OPPORTUNITY WASTED AS AUDIENCE LEFT IN THE DARK
Devised by Leo Gene Peters & Long Cloud Youth Theatre Summer School
In association with Downstage, Whitireia Polytechnic and a slightly isolated dog
at Downstage Theatre, Wellington
From 1 Feb 2013 to 16 Feb 2013
[1hr 50 mins, incl. interval]
Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 4 Feb 2013
originally published in The Dominion Post
Watching Perfectly Wasted is like being asked to a party and then finding yourself barred from entering. You can see and hear most of what's going on but not all and you are no more involved than you are when walking hurriedly through Courtenay Place on a rowdy Saturday night.
A mass of young people dancing, singing, fighting, binge drinking, playing spin the bottle, vomiting in a toilet, cautiously or nervously experimenting with drugs, sex, and alcohol may reflect what is actually going on just outside the theatre but it doesn't tell us anything more.
Perfectly Wasted is a pale, sanitised kaleidoscopic reflection of the party that is Courtenay Place, not art. Surely we need some sort of view or attitude expressed about all this hedonistic activity. Apart from the punning title of the show there is none. And at almost two hours, including an interval, that's a long time to be without either a plot or some sympathetic characters or some sort of structure to hold it all together.
Who are all these people? As at many a party, we never get to know any of them because the focus keeps constantly shifting from a crowd to a group to an occasional individual – a young man serenading at 4 a.m. his girlfriend who has dumped him – and then back to the crowd yet again.
At one point I counted six small groups dotted about the levels of the set, and even though a roving microphone eavesdropped on them it was impossible to hear or even see two or three of them from where I was seated, which is one of the drawbacks of theatre-in-the-round.
However, there was one bright moment when an actor read a brief but illuminating speech which was presumably from a transcript of an interview held by a cast member in his or her research. The interviewee should be quickly found and asked for more of his acute observations on the social activities of young Kiwis. For a couple of minutes Perfectly Wasted connected with its audience.
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|Downstage Theatre||posted 4 Feb 2013, 01:07 PM / edited 4 Feb 2013, 12:00 AM|
Laurie Atkinson's Dominion Post review (Long Cloud Youth Theatre's Perfectly Wasted 04/02/2013) prompted me to respond.
This work was developed as part of a Summer School programme over four weeks by students between the ages of 15-25. They are sometimes called the “screen generation” or “internet native”- the children of successive parents who put them in front of a television and to whom the world marketed the new technologies. They are makers and consumers of the online, networking open world where conversation and storytelling is fleeting and endlessly interconnected.
They are not automatically looking for a clear cut narrative that ties up the ends neatly. They seek out a moment, an insight, a connection to an idea that then clicks (or shifts focus) to another moment or insight or idea. The narrative then becomes one of their making not necessarily “the playwright's”. It's not linear but experiential – an accumulative progression of encounters from which the individual decides what's relevant. Think of the rise and influence of “open world” computer games, where the environment is shared, but the narrative is individualised. You definitely do not need to hear everything, and the more dimensions occurring at the same time, the deeper the experience.
We are going to see a lot more of this kind of work and we need reviewers with a fresh perspective who can embrace the future.
Consider this review of Perfectly Wasted from ayoungertheatre.com, a site which exists primarily to balance the disproportionate prevalence of critics in traditional media who are at least a generation older than the artists making new theatre.