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September 24, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Little Box of Oblivion: Three Short Plays

Publicised as the ‘surrealist and avant garde’ season of third year directing plays, I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. The evening started with Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, directed by Alexandra Lodge.

Sunday afternoon in Central Park, New York and a man sits on a park bench (Peter). He is approached by Jerry. Jerry wants to talk and discuss Peter’s life, but soon reveals himself to be a bit of a psycho. As Peter tries to make sense of Jerry, we, the audience also try to make sense of the situation, the cryptic clues that Jerry gives, and their keys to making sense of the play. Uther Dean as Peter is suitably uptight and bewildered with a good sense of comic timing. Paul Waggott playing the tough role of Jerry plays him as slightly flouncy, prone to sudden outbursts and quite creepy. Overall, the production was solid, but I felt like I wanted a bit more – a more interesting use of space perhaps and modulating the pace and intensity a bit so it didn’t feel quite so same-y.

Christopher Durang’s ‘Dentity Crisis was up next, directed by Brigid Costello. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Christopher Durang, but I think I have seen way too many of his plays in these directing seasons over the years to be truly objective. Suicidal Jane (Bailey McCormack) is confused by her mother Edith (Kirsty Bruce) who seems to be simultaneously having affairs with her brother, her father, and a French lover (all played by the hilarious Adam Donald). It’s typical Durang stuff, crazy plot jumps, character switching, and the obligatory theatre deconstruction – i.e. characters actually saying “Here’s where we explain the play…”. The large cast work well together but seem to be holding back. It is only really Adam Donald (as the character switching brother/father/grandfather/outrageous Frenchman) that lets loose, and thus he is the highlight of the play. Having said that, the opening night audience were in hysterics.

The highlight of the evening was Harold Pinter’s Party Time directed by Ralph McCubbin Howell. The play opens on a cocktail party attended by a bunch of bourgeois people who talk a lot of wank and clichés (their tennis club, going golfing, elegance, sophistication, and class, darling.

The ensemble manages to pull off their lines without sounding over the top, and the result is hilarity. It’s clear there’s something going on outside (a war perhaps) and those inside are ignoring it, despite their protests to be ‘morally upright’. McCubbin Howell gets the tone just right, the party feels real (aided by the acting, the realistic props and costumes) but the fragmented window frames, the use of the back space to show us the bedraggled outsider, and the use of freeze frames and spot lights all add a creepy, surrealistic feeling.

For once, the evening felt united by the plays, and were certainly all aided by the wicked soundscapes (kudos to Sophie Head). Certainly the best of the directing seasons thus far, these young directors are to be congratulated for using this opportunity to tackle difficult scripts that we wouldn’t necessarily see in the commercial environment.

VUW Theatre Department
September 19-22,
Studio 77


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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