Dispatches from the Auckland Fringe Festival 2015, Part 2

ARTS, Theatre & Performing Arts
At the Auckland Fringe Festival: Away From Home, Suri vs. Shiloh.

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img_awayfromhomeAway From Home
Written and performed by Rob Ward
Herald Theatre | February 17-21

Away From Home is a critically-acclaimed one-man show that originally premiered in Manchester and since then has had a successful run across UK theatres. The play tackles the issue of homophobia in English football. Written and performed by Rob Ward, the story revolves around Kyle, an avid football fan who happens to work as a male escort.

He seems to more or less successfully balance these two parts of his life until one Saturday night, when, after Kyle’s team defeat, he is hired by a closeted premiership football player who, hours before their encounter, scored a goal against Kyle’s team. Nevertheless, their relationship develops and soon Kyle finds himself in love with a man who, due to a stigma around homosexuality in the game, has to resort to spending nights out in a company of blondes and hiding his boyfriend from the public. The play examines whether or not it is actually possible to maintain a meaningful romantic relationship in this atmosphere of secrecy and social pressure.

Despite the fact that stories about those trapped in the closet are far from original, Away From Home stands out from the crowd thanks to its witty and edgy writing and Ward’s energetic performance. He brings to life an array of colourful characters, including Kyle’s family, friends, clients, and even his pimp. He achieves seamless transitions between those characters and shows off his versatility and skill. Even though there are quite a few people that Ward has to portray, he never loses the depth and multiple facets of Kyle’s inner life including his bravado, angst, and struggle with acceptance.

There are numerous sub-plots in the play that concentrate on the relationships Kyle has with the many characters surrounding him and some of them may seem a bit unnecessary and even distracting. Also, some plot twists are too soapy and stereotypical. It would also be great to learn more about the footballer’s side of the story and the emotional roller coaster he must have gone through in the course of the play. But these imperfections can easily be forgiven because of Ward’s stellar performance.

All in all, Away From Home is a highly engaging show that does not agitate or preach. Instead it tells a story that is complex, at times messy, but ultimately so human.

img_surivsshilohSuri vs. Shiloh
Presented by We Are Sailors Productions
Q Theatre | February 10-14

Suri vs. Shiloh is a witty satire on the celebrity-obsessed culture and how it affects the impressionable minds of young people caught in the midst of it. Set in 2024 we get to peek into the exclusive lives of Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt who, due to their parents’ celebrity status, have grown up under the constant scrutiny of the media. Suri and Shiloh, now young adults, try to make their own way in the world that cannot wait for them to fall flat on their faces.

Written and performed by Phoebe Borwick (Shiloh) and Susannah Smith-Roy (Suri), the play is energetic and highly entertaining. The characters are brash and totally screwed up but not unlikable. Their disastrous attempts at shaking off their famous parents’ shadow cause both laughter and a degree of pity as they go down the path trodden by so many young celebrities before them that involves alcohol, public humiliation, and incarceration.

Suri and Shiloh’s world is also populated by an array of over-the-top characters including entertainment journalists, quirky psychiatrists who seem to be in need of psychological help themselves, and crazy fans who are ready to give up anything and everything to get a glimpse of their idols. Celebrity parents get to make a few appearances too.

Borwick and Smith-Roy skillfully jump from one character to another using props and different accents. The latter are a bit sloppy from time and time and do not always precisely reflect the supposed origin of the character. However, accent issues do not distract from the story and even underline the ridiculousness of it all.

Though Suri vs. Shiloh is not perfect in its structure, it is nevertheless hilarious and enjoyable. Not to mention that, judging by the never-ending media stories of young celebrities hitting rock bottom, the caricatured vision of Suri and Shiloh’s adulthood proposed by the play might turn out to be not too far off from what the future actually holds for the real life Suri, Shiloh, and company.

The Auckland Fringe Festival 2015 runs from February 9-March 1.