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Written by: my accomplice
Directed by: Uther Dean
Part of the NZ Fringe Festival
Every scary movie you love as you’ve never seen them before!
The acclaimed theatre company that brought you the sell-out sensations Joseph K and A Play About Space – Best Theatre (Dunedin Fringe), Best Design (Wellington Fringe) – is bringing the Fringe to Circa in this thrilling roller-coaster ride through fear.
In the spirit of Scream and Evil Dead 2, my accomplice will take all your favourite bits from the thriller and horror genres, and look at them through the lens of their trademark lo-fi, high-energy, extremely theatrical style.
Starring Hannah Banks, Sam Hallahan, Kate Clarkin, and Chapman Tripp winners Paul Waggott and Alex Greig.
Critics have raved about their previous work:
“Comic genius” — Theatreview
“A lively theatrical imagination” — The Dominion Post
“Thought-provoking, must-see theatre” — Wordonthestreet.co.nz
AND Chapman Tripp winners Paul Waggott and Alex Greig.
07 February − 16 February
Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm
A VITAL ESSENCE OF HUMANITY OFFSETS THE GROTESQUE COMEDY
By John Smythe, Theatreview, 8 Feb 2014
Circa Theatre is to be applauded for bringing proven practitioners like the ‘my accomplice’ company in from the BATS Theatre fold to the mutual benefit of all. Such initiatives will bring new audiences to Circa while those who routinely go to Circa will be exposed to fresh new forms of theatre making.*
Hannah Banks, Uther Dean and Paul Waggott are the nucleus of ‘my accomplice’. A Play About Fear– devised by the company then written and directed by Dean, who also has the designer credit – follows A Play About Love (2012) and A Play About Space(2013).
Either I have become more attuned to their ‘gonzo dramaturgy’ style – where their ‘poor theatre’ theatrical conventions present as an idiosyncratic narrative-driving character in itself – or they have found a better balance between style and content. Or maybe this seems stronger because rather than just play with its pop-culture referenced theme, it dynamically explores and proves the proposition that what we should fear most is fear itself. It’s a play with a purpose beyond simply playing.
The Circa Two stage, including its walls, is clad in blue plastic and, as in the previous plays, lights handled by actors are a feature. This time they are single bulbs hanging on leads attached to hidden pulleys, which makes for some dramatic retractions (operated by lighting technician and general mechanist Rowan McShane). The only furnishing is a blue inflatable paddling pool, creatively employed throughout.
Hannah Banks and Paul Waggott are joined on stage by Kate Clarkin, Alex Greig, Sam Hallahan and stage manager Bronagh McFeely. Uniformly clad in yellow polo shirts and black trousers, and hanging about on stage before the show starts, it’s tempting to think they’ve got lost on the way to the Sevens and haven’t tried too hard with their costumes. But by the end, if they were out in the nearby FanZone, the way they look could court the attentions of paramedics, not to mention the police.
For all their relaxed and deceptively casual demeanour, the ensemble is fully focused on their dramatic purpose and play it all out in well-paced and seamlessly choreographed action. Their opening inventory of supposed “Freak Accidents”, ‘sold’ to us in a seductive promotional style, sets the dark humour tone.
A story told and shown about survivors of a shipboard fire and sinking seems off-theme when the fear dimensions – of fire, water, death, etc – are not explored but this does earn its keep as a set-up for a later pay-off regarding moral integrity.
A series of ingeniously crafted sequences variously explores fear of the dark, small spaces, monsters, strangers knocking at the door, missing out, silence, being alone … And something unknown and creepy keeps reappearing as a squealing foetal shape encased in a translucent cocoon.
Most memorable is the bizarre fight Greig and Waggott stage between a Gozilla-like creature and something that’s not as ‘armless as he looks. You have to be there …
It’s a practical joke between flatmates – Lucy (Clarkin) and Charlotte (Banks) – involving a pizza delivery (Greig) while they watch a spooky DVD that takes us into the more substantive drama. Lucy is drawn to The William People, a dodgy cult that preys on people’s fear-based vulnerabilities. They occupy an abandoned building in Courtenay Place “above The Tasting Room”.
The ‘echo’ gag that is poignantly funny for those who get the Downstage reference outstays its welcome by a long way and needs to be curtailed much sooner.
The People who follow William, who is “evil from the dawn of time”, are eager to speed his return to judge them and the means they employ are scarily credible beneath the physically and psychologically grotesque comedy. Thus fear of blood, anarchy and a slow and painful death come into play …
As the would-be rescuer and the friend who may or may not want to be saved, Hannah Banks and Kate Clarkin keep us connected to a vital essence of humanity. It’s our empathy with their susceptibility and fallibility that winds up the suspense as Waggott, Greig and Hallahan manifest the warped cult in all its gory glory.
And when William does arrive … Well you’ll have to see it to find out. Fear not: A Play About Fear may raise your awareness of how much fear rules our lives but it will not hurt you.
Running time: approx 60 minutes (no interval)