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Head Writer: Victoria Abbott
Researchers: Victoria Abbott and Jackie Shaw
Devisers: Victoria Abbott, Jackie Shaw, Kate McGill, Liz Carpenter, Alana Kelly, Frith Horan, Emma Draper and Taylor Hall
Director: Kate McGill
a new Documentary Theatre Project
presented by Bare Hunt Collective

at The Basement Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
From 4 Dec 2012 to 8 Dec 2012

Reviewed by Stephen Austin, 5 Dec 2012

With the Christchurch quakes still fresh in our minds and the cleanup still very much in progress, it should be a difficult job of theatre to add something valid without over-dramatising or sentimentalising situations.  There is so much deep feeling, even for those on the outer of this greatest of natural disasters in this country, that we all need some form of catharsis to help us process it.  

Bare Hunt Collective absolutely hits the nail on the head with this verbatim work that delves into momentary fragments of a ruined city and the people within trying to pick up the broken pieces over cups of tea and good old Kiwi stoicism. 

Head-Writer Victoria Abbott's script is sharp, tight, witty and powerful.  There is so much tenderness and joy for these characters and it shines through the excellently crafted plotting, editing and weaving of the episodic nature of the work.  The moments of factual exposition are minimal and we are allowed into the world and minds of each character fully. 

Abbott's performance, too, is spot-on in the observation of many familiar yet particular characters, and she finds an earthy truth in them all.  Whether playing for the purely factual or slightly caricaturing, she is absolutely riveting, especially when she takes on the persona of her own brother at one point and focuses neatly on the colloquial inward blokey drive of the character.  Her framing device characterisation of four-year-old Alex is touching and fun.  

Jackie Shaw and Frith Horan sustain the energy created by Abbott with colourful, vivid performances, drawn from a deep understanding and involvement with the community they are bringing alive before us.  Each give us characters of warmth, humour and liveliness, full of hope and passion for the future. 

Rachel Marlow's effective, minimal lighting design shifts as quickly as the actors' between locales and moods.  Alana Kelly's sparse striking sound design is well chosen and perfectly modulated to fit the space. 

There is never an attempt at straight-forward agitprop anywhere in the piece; just people given full licence – through the script and interpretation of the actors with director Kate McGill – to vent their frustrations, opinions and beliefs as best they know in an extreme situation. What could so easily have become talking-heads, or an illustrated radio play, is given fresh, engaging life and vigour, without over-weighting it all in morbid facts and figures. 

As a response to the recovery of Canterbury and its people, it is an immensely powerful work of theatre in its own quietly particular way and still manages to create laughter out of the immense pain of such a catastrophe.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.

See also reviews by:
 Matt Baker (Theatre Scenes - Auckland Theatre Blog);
 John Smythe
 Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);
 Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
 Lindsay Clark
 Robert Gilbert
 Mark Houlahan
 Holly Shanahan