cum-ghost story emerges. At the first party, white-clad Lotte arrives wanting Pauly to escape with her – from her waiting father. But Pauly’s over her. She goes alone and disappears.

Without the aid of an interrogating detective – the police work is deftly relegated to the back-story – the sequence of events is revealed and each friend becomes a credible suspect. On the way to solving the intriguingly posed riddle – with a series of brief soliloquies shedding differently angled shafts of light – we get to know six very distinctive characters and gain an authentic insight into mid and late teenage values, preoccupations and drinking cultures.

The ghost story works because its is clearly guilt and emotion-driven, and the alcohol dimension adds credibility for the sceptics. Every actor inhabits their role with total conviction, the set is excellent and ingeniously manipulated … All elements conspire to make Generator the stand-out of this year’s Young & Hungry season.

Butt Ugly
by Thomas Sainsbury, directed by Kate Tarrant

Blotchy-skinned control-freak school student Claudia wrangles fellow misfits – variously afflicted with buck teeth, short stature, excess fat, red hair, and no hair – to form the Butt Ugly ginger group. But Thomas Sainsbury’s Butt Ugly turns out to be another idea with potential that struggles to find its point.

The broad cartoon performance style is perfectly appropriate for social satire but when it fails to distil essential truths about (in)humanity it ends up looking like coarse acting.

A promising confrontation with an advertising company gives way to a violent revenge attack on the handsome, high-achieving schoolboy who has, unaccountably – and only by report – made it his business to torment each of them. And his response to being cruelly abused is to apologise. Yeah, right.

What does capture interest is the psychology behind the extreme actions of Sean (bald because of alopecia rather than fashion). It seems that when biological circumstance renders him a skinhead, he becomes one. That and the odd venture into romantic vulnerability help to alleviate the threatening tedium.

The live band also offers welcome diversions.


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