Bite-sized Reviews: NZ Fringe 2020 Week One
Our bite-size Fringe reviews are back! Our Wellington team of Fringe reviewers – Freya Daly Sadgrove, Joel Baxendale, Kahu Kutia, Claire O’Loughlin and James Wenley – will be experiencing as much fresh Fringe work as they can and writing bite-size reviews right here. We’ll keep adding to this page during the festival. Check out our Auckland Fringe reviews too!
The meditative Ten and Two-Thirds (Years) presents a bleak outlook for the planet. Seen through the eyes of two travellers in a series of apocalyptic vignettes, the show nevertheless continues to seek hope amongst the hopelessness.
A wall of recycled rubbish provides a frame for the audience but it is the sound design that does the heavy lifting. Music that is often reminiscent of The Books is complemented by sourced environmental sound and field recordings, creating a soundscape that is vivid and evocative; a rich substitute for the absence of verbal language.
The other most striking thing about the show is that for the most part the performers move at about a quarter normal speed. This refusal to conform to natural rhythms allows us to access nuances of human behaviour that we would otherwise miss. At this pace you watch an action and sit with it past indifference to curiosity, then suspense and, sporadically, into hilarity. It’s a performance mode that gives us the time to move our gaze around the stage and indulge in the delicately layered action. Like watching clouds, but the clouds are people.
Moments of flurried movement are a nice surprise, but sometimes the performers verge on a more natural pace and the magic slips away. The imagery too can feel overfamiliar, with the odd scene bordering on a kind of lo-fi World of Wearable Arts. None of this takes away from the fact that Megan Evans is a rare director who has led a unified ensemble to devise one of the most unique works of theatre you are likely to see in the Fringe, if not all year. – JB
Friday 28 February to Monday 2 March, BATS
Buy tickets here
Jonny has been onstage with an umbrella for several minutes, charming my ass off with a kind of dance/clown routine, before I realise I’ve never actually seen a proper Jonny Potts show before. I’ve heard about them – Loose is kind of mythological in Pōneke. I’m not sure what I expected but I’m floored by the sweetness of this opening. I recall that I once saw him stand onstage and force a sound operator to play Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’ on repeat until he managed to cry – it was one of the most bizarre and compelling things I’ve ever seen in a theatre. I have a similar experience watching The Best Show In Town.
Jonny is blessed with a baby face and a man voice, and he has an undeniably mesmerising stage presence. Lucas Neal’s production design highlights this beautifully – at one point he does something so stark with the lighting that the image prints indelibly onto my brain. Jonny treads a line between genuineness and silliness so daintily that I spend a lot of the show not knowing quite how to react, but he seems comfortable with that, so I am too. The writing feels meticulous and generous. He takes an obvious delight in language, but whenever he gets too outrageously lyrical he undercuts himself to hilarious effect.
Jonny gives us a tour of the video shops of Wellington, but it’s also a tour of his very personal (and very familiar) nostalgia. But it’s also an epic poem. But it’s also really fun! I could write another thousand words! Suffice to say that I won’t be missing a Jonny Potts show again. If you’ve ever had a memory, you shouldn’t miss this one either. – FDS
Tuesday 3 to Friday 6 March, BATS
Buy tickets here