Winners – Basement Theatre

With a rather sarcastic title, Winners does not really highlight success in the traditional sense, but places a more satirical, yet disturbing spin on winning.

Winners is a compilation of the devised works of four Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School graduates. It’s a fresh slice of dark comedy where ach short uses superb physical theatre, incorporating dance, mime, and imagery.

The first cutting of darkness is Lucy Suttor’s MEG, which showcases the seemingly mundane world of a supermarket employee and her quest to reach the light at the end of the aisle. Suttor’s acting contains subtleties that are a delight to watch – a slight movement on her face detailing an entire emotion. Meg shows that the ordinary can become the extraordinary, and puts an edge on the drama within the walls of a supermarket; music, dance, and lighting represent the conflicts within the mind of your ‘average Joe’, making one realise everyone’s a little bit crazy in their own way.

The supermarket morphs into a waiting room with Keagan Carr Fransch’s WAITING FOR GODOOR. The audience is confronted with five strong characters, all seamlessly switched between by Fransch. Your laughter is attached to a time bomb, which could explode with an awful revelation at any second. The epitome of dark comedy, Fransch touches on issues such as poverty with a variety of pre-recorded voiceovers and an impressive array of accents. My stomach was left churning.

Susie Berry’s JOURNEY TO THE DRIVE-THROUGH was welcome. Berry explores unrealistic beauty expectations in a very unconventional way. Again using physical theatre, Berry’s energy is high and she works up a sweat with aerobic-styled dances with a hip hop swagger on. At times I found myself losing the meaning behind the erratic jigs, but Berry’s energy kept the audience awake and lurched some emotional messages into her wake.

Taylor Hall’s SOMETHING IS COMING escalates quickly, and he is soon at rather intimate levels with some audience members. Meditation gone wrong, Hall blasts the funny into rather disturbing representations of things such as the delusion of parenthood. His incorporation of vocal sound effects mixed with lightening quick positioning changes, to represent various creatures and mental states, is utterly hilarious. Hall leaves his work open to interpretation, and leaves the audience with very intriguing questions raised, mostly towards the methods behind his rather sexual workout regime.

Winners is the most confusing, fresh, and confrontational performance I have seen in a while. The talent within each devised work is outstanding, and the actors really encapsulate “don’t speak unless you’ve got something important to say” brilliantly. Issues are literally pushed, shoved, and pirouetted under the spotlight, and everything’s tied together with a healthy dose of athletic success.

Winners is on at The Basement until 31 May.

Reviewed by India Hendrikse