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Updates from the 2011 Artistic DirectorElisabeth EastherSchools Review CompetitionReviews
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Intense Emotional Upheaval in Five Families From One Community

By - 3 Mar 2011
"This world premiere production is born out of a two and a half year gestation, during which commissioned English playwright Lennie James worked through a sequence of workshops and readings by the venerated Massive Company."

Reviewed by Nik Smythe, 3 Mar 2011
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"The central theme is family, specifically the question of how families remain inevitably connected, whether they ought to or not.

It's morning in the normally laid-back community of Monument Hill, and everyone sets about their respective day as usual. Then everyone hears a series of violent noises emanating from the house up the hill, first shouting, then gunfire, sirens, helicopters. The police superintendent locks the area down until the armed offenders squad can bring the gunman under control. 

Throughout the day and into the night, while they wait for normality to be restored, five local sets of friends and family numbering between one and four undergo deep, personal journeys of their own. 

Sean Coyle's ingenious design effectively combines five complete sets to evoke a real sense of neighbourhood: a bedroom, a deck, a dining room, a lawn and a basement. The respective groups never interact between them, but they are all reacting and to varying degrees responding to the volatile noises of the fracas on the hill.

The bubbling concoction of fourteen diverse players make for a massive company indeed. As high school student Sina, daughter of the gunman, Loretta Aukuso is both fragile and determined, flanked by her sassy wisecracking girlfriend Eva (Olive Asi) and their awkward lanky Asian friend Mai (Tuyet Nguyen), as they anxiously wait to learn the fate of Eva's besieged parents. 

Miriama McDowell's eight months pregnant Hinemoa has a dignified but damaged air to her, with her doting husband Brady played with loveable goofiness by Wesley Dowdell. They have arrived at her old family home to heal a deep wound inflicted long ago. There she is greeted by her unwitting half-sister, happy-go-lucky Pippa (Nicole Thomson), and her frenetic, long-suffering stepsister Connie (Kura Forrester). 

Across the stage a house-painting family team of four Samoan men, two older brothers Davis (Fasi Amosa) and Tyler (Joe Falau) and their nephews Meleki (Beulah Koale) and Saepele (Jake Toaga) are hard at work, both painting and giving each other shit. When Meleki starts intoning ominous sounding speeches in Samoan it triggers a fearful response in Tyler that clearly connects to a dark secret he is heavily reluctant to reveal. 

Down in the basement, the beautifully musical Jani (Bree Peters) is visited, completely unexpectedly and out of the blue, by her pretty-boy golden-child rock star brother Dylan (Ash Jones) who vanished at the peak of his stellar career five years earlier to the day. 

Centre stage to all these dramas, Scott Cotter captures a worldly innocence as recluse blogger Domino, who hasn't left his bedroom, spoken directly to anyone or stopped streaming for a hundred and sixty six days.

Many scenes involve communication breakdowns whereby people obstinately, even pathologically, evade direct questions, thereby perpetuating the senseless alienations and traumas immersing them. Ultimately for some there is a tangible resolution, whilst others are left more open-ended; some mysteries are solved and some remain. 

Overall Sam Scott's experienced direction carries the complex intercut series of dramas very well through almost three hours of frankly intense emotional upheaval. Here and there some scenes seemed a tad staged or didactic, not always feeling as real as it does at other times. However, these minor creases should almost certainly be ironed out during its three-venue Auckland tour at the Herald, Mangere Arts Centre and Takapuna's Pumphouse.
Auckland Arts Festival 2011
Havoc in the Garden
A play by Lennie James and Massive Company
Directed by Sam Scott
Massive Company (NZ)

at Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland
From 2 Mar 2011 to 6 Mar 2011
[2hrs 20min approx, incl. interval]


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