Young and Hungry 2012

ARTS, Theatre & Performing Arts
The Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre has arrived, and is home to some impressive work both on and off the stage.

Flash, by Kate Morris; directed by David Lawrence: In Flash, social media is put on trial. We spend the first hour of Young and Hungry in the principal’s office unraveling the mystery of who took a scandalous photo of one Diana Garret. Our suspects? Five teenage girls. Was it the goodie-good, the queen bee, the exercise-obsessed one, the bitchy one, or the one in Doc Martins? Twists and turns aplenty teach us who these girls are and what their relationship was to the unseen Diana Garret.

On paper, the characters are that rare breed of irritatingly moralistic teen who can say “I can’t tell you what choice to make, I only hope it’s the right one,” but can get away with quips like “babies will ruin your body and then your huzzy will divorce you.” They are played by five actresses who confidently embrace their appropriate stereotype. Kesava Beaney, who just manages to hold down the fort as the media studies teacher, rounds out the cast. The story lags a bit, no thanks to the ambiguities of the script and dialogue. We are never explicitly told what the photo was of and the dialogue contains a fair amount of cliché swapping, which makes feeling outraged, or indeed empathizing at all, rather difficult.

The real culprit of the photograph is, inevitably, society. Those Cosmo and OK magazines that litter the stage and the distracting cell phones are to blame for the girls’ attitudes towards each other. This conclusion is fine, but it is presented so didactically that Flash feels more like a lecture than an entertaining play.

Gameplan, by Dan Bain; directed by Mel Camp: When a hyper enthusiastic gang of video game players decide to go pro, they need to decide just how far they are willing to go to achieve success. For our gang, Dylan, Michael, Raymond, and Dawn, the barrier to success is the $10,000 they need to make the trip to South Korea. So where will they draw the line? When does real life interfere with the game?

The script has a lot of fun borrowing conventions from video games. We meet our gang through a video game-esque prologue narrated by Michael (Ryan Kinghton). Movement sequences depict gameplay. The story literally pauses as Michael steps out to fill out story details. Korean lines are translated over the PA system. All in all, it’s pretty cool stuff. Lights and sound support epically. The set sees wallpaper grow around the walls of BATS, and, while not particularly attractive, when the lights go off UV lighting highlights intricate designs, evocative of computer circuit boards.

Director, Melanie Camp, has established a heightened performance style that every actor embodies wonderfully, something reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim or Kick Ass, and it’s pretty cool.

Inevitably, the plot pushes characters to see life as more than just a game and the conclusion is a bit downbeat. Overall though, Gameplan is as fun and involving as a really good video game.

Deadlines, by Adam Goodall; directed by Leo Gene Peters: Arrowhead High School, the high school with the highest mortality rate in the country, is home to Daniel Ward, amateur journalist/detective. It is also home to an impressive piece of ensemble theatre and a completely refreshing take on what can constitute a Young and Hungry play.

Deadlines is a detective film noir that takes its cue from films like Brick, but it’s no a mere genre piece. ‘Detective’ is used as launching pad to explore the teenage high school landscape. The constant swirling rumor mill, the self-obsessed hierarchy, and our quick fire, frivolous use of technology are all manifested using private eye conventions, and then are boosted by an impressive set (Natalie Theodorisdis), confident writing (Adam Goodall), and imaginative direction (Leo Gene Peters). The world of the play is beautifully stylized, and sweeping stage transitions and wonderful lighting collaborate together successfully.

There is a small problem of style over clarity in this production; the pace is kept at roadrunner proportions, meaning a few plot details are lost. Nevertheless, Daniel’s quest is as captivating as the production itself.

The Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre performs at BATS Theatre until July 21.
Filed under: ARTS, Theatre & Performing Arts

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Samuel Phillips is the Wellington theatre editor for The Lumière Reader. When he isn’t reviewing theatre he can be found making theatre with Wellington-based company, Bright Orange Walls, or studying at Victoria University of Wellington.