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A ROMP THROUGH CLICHéS AND CHARACTER TYPES OF MODERN HORROR

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THEATRE MACABRE
MEAT
by Benjamin Teh
Directed by Ben Moore
Presented by Theatre of Love and Rebels & Robots
Part of the Q Vault THEATRE MACABRE double-bill

at Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland
From 30 Oct 2012 to 3 Nov 2012

Reviewed by Stephen Austin, 31 Oct 2012


I'm a big fan of the campier spectrum of the horror genre and the appeal of having some fun with the tropes. It is so easy to get carried away with piling on the gore and the shocks without really paying much heed to packing a wallop with your story and characters.

Benjamin Teh's new script, Meat, certainly makes a meal (pardon the pun) of many cliches that most people know from movies and TV. So many within the opening minutes of the play, it can scarcely keep up the momentum of the Norman Bates-ish, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, “don't go into them woods!” set-up, despite trying really hard.

Barnaby (Kevin Keys) runs an out-of-the-way lodge for visitors or those just wanting a bit of seclusion. Many have stayed, but none have ever left. His wife died recently and he lives with his petite daughter, Rachel (Rachael Longshaw-Park), cranky resident Joshua (Edward Newborn) and repairman/local-preacher Samuel.

The new lodger, Harrison (Luke Thornborough), has stumbled across more than he bargained for in this bunch of unrestrained weirdoes, but its a real puzzle to figure out who is keeping visitors from ever leaving.

There is a feeling from the script that this should be something of a retro piece, to play on the older conventions of movies and shows that have gone before, but aside from the odd antique radio prop or strangely out-of-place jacket, there isn't really much to place it in anything except the present.

The same goes for accents from the actors. All are speaking RP, with a bit of a Kiwi drawl, but there's nothing to indicate where exactly the place is.

Performances range from well-observed to over-the-top and never really meet anywhere amicable for the characters to connect with each other. However, Edward Newborn delivers some excellently subtle moments as Joshua, especially during his excruciating final moments near the end.

Staging is less of a problem here than in The Sonambulist, easily fixed by pushing all set-pieces forward as far as possible. There is one corner of the set lower than the rest and it is still a crane of the neck, but it is used wisely and action is pushed up to the main stage as often as possible. Lighting and sound are fully effective to keep audience attention.

The script really needs some pruning in the middle section to cut quite a bit of character development ‘flab'. And scenes really need to be integrated into one another, as there are too many set changes.

It certainly is a ‘romp' through a lot of clichés and character types of modern horror, but the plot never really connects to scare or provoke much thought, unfortunately. 


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