Ache review – Dom Post

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Theatre Review: Ache

Actor Renee Lyons impresses with her perfectly timed and paced delivery in Ache.

Jim Chipp

Actor Renee Lyons impresses with her perfectly timed and paced delivery in Ache.

REVIEW:

Ache by Pip Hall, directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford

Circa Studio, Wellington

An ache can be described in various ways, such as discomfort, throb, suffering, grief, misery, torment, sorrow and longing, all of which and more flash across the stage in the opening moments of Circa’s latest Studio production, Ache by Pip Hall.

And they are all borne out to some degree or other by the two principle characters in the play.

Only known as Woman (Renee Lyons) and Man (Richard Dey), they meet outside on the balcony of the Boatshed at a wedding reception. Woman is a bridesmaid at the wedding, having just arrived back from London especially for the occasion, while Man is suffering a “modern-day malaise” and not very communicative.

From here, by chance and/or by fate, although later Woman says she doesn’t believe in fate, they meet another five times at different locations, until they catch up for the last time at another wedding, where this time Man is the Best man.

During each encounter, different and often subtle twists occur, creating tensions which dissipate until they meet again. Although appearing as a simple and on-the-surface slight play, it is in fact a very clever and perceptive script with many hidden layers that effectively pinpoints the characters’ inner thoughts and emotions.  It is also very funny at times, counter-balanced with heartfelt moments of poignancy.

And in this Circa production, director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford and her strong cast have effectively brought out all the nuances, along with the humour, making the characters real and believable.

In the role of Woman, Lyons is brilliant, perfectly timing and pacing her lines with deceptive ease,  while Dey’s Man is a great foil to all her taunting and cutting remarks.

They embark on a rollercoaster ride that sees both working exceptionally well as a team to create moments of genuine tension between each of the characters

They are both ably supported by Amy Usherwood and Jack Buchanan, who play multiple roles, all to great effect.

And creatively complimenting the action is Ian Harman’s multi-functional wooden set that morphs from balcony to restaurant to art gallery with ease, making this insightful play 80 minutes of enjoyable entertainment.


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The reviews are coming in…

This in from Theatreview.

INSIGHTFUL, POIGNANT, UPLIFTING WITH PLENTY OF LAUGHS

Print Version
Photo by Paul McLaughlin
Photo by Paul McLaughlin

ACHE
By Pip Hall
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford

at Circa Two, Wellington
From 24 Oct 2015 to 21 Nov 2015

Reviewed by Lena Fransham, 25 Oct 2015

In this Circa season of Pip Hall’s Ache* directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, we follow the protagonists ‘Woman’ (Renee Lyons) and ‘Man’ (Richard Dey) through a series of accidental meetings in recognisable Wellington locations.

We first meet them at a wedding reception in the Boatshed and their story unfolds from there in a series of comic vignettes – in a restaurant, a police station, a hospital, the city gallery – through which an odd attachment develops.

She’s a bridesmaid at the wedding. She clomps gingerly, on ridiculously high heels, to the railing where he’s leaning and smoking. She bludges a cigarette, and laments not having had time to wear in the shoes, which are tormenting her feet. “Take them off,” he suggests. She struggles with this. What a simple idea to relieve one’s pain. Why suffer unnecessarily? Why make things more complicated than they need to be?

Conversations in each scene reflect on following your heart, on living-by-accident versus being deliberate in going for what you want, and repeatedly turn to the topic of nostalgia and what it tells us about what we really long for.

Their easy bond becomes evident in each brief meeting. There’s a wistfulness that grows with the unfortunate misses in timing, the opportunities that slip by. Just as they’re getting along when they first meet, his young blonde girlfriend (Amy Usherwood) turns up trying to get him to go for some lines in the bathroom.

Next time they meet, he is with a young brunette girlfriend (also Usherwood), and she is humiliatingly stood up by her date. While the girlfriend is outside smoking a joint, the two acquaintances catch up; their talk is brief but reveals an affinity that contrasts starkly with the obvious mismatch between him and his selfie-obsessed young girlfriend.

