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By Ralph McCubbin Howell
Directed by Kerryn Palmer
Return Season of the 2014 Young and Hungry sensation!
Dan was an internet junkie – now he’s calling it quits. But in order to forge a new profile, he must face up to his online history and it’s not going down without a fight.
When Dan finds himself sucked into the Second Afterlife – a dark underworld of the internet, a very real and dangerous landscape of broken memes, deleted pages, and the ghosts of profiles past.
Second Afterlife is a dark comedy about life (and death) in the digital age. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, and in the tradition of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it is a twisted allegory for the Facebook generation – a poetic, ass-kicking romp to the darkest corners of the web.
Dan: Michael Hebenton
The Guide: Ruby Hansen
Bea: Bronwyn Ensor
Simon: Michael Trigg
Ethan: Matthew Staijen
Sadie: Mahalia Sinclair-Parker
Directors: Kerryn Palmer and Ryan Knighton
Set and Projection Designer /Stage Manager: Anna Robinson
Lighting Design and Op: Tony Black
Sound Design and Op: Philip Jones
Costumes: Chido Dimairo
Producer: TOMBOI Productions
Publicist and Asst Director: Jess Old
Publicity Intern: Patrick Jennings
Poster Design: Erin McGarvey
TRULY DYNAMIC MUST-SEE PROCUTION
Reviewed by John Smythe (2), 30 May 2015
The value of reviving good plays and productions is thoroughly proved with the second life given to Second Afterlife at Circa Two. Its highly acclaimed premiere in last year’s Young & Hungry Festival at Bats Out-of-Site had to be contained within an hour and the set had to be installed in 20 minutes max then struck in half the time.
Now excellent material in Ralph McCubbin Howell’s superb script has been reinstated (adding about eight minutes, I think). And Anna Robinson has been able to fulfil the potential of her cyber-space set design and the multiple images intricately projected onto countless small screens and other ingeniously manifested surfaces, with exciting results.
You just need to have ventured into social media and the odd gaming app a bit, or have people in your lives who do, to get drawn into the story because the highly recognisable human relationships impacted over the years by Dan’s becoming lost in cyberspace are a powerful counterpoint to the esoterica of his online life. Whether you recognise the brands and tropes or just see and hear all that as sci-fi jargon, you can relate to how it is the affecting the characters.
The four returning actors inhabit their roles with an alacrity we may readily ascribe to clicking ‘Refresh’ on a favourite site then playing on with the delight that can only come when the game is truly ‘in your blood’. And the two new actors hit the same level seamlessly. While each brings distinction to their role or roles, their cohesion as an ensemble adds huge value to the production.
As Michael Hebenton’s Dan tunes in and out of his real and fantasy worlds, his relationship with Bea, strongly yet subtly realised by Bronwyn Ensor, becomes a compelling through-line and end-goal. So the outcome is gripping for anyone with an ounce of romance in their bones.
As their flatmates, and classmates in flashbacks, Mahalia Sinclair-Parker’s Sadie captures the essence of a serial fad-adopter, Michael Trigg’s somewhat dorky Simon garners great sympathy and Matthew Staijen’s Ethan epitomises the enigmatic guy whose always being there is alternately reassuring and irritating. All three manifest online fantasy characters and YouTube memes with great flair.
Ruby Hansen is a persuasive presence as The Guide, vocalising and physicalizing the role with a confidence that ensures Dan’s quest – to eradicate his cyber-past – is a confronting challenge riddled with jeopardy.
Tony Black’s exacting lighting design and operation accommodates the action and projection so well it’s easy to take it for granted. Philip Jones recreates his sound-design live onstage in ways that ensure the action is truly dynamic.
Director Kerryn Palmer has clearly aligned her cast and creative team to a unified purpose in a very special way. I’m told her assistant director Ryan Knighton has brought a wealth of internet-savviness to the production and, guided by Rickey Dey, is responsible for the stunning fight sequences. The fight-like tango – danced by Michael and Mahalia; guided by Andrew Patterson – is another special moment among the many that grace this must-see production.
“Ralph McCubbin Howell cements his status as one of NZ’s best young playwrights with Second Afterlife and director Kerryn Palmer, her designers and crew, and her exemplary cast of six do him proud.” – Theatreview
By arrangement with Playmarket.