Direction: Cassandra Tse (written by Annie Baker)
Te Whaea Basement Theatre (July 4 – 13)
An Annie Baker play changed my life – and I’ve yet to see a production of it…you see, I was so blown away by hearing her interviewed, reading about her, seeing the works available that I took a chance on the script for The Flick. Read it in a single sitting and returned to it the next day. It was the keenest set of observations. It was bleak and beautiful all at once. A celebration of the beautiful losers I’ve been drawn to in the works of many great songwriters, visual artists and writers across theatre, short-stories, poetry and novels.
The Aliens (produced by Red Scare Theatre Company) and performed at Te Whaea’s Basement Theatre (July 4-13) is, to my knowledge, the first professional presentation of Baker’s work in New Zealand. Let’s hope we see more as a result of this fine effort.
Written in 2010 The Aliens takes its name from one of the bands that KJ (Jack Sergent-Shadbolt) and Jasper (Jonny Potts) spontaneously created. They’re two 30-year-old dropouts with big dreams inside their small lives; they know Bukowski and music and they care about art above all. They spend their days out back of a cafe in the staff area. They’re not mean to be there but the new kid Evan (Dryw McArthur) doesn’t have any power over them. He just wants to keep his head down and do a good job clearing tables and putting the rubbish out the back – until its time for him to return to his studies.
KJ and Jasper have a stranger power over Evan though – almost instantly. He’s mesmerised by their knowledge – and by their shoe-scuffing life-knowledge.
This is a Mountain Goats song come to life, it’s Richard Linklater’s best work without the desperate cling of a hip soundtrack.
It’s writing so profound – so perfect – that to just deliver it would almost be enough. But director Cassandra Tse and the talented cast know that the real magic is in the spacing and phrasing; the placing of the words and the pacing of the lines. For as we find out more about each character we see and then feel levels of vulnerability.
The humanity in and of this play all but bursts from the stage. It’s the finest kind of heartbreak.
And it’s a must-see piece of local theatre. Truly a brilliant amalgam of the write cast and crew putting a genius-level script in to place. It’s a 21st Century Waiting For Godot – a play about nothing, and therefore everything; a play about the magic that resides deep within inertia; the story of multiple unlikely – crucial – friendships, a mirror held up to the struggle of just getting by. Beautifully created on the local stage, so perfectly realised. It stays with you for days after.
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