Everything Is OK (17th November 2010)

I rounded up a group of art-loving friends (7 of us – me, Jono, Liviu, Ben, Rissa, Rebecca and Lars) to see play Everything Is Ok tonight, another production from BATS theatre’s STAB 2010 season – I thought it might be quite an interesting play since it was held in a 600m sq warehouse located opposite Te Papa on Cable St instead of the usual BATS theatre. Shows at BATS are a hit and miss – I’ve seen some very good ones and some pretty terrible ones. Hopefully this one would be good, now that I’ve a group in tow. Ooo, and I wonder what the setting would be like in the warehouse – would it be on several small stages where we walked around or a sit-down show? Hmm… 

On arrival to the warehouse around 7.45pm to meet the rest of the gang, lots of people have gathered in the waiting area chit-chatting and purchasing drinks from the makeshift bar on site. The waiting area looked and felt very much like a construction site with large roles of white cloth playing images from a projector separating us and whatever was hidden behind those sheets. Cost $20 per person for the 1 hour 20 minute show and like everyone else, Jono and I gathered in the waiting area as drib and drabs of our group arrived. 

It was hard to tell where exactly we would enter the ‘theatre’ since we couldn’t really see the stage from where we were, yet we could hear shouting and some guys fighting or playing a game coming from behind the sheets. Around 8pm, the ushers ‘drew the curtain’, pulling to the side the sheets in the middle of the warehouse, as the audience shuffled in, showing the usher the stamp on their hand as they passed (we got stamped when we paid for the ticket). Oh my god, just look at the place – shipping containers, mashed up installations from discarded industrial waste including a crushed up car, old TVs, metal frames etc. – the place was like a rubbish dump! No time to settle into the new environment and check out all the bizarre and rust-dusty installations – the audience were told to stand outside the white dotted lines on the floor (the white dotted lines frame the installations) while actors Hadleigh Walker (seen in Downstage show, The December Brother) and Jeremy Randerson continued to kick ball (the ball was a crumpled plastic bottle) pushing through the sardined audience. Ah ha, so the show has begun and we’re IN it! 

The first part of the show brings the audience through a rapid psychedelic trip through the lives of the 5 people working in television. Hadleigh and Jeremy moved from their football game to a skit where they pretended to be a car salesman and potential buyer test-driving a Cadillac. Of course, the car was the beat up, crumpled, rusting metal but the two actors portrayed their role so well, admiring the beauty and speed of the car as if it was real. I can’t help but think about how much red rust dust the guys were getting their clothes on. Eek...The lights then flitted over to Tim Carlsen, who played the character of a motivational speaker (I’m not sure what motivation he was selling) – he reminded me of Jim Carrey’s character as Ace Ventura, acting all cool in his shades, ripped suit and obnoxious behaviour, AND those hip grinding movements that made me laugh and felt a tad embarrassed watching (but everyone else had eyes on him as he was in the spotlight!). Aroha White was the model for all the infomercials selling all sorts of items – as she gave her sales pitch, another actor would angle the mini-camera towards her and her face would be seen on the projector screen on the wall as well as in all the old black-and-white TVs piled up in a heap where she was standing on. And Jessica Robinson (previously seen in Circa Theatre play, The Great Gatsby) was a Martha Stewart-looking lady, teaching the audience how to cook a duck (her ingredients were all bits of industrial materials – rusty chains, part of a door etc.) and teaching good dining etiquette, playing the strict, no-nonsense mother of 4. And the spotlight flits around all these moving characters – standing in the audience, we had to constantly move about to change focus and occasionally, I had stand on my tip toes as I couldn’t see the actors (gah, the person in front of me is blocking my view!). At times, the actors were SO close to us (and they didn’t seem to care), in fact too close for comfort, that the audience would automatically make way for them. Huh, funny that… 

Oh my god! Jono got splashed!! What had happened was during the dining etiquette skit, the children (all the other actors) had to follow certain protocols as taught by their mother, and after the toast, they would all empty their glasses (the glasses were tin cans) by tipping them backwards and the mix of wood shaving and sawdust would land on anyone standing nearby. Thankfully Jono only got a bit of wood shaving on his jacket but the lady standing to his right must be pissed that her black coat now had bits of wood shaving and sawdust stuck to it! Thank god I was NOT standing where she was! Oh, but the sawdust was annoying, stuffing up my nose and making me rub my eyes now and again, though the actors didn’t look bothered with it at all, welcoming the wood shaving-sawdust ladle of soup as mother came around scooping the ‘soup’ into their mag wheel bowls. All hell broke lose when Hadleigh started to misbehave at the dinner table, causing all the other children to rebel, wood shaving and sawdust flying all over the place! What a mess! 

It was fascinating to watch the audience’s behaviour and as the actors disappeared to the back of the warehouse – everyone automatically proceeded towards the last remaining actor, as if beckoned to follow him. The second section of the play brought us further back to the warehouse where the audience got to sit for the rest of the show. Jono immediately went for seats in the front row! Hmm, I’m not sure that is a good idea, babe, after the wood shaving incident…oh well, fingers crossed! The stage was set up with 2 opened shipping containers, one stacked on top of the other depicting an apartment block of 4 shoe-box sized units where we visited the lives of the inhabitants living in today’s modern world, how they are struggling to cope with their lives, pretending all is right. Hadleigh played a man in the verge of committing suicide; Aroha, a telemarketer cold-calling to sell Freedom (I couldn’t make out if she was selling a service or a store card – her sales pitch were all about breaking free and getting the things you want); Jessica and Jeremy played a couple who has fallen out of love yet continued to live together; and Tim, a former child TV star still trapped in his own childhood stardom. Daily routines were portrayed in dance, showing actions of taking a shower, putting on mascara, drinking coffee, and eventually walking out the door. Similar to the first part of the show, the spotlight focuses on each of the units, pausing much longer this time to look into what the characters were doing: Hadleigh was packing up all his stuff into boxes and making recordings of himself speaking as if he was attending his own funeral while Aroha was constantly trying to clinch a sale. Tim was seen acting out scenes from his previously aired TV series, using cut-out cardboard stands of the characters in his TV series, reviving his character within the four walls of his room. Jessica played the character of a woman full of disgust for her jobless partner and wanting to run away from their relationship, gradually showing the cracks of the relationship climaxing to an aggressive brawl and ending in tears. There was a moment where Jeremy took his pants down, flashing his butt cheeks to the audience as he used them to ‘talk’ to his partner, trying to cheer her up. Got a smile out of her but not enough to save their relationship with cheek-talk. 

The show is a satire of modern life that will challenge your sense of living in the modern world. An interesting play that is part interactive and well-portrayed by 5 brilliant actors, it is worth checking out (season runs from 6th – 20th November) though do not expect to walk out feeling upbeat and happy – this is not one of those happy-ending plays. Oh, and be prepared to be pushed around and possibly receive a cupful of wood shavings and sawdust!


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