Watching a play or theatrical performance is usually a wonderful, comprehensive sensory experience, where sound, light, costume, music, acting and effects all meet to create a story and invoke emotions. It’s fantastic, a journey, a chance to escape for an hour or two into someone else’s world and life.
It is rarer, I think, to witness a story that is stripped back, devoid of any accoutrements beyond beautifully crafted characters, superb acting, and a story that is at once familiar and a discovery. So it was with Pure and Deep, Toa Fraser’s new work which opened at the Herald Theatre last night. Labelled loosely as an ‘independent sequel’ to his acclaimed debut work ‘Bare’, Pure and Deep is a stunning work highlighting the very best of New Zealand’s play-writing and acting talent.
The central characters, Dave and Venus, will be remembered by those who enjoyed ‘Bare’ back in the late 90s, and are reprised by the magnetic Ian Hughes and Mia Blake, both of whom deliver flawless, standout performances. Really, if there is one thing that I cannot emphasise enough about this show, it is the depth, emotion and authenticity both of these actors embody on the stage from start to finish.
It was a privilege to see them both work such magic. They each portray several characters (Blake, especially, has a rare gift for inhabiting fully each diverse character she plays, from inflection to body language to comic timing) and it is through these different voices that the story evolves. Less a beginning-middle-end storyline and more an eclectic mix of loosely interrelated characters, Pure and Deep displays to perfection Toa Fraser’s talent for referencing kiwi culture and touching on the nerves of current events and our various prejudices, strengths and weaknesses as a country.
Against a minimalistic backdrop, with bold, simple lighting and a unique, compelling directness from the characters that invite the audience to feel they are inherently a part of Dave and Venus’ story, Pure and Deep deserves to become a new Kiwi classic of live performance.
Reviewed by Natalie Ridler