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February 4, 2010 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]



Currency is a collection of three short plays about the personal and interpersonal effects of the financial crisis. Played out in the gloriously scratchy and dim nook that is Happy. It is a night of deep inconsistencies but not a wholly unrewarding one. The clear striving for a state of rough and ready pure creativity often melts down into a vagueness or even occasionally and most deadly amateurishness that does not become the clearly radical intentions of the works on display. Above all else, and before we discuss the shows individually, it should be noted that the proceedings seemed to just need more time, just another ten days in rehearsal. There was a rushed air to the evening that rode the line between charming and irritating very closely.

The Playwright (Jonny Potts) play-writing.

The Playwright (Jonny Potts) play-writing.

The trilogy begins with ‘Stranger Things…’ written and directed by Jo Holstead. It tells the story of a new in-take of cold callers at a service that mails wine to people. They are Bede (Jonny Potts) so busy raging against the state that his encroaching poverty has forced him into phone slinging as part of that very same machine, Natalia (Lyndsey Garner), a Russian who sits around smoking and being slavic and, finally, the Protagonista (Anna Edgington) whose name is definitely not Linda. She seems to have a little bit of a scheme going on. We also meet their supervisor and trainer Gordon (Walter McGinnis), a man so enthused by the world around him that one starts to suspect that he would high five a spilt bowl of porridge for being just the right viscosity to ruin his carpet. It is NotLinda’s mysterious scheme that drives the plot towards a rather tediously flippant ending. ‘Stranger Things…’ is, rather sadly, easily the weakest show of the evening. Most things about it scream slap dash. The script seems to be a first draft in rabid need of other eyes. The set and lights are bland and ugly. The transitions are non-existent. The performances are uncommitted. The characters are two dimensional and are hard to care about. It does sparkle occasionally with moments of real wit, they just tend to hidden under a slurry of bleh.

The second show is Ruby Topo’s ‘In the Red’, an abstracted meditation on the effects of money on relationships. Woman (Liz Kirkman) is working for the government and in a dying relationship with Playwright (Jonny Potts) who having come from a desperate artist world of $500 budgets and community centres has been commissioned to write a great patriotic play for mass performance. The Superwoman (Anna Edgington) is sent by the government to inspire the Playwright with either drugs or sex. All through this the Woman is having second thoughts and an affair with the Golden Boy (Dominic Da Souza). ‘In the Red’ is easily the highlight of the evening. Topo’s script is witty and thoughtful, if occasionally long-winded. Her direction is inspired in its evocation of the mundane surrealities of urban existence. It does however occasionally dip a bit too deeply into madness risking its connection with the audience. The performances are delightfully mannered and executed with special mentions going to Liz Kirkman and Jonny Potts, their shared scenes are the real stand out moments of the evening.

The Woman (Liz Kirkman) having a bit of a drink.

The Woman (Liz Kirkman) having a bit of a drink.

The final work is ‘First June’ by Melody Nixon, directed by Jeff Henderson. Set in a New Zealand totalitarianally obsessed with saving money. We see the particular effects of this onset of hysterical fiscal conservatives on one couple – Madeline (Lyndsey Garner), who will occasionally talk to an Albatross (Liz Kirkman), and Nick (Walter McGinnis). They are payed several visits by a Penguin (Dominic Da Souza) who works for the government. Then things get serious. ‘First June’ has moments of real inspiration as Nixon’s works perfectly mesh with Henderson’s delightfully idiosyncratic direction. The performances also add a real emotional weight with some moments, especially those shared with the audience, being truly touching. The main trouble is that it makes its point too early and then hangs around too long for comfort. Also, the dialogue will often switch from a satisfying Lynchian dream into what seems to a television programme designed for children with autism. ‘First June’ has lots of potential and would be well worth revisiting for all involved.

The lights for all three shows were done by Isaac Smith who did a passably fine job with some real moments of inspiration later on. The music was by Nell Thomas and Hermione Johnson and was a delight.

Currency was just too much of a mixed bag to outright recommend but there will be a worthwhile future in the further exploration of theses works, especially the latter two.

Currency – 3 short plays
Written by Jo Holstead, Ruby Topo and Melody Nixon
Directed by Jo Holstead, Ruby Topo and Jeff Henderson
With Anna Edgington, Walter McGinnis, Jonny Potts, Lyndsay Garner, Liz Kirkman and Dominic Da Souza

90 minutes with a 5 minute interval

At Happy, 7pm, 2 – 6 Feb
Book – or (04) 385 0990


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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