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September 24, 2012 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Review – White Cloud

By Ken Duncum and Tim Finn

White Cloud transforms the small BATS stage into that feels like an album release party, with highly skilled musicians Brett Adams, Ben King, Chris O’Connor, Lisa Crawley and Kingsley Melhuish creating a polished musical accompaniment to the spoken words of actors Stephen Lovatt and Dena Kennedy. Energy is lacking rather than skill in the actors’ performances. The two actors are placed behind microphones, weaving together

Tim Finn’s song writing and Ken Duncum’s scriptwriting—fragmentary recollections and perceptions of New Zealand culture—to create a polyphonic piece that sometimes lacks clarity.

The show explores questions of identity, asking ‘Who are we?’ and ‘What does it matter?’ Old photographs of a personal-family- history-cum-universal-Kiwi-experience were projected onto six canvas sheets hanging from the ceiling to accompany the songs and stories. The problem is the space is too intimate for such a production, as it is rather difficult to see the canvas and the overall spectacle from the front rows. Songs such as ‘Going Too Fast’, ‘Pakeha’, and ‘Kicking A Football’ (all intentionally painting a picture of average Kiwi life) are interspersed throughout the monologues that deal with the hardship and happiness of rural New Zealand upbringings and the awareness that the writers’ ancestors were not just the goodies but the baddies too.

Rather than encouraging me to ponder my shared cultural identity, White Cloud made me wonder if we really need another feel-good show celebrating the dominant Pakeha culture in New Zealand. Without the big names to back it, I wonder if the crowds would still be drawn to this predictable piece of middle-aged, middle-class, mediocre theatre. It was an exploration of who ‘we’ (ahem, Paheka) are, not New Zealanders in general. While it would be equally cringe-worthy for these two white men to attempt to speak on behalf of others, it’s a little embarrassing that they excluded other ethnicities—both native and the more recent arrivals—from the question of who ‘we’ as New Zealanders are.

Even so, it pleased Saturday’s night’s eager crowd, with one woman in particular cheering her approval during every song.


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