Presented by Playshop
Directed by Jonathan Price
BATS Theatre, Wellington | September 11-13
Upon entering the theatre and at first glance of the stage, I made a little sound of admiration at the set design. Set and costume designer Harriet Denby has done a great job to illicit this kind of reaction from me. It sounds like it’s a very complex set up, but it is really just stark white sheets hanging from curtain rods across the stage. It just looks so clean and linear; the white is fresh offset against the black BATS box stage. Perfect for a hospital setting. Sound designer and musician Amand Gerbault-Gaylor sits to the side at a white desk, which functions as his keyboard stand and the reception desk. The simple set design is important in this improvised soap opera (think Shortland Street), as the scenes and the space are about to be transformed in front of us, and nobody really knows how.
Playshop have previously performed seasons one and two of Riddiford Street, so now in season three the actors flippantly reveal all characters from the previous seasons have died (in reality, it’s a whole new cast). The episode begins with a “Previously on Riddiford Street” prologue revealing potential romantic couplings and the mysterious disappearing ‘Ward 4’ (unfortunately it is never explored in this ‘episode’). Jennifer O’Sullivan kicks off the show by guiding our attention to a whiteboard with a list of rooms to start the show in: it’s a unanimous “MORGUE” from the audience. She then asks for a scientific theory to which someone yells “Gravity” and it thusly prompts a narrative where patients (all dead) have inexplicably fallen from the sky. Not only dead, they have suffered from gruesomely hilarious ‘telescopic legs’.
There were some contradictory moments where performers had forgotten, or simply not heard what had happened in a previous scene, however the show was largely entertaining. The opening night audience seemed to agree. Strong performances from Jennifer O’Sullivan, Jonny Paul, and Sam Irwin were a highlight. A lot of the plot was driven by an early joke about back rubs and, albeit funny, prompting some very sweet scenes between two elderly characters, but once the other characters got involved it seemed to stretch too thin. It would have been great to see the mystery of the falling bodies solved, or at least somebody falling off the balcony. In saying that there are still four more shows on. The cast playing two characters each are very talented and I’m sure they will all continue to have a blast on stage until the season is finished (and then some).