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July 20, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Young and Hungry Season of New Works 2009

theatreAt BATS, 10–25 July 2009

There is an unspoken law about the Young and Hungry festival of works. It is this—for as long as I can remember, each season has had a good play, a great play and an unutterably horrible play. Usually in that order. Not this year though. It’s probably something to do with all three works being written and directed by women, which, by all accounts just happened rather than being some sinister feminist conspiracy. This year the fact of the terrible play seems to have been forgotten all together. All three plays this year are notably strong, with only minor slips separating the good from the great. Also pleasing was the absence of some of the minor glitches that had plagued previous years. For instance, diction had generally improved across the board, no longer were plot points lost by muffled or hidden voices. This year’s Young and Hungry, its 15th anniversary season, feels like a substantial leap ahead, and with the program’s expansion—this season of plays is premiering in parallel in Auckland—one can only hope for this triumph to rollover into the coming years. If ever there was a Young and Hungry that demanded a season pass, it’s this one.

Written by Vivienne Plumb
Directed by Rachel More
With Lauren Gibson, Jessica Aaltonen, Shrin White, Catherine Mackmurdie, Cara Louise Waretini, Will Collin, Sam Hallahan, Karin McCracken and Tom Horder

Oyster is a collection of slightly intertwining stories about a group of friends and life after school. While Rachel More’s direction is fantastic and gets the play rolling along at a nice clip, the script is just slightly too diffuse to connect with or really care about. You don’t really spend enough time with any of the characters to empathise with them, which largely seems to be due to maybe one or two stories too many being crammed into the hour running time. None of the stories seem to really conclude, and a single piece of understated information muddled the whole ending. But Plumb’s lucid sense of character and striking ear for dialogue more than make up for these minor lapses. The cast is very good, each making the most of their allotted roles and never upstaging or over-egging the pudding, which, due to no fault of the author’s own, is very easy in a play such as this. Oyster is a nice even-handed beginning to the evening.

Sit On It
Written by Georgina Titheridge
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
With Ana Clark, Prue Clarke, Eve Marama, Jackie Shaw, Phoebe Smith, Daniel Watterson, Debs Rea, Ashleigh James, Anna Pearson, Jonathan O’Kane, Gabrielle Beran, Gussie Larkin and Zoë Towers

Nothing happens in Sit On It. An hour passes in a ladies’ bathroom in an unnamed club on Ladies Night. Well, that is to say that no plot happens. It’s easy to dismiss this middle work as the light one, the easy one. Writer Georgina Titheridge, who also wrote the criminally underrated Babycakes in last year’s Fringe, is much smarter than that. Within the superficially silly and simplistic exterior of the play, she is exploring issues of dependance, depression and vomit. It would be true to say that each of the thirteen characters—surely a record for Young and Hungry—enters a broadly painted stereotype, but they do not leave that way. Titheridge’s canny ear for the casual cruelties of human interaction manages to, very on the sly, develop each of them in to totally believable human beings. Titheridge’s wonderful script is brought to vivid and joyous life by the committed and talented cast and director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, and together they make Sit On It the highlight of the evening.

Urban Hymns
Written by Miria George
Directed by Fiona Truelove
With Kerehi Paurini, Cameron Jones, Mani Dunlop, Benny Marama, Ian Walsh, Isaac Heron, Jessica Sweden and Christopher deSousa Smith

There seems to be slight disconnect in Urban Hymns. Fiona Truelove, director, has decided to present it in a very physical and stylised way. The Wellington streets, upon which this cast of characters tries to survive by any means they can, is represented non-naturalistically by a thick haze and very little set. The severe majority of props are mimed. The actors fill the space with remarkable and powerful energy. As wonderful and bracing an achievement this staging is, it doesn’t really ring true with the script. This staging, at least for this audience member, takes the harsh grounded reality of Miria George’s script and makes quite abstract and dream-like, which cannot help but de-fang some of the content. Apart from that however, Urban Hymns is a work of supreme accomplishment. It is made somewhat strange by its context within the seasons, as +it is the one very masculine play following two very feminine plays. This does tend to make it feel, when watching all three shows in a night (which is what all the cool kids do anyway), that it is a little out of its depth. A fine closing to a fine evening at the theatre.

One play: $ 16/$13. All three: $38/$28
Book at Bats


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 (2)

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  1. Boss says:

    Sit On It was awesome! Plus it has that hot girl from Bats in it. A++++ Would trade again!

  2. Helen says:

    The first play was forgettable, I even forget the title, something about Oysters and the Apocalypse and not making sense. The second, ‘Sit On It’ was somewhat comic genius even if it was plot-less (in total agreeance with the reviewer.) I think it was quite a relief after the first play, and the order definitely played a factor in making it so enjoyable, despite some un-neccessary characters (the sisters). Finally, Miria Georges ‘Urban Hymns’ was a masterpiece. Despite the few set-fumbles, and not being able to hear one of the actresses it was powerful, deep, and affecting. The plot was jumpy and difficult to follow at the start but by the end you could make sense of it all and tie it together. For the ultimate viewing experience I recommend researching Tuwhare prior, but otherwise prepare to be faced with strong contemporary issues and a weighty sense of guilt whether you can follow the plot or not.

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