Crunchy Silk by Jess Sayer
I never really thought about chopsticks until tonight. Kimberley Buchan plays the chopstick-mad Astrid in this hour-long family saga by New Zealand playwright Jess Sayer. Buchan manages to be equally adorable, and terrifying as the confused Astrid tries to piece the past back together. Everything happens in one room. Astrid’s brother Marlo, the charming Cheyne Jenkins, is welcomed into the room as long as he plays “English,” brings fresh chopsticks, and hope. The therapist Olivia, played with elegant composure by Alison Cowan, is less welcome as she taunts Astrid to remember a repressed traumatic memory. Sofie Welvaert is the director behind this superb trio. They negotiate the tight triangulated corner space of the theatre perfectly. Once they enter the space, they do not leave. The structure of the space is emblematic of the larger love triangle at play in this twisted familial narrative. The stage design, also by Welvaert, creates shadows in the space, drawing the audience into the unseen, the unsaid. There’s also a torch, and a box, and a secret.
The Night Shift by Mark Murphy
What happens when things begin, and begin again? The repetitive nature of the unresolved is embodied in The Night Shift. Helen Fearnley is Alice and Helen. Brook Bray is Gray and Andrew. Both are captivating in their alternating roles, their energy fills the shifting temporal space that revolves around a bed, and around what plays out in the subconscious during sleep. Distinctive boundaries are set up between the characters, they roleplay, and direct each other, in an attempt to protect themselves from further harm. The binary oppositions of weakness and strength become central in the power games of this play. Jonathan Cweorth is the director behind this imaginative piece of theatre that is both realistic, and extreme.
Both plays highlight the excellent adaptability of the New Athenaeum Theatre as a space that invites artistic manipulation. Both plays are produced by the community theatre group Suitcase Theatre with 50% of the profits going to the Dunedin Night Shelter.
By Emer Lyons, Dunedin Poet, Performer and Reviewer.
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