Fringe 2009, ‘Eli’s Bedroom’
February 10-28 | Reviewed by Helen Sims

‘GIFTED’, ‘talented’ and ‘fresh’ are the terms that come to mind when trying to describe this brilliant production by the Playground Collective. This is particularly amusing given the play is a ‘comedy about apathy’ and a portrait of disaffected youth in search of a “living, breathing exclamation mark.”

Jack (played by Jack Shadbolt) is a poet struggling with the inherent betrayal of words and a lack of emotional response. He stands over a rug and demands “Amaze me!” Eli (played by Eli Kent) is a destructive ball of unfocused energy who seems to care about very little at all. Jack’s the “proper narrator” (although Eli wrote the script) and the whole ‘thing (and stuff)’ is a re-telling of a road trip they took to Baxter’s grave following the death of their mate Johnny Harrison. Johnny’s Facebook page is still up – they muse on whether someone should take it down, or at least change his status to ‘dead’.

It is these modern references and moments of irreverent humour that result in the interrogation of cultural mythologies not becoming didactic. It helps that Kent doesn’t try and pose any more than tentative answers. You walk away from this play with a bit to ponder, but thoroughly entertained nonetheless. I enjoyed last year’s Rubber Turkey immensely, but I have to say that Intricate Art is a huge step up for Kent as a playwright.

The excellence of the script is benefited greatly by Eleanor Bishop’s intelligent and unfussy direction that utilises the spaces in Eli’s bedroom excellently. Heleyni Pratley is obviously working hard behind the scenes as stage manager, although we never see her. The lighting design by Rachel Marlow is largely subtle, as one would expect in a site specific work of this type and the art direction by Erin Banks features the imagery from tales of mates and journeys without labouring the point.

Overall I can’t put it better than to say I loved it. It was delightful to hear iconic New Zealand poetry tossed around with equal amounts of reverence and disaffection. The script has the strength to go further, although for those who miss the intimacy of this first production in Eli’s bedroom, you are probably missing the highlight of the Fringe.