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June 2, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Charm is not enough


Charm is Not Enough is the fourth production from the Babyshads. The ‘Shads, as those in the know refer to them, have made a name for themselves producing visually decadent, slyly humorous dance theatre, always playing freely with the line between that separates their abstract performativism from art crank theatre that exists to please no one but the makers’ deep-heat-like sense of pretension.

Charm is Not Enough is the apotheosis of this style. A gleefully cheeky work set in an art gallery, inhabited by a gay man (a serene Jake Preval), a woman (a wonderfully dazed Sherilee Kahui) and, as a matter of course, Death (a charmingly, electrically eclectic Milo Haigh) who interact with their chorus (the ever elastic and immensely watchable Jaci Gwaliasi, Tessa Martin and Patrick Powdrell) in a multitude of roles. Beyond that there is little story, the 75-minute running time being segmented evenly between the three leads and their inclement interactions with the chorus. Issues of representation, the gender politic and the search for love are discussed, if not at much depth beyond rather tired truisms.

However, the depth (or lack of same) in Charm is not really issue because if there is one true star here it is the design — done severally by Haigh, Preval, Hamish Guthrey, Kathryn Tyree, Nell Williams, Sally Ogle, Jimmy Sutcliffe and David Randall Peters. Charm is Not Enough is easily one of the finest visual feasts I have ever had the joy to attend in Wellington theatre. Totally consistent, which is saying a lot these days, all design elements from lighting to costume to music to set to props work in perfect harmony to generate within BATS’ stark white canvas a world of infinite visual treats. A giant fabric teapot and businessmen who are also attaché cases are but two of the almost indescribably brilliant pieces of design that litter Charm.

There is a rather painful in-joke that runs along that if a theatre maker asks you what you thought of their rather dreadful work, the easy way out is to praise the design. Not so the case here. Charm is Not Enough is not a work that needs apologising or lop-sided praise. It is one that needs seeing. You’ll never be bored. It’s snappy, it’s funny and it’s real pretty.

Written by Jake Preval, Milo Haigh and Sherilee Kahui
Directed by Hannah K Clarke
With Jake Preval, Milo Haigh, Sherilee Kahui, Jaci Gwaliasi,
Tessa Martin and Patrick Powdrell

At BATS, from 27 May–6 June 2009 at 8pm
Book at or 802 4175


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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