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February 28, 2010 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]



Salon is a work by site-specific theatre, famed, and very rightly so for their previous Fringe work of a few years ago, Hotel. Salon operates very much as a companion to Hotel, with many points of intersection and interaction between the two works.

One cannot help but wonder what effect being unaware of, or only dimly remembering the first show would have on the second, as much of the meaning and tension of Salon sits in an awareness of these connections.


A devised production, led by director Paul McLaughlan, Salon‘s major strength is its cast. Simon Vincent, Ricky Dey, Sophie Hambleton, Renee Sheridan and Jane Waddell are all powerhouses and here they are all in top form. All five create neatly complete characters who live and breathe before us with more depth than we can count. That some of the characters, most markedly Hambleton’s Scarlett, simply seem to fade out of the piece towards the end is very much a pity, as there seems to be more to be mined from the character. Dey warrants special mention for tackling a hard part, a man with an undisclosed mental issue, without pity or cynicism.

Salon is, as the theatre company’s name suggests, a site-specific work, being set and performed in Fallen From Grace Hair Salon on Ghuznee Street. The hall of mirrors that the space becomes is deeply intriguing, drawing very deeply the audience into the work, playing very interesting games with ideas of the complicity of the observer. Oddly, a space seems to have been cleared in front of the audience which engineers the space into a little bit more of a typically theatrical performance space than some may be comfortable with.

And, yes, real hairdressing does take place.

But, the one big gripe to be had with Salon is that the story is a bit, well, soap opera. Old friends return from overseas with lots of baggage, both emotional and literal and the like. The performances are more than strong enough to hold the attention, but sometimes one got the feeling that they were working much harder than they should to get the audience to care, in spite of the flimsy melodrama that the story will needlessly dip its toes into. This is further emphasised by the fact that the climax of the show, more than any other point, requires an awareness of Hotel to be anything other than disjointed from the rest of the work. These issues of story defang Salon from being the big biter it really feels that it should be.

But the performances are beautiful enough to warrant a visit to the Salon any day.

By site-specific theatre
Directed by Paul McLaughlin
With Simon Vincent, Ricky Dey, Sophie Hambleton, Renee Sheridan and Jane Waddell

At Fallen from Grace, 64 Ghuznee Street
19 Feb – 6 March 2010
Tickets 04-384-3982

Part of the 2010 Fringe Festival.


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.

Comments (3)

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  1. Paul says:

    Thanks for your comments Uther. This was the first season of the show, and I’ve had a lot of feedback; negative (mostly) and some positive, from reviewers and the general public.
    Some of this cooment has been really useful in rebalancing some of the storylines with SALON. As you say, there are links with HOTEL, and future links to the next plays in this series are being established. I have never tried to create an interlinked series of 5 site-specific plays before and so work without a guide or blueprint. This was always gonna be site-specific’s difficult second album, especially with so much hype from HOTEL, which continues to tour NZ since its creation in 07.

    I was also interested in exploring a concept of resolution and loose ties. This might come across as melodramatic, but these things do happen. People from your past do crash back into your lives. People do die in hair salons (we’ve done the research!!) So I guess leaving some things unresolved or explained in the play might be frustrating, but that’s the idea.

    SALON tours to Taupo in May, then Hamilton in June-July, and we’re continuing to refine and sharpen the storylining.

  2. Paul says:

    And re us ‘engineering the space’ by creating a performance space, this was not so. We simply removed the leather chairs along one side of the space used for cutting and replaced them with a bench seat for 15 people. Cheers.

  3. smackdown says:

    don’t be rude

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