Their respective situations show their longing for deeper connection. You want the affinity to get the opportunity to grow, but there are always complications and obstructions, frequently in the form of inappropriate girlfriends, all comically portrayed by Amy Usherwood.

Life is about timing, Woman says. Lyon’s comic timing is certainly intrinsic to the success of this play.  Her goofy vulnerability hijacks your sympathy, especially in her drunken sequence with Man and the police officer (Jack Buchanan, who also proves versatile as a waiter, a chef, an artist, a doctor and a bridegroom).

Dey is solidly believable, with a quiet dry wit to complement Lyon’s effervescence. With the embarrassingly inappropriate exchange at the police station, the odd, accidental nature of their acquaintance gains an intimacy and significance. Each little scene seems to reveal some life change for one of them, and a development between them, but there is so much connection that doesn’t happen, and you’re dying for one of them to get proactive.

Music (sound design by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford and Deb McGuire) and lighting (Marcus McShane) are decisively applied to lovely effect, but the most stunning feature is the all-wooden set (Ian Harman). It’s beautiful watching Buchanan moving its parts between scenes: the slide of the slatted screen from this side to that, the lattice it makes against the horizontal lines of the backdrop, the harmonious minimalism of tone and material. It’s a visual pleasure, essential to the play’s character.

While it nods to the tongue-in-cheek uber-trendy aesthetic of the urban middle class setting, the minimalism is of a piece with the spareness of narrative structure, and both sharpen the piquancy of the human drama. The versatility of the props – shifting from seats to counter to gallery plinths – somehow underlines a sense of the fates at work, the changing of circumstances against a constancy of substance making up the relationship of the main characters.

The hero’s awful one-dimensional girlfriends have comic value and serve to highlight the rapport between the two main characters – these girlfriends come off as a minimalist device, like the set, only sketched in enough to offset the main characters’ relationship – but where the set is elegant and evocative, the cartoony characters of one or two of the girlfriends feel a bit cliché and clunky against the finer shades of the drama.

Even the main characters are not particularly deep or detailed, but they are well-delineated, just sketched enough, like the lines of the set, to illustrate the human point. Man and Woman’s hop-skip acquaintance, full of unfulfilled possibilities, steadily foregrounds the theme of human longing to which the title refers. There’s insight, a poignant and uplifting tenor to it, and plenty of laughs.

*Ache won the 2012 Pump Theatre Award for an Auckland playwright and premiered at The Court Theatre’s Pub Charity Studio (The Forge) in July 2014.

 

 


Three from Three!

Another great review of the Court production of Ache by Cityscape

Ache: Time After Time

Ache

There’s a touch of Groundhog Day to be found in the messy affairs of the heart in Ache, The Forge at The Court’s brilliant and ballsy new will they/won’t they rom-com with an edge.

We’ve all been there – instantly smitten, thinking we’ve met the one – only to have bad timing and circumstance throw a spanner in the works like a tortured Alanis Morissette track.

Boy, Jono (TV’s Step Dave) Kenyon, meets girl (Amy Straker) while nicking off for a cheeky puff at a roof top balcony during one of those endless strings of weddings you end up attending when you reach a certain age – the sparks fly, but he’s got a girlfriend, and she’s nursing itchy feet having recently returned from London.

But what would happen if you met up with that person a second, third or fourth time?

Pip Hall’s razor-sharp writing beautifully captures the push-pull of desire vs. ambition, mixed with the crossroads of charting your own course, during their rinse-and-repeat chance meetings.

Leads Kenyon and Straker are a delight, using subtle glances and restrained body language to convey their characters’ emotional plight, while Alice Canton’s boozy party girls and trophy dates and Owen Black’s surly sergeant and self-important architect roles are a hoot.

Throw in a funky, minimalist set and killer soundtrack and Ache will put spring in your step and leave a smirk on your face.

Ache by Pip Hall
The Forge at The Court
18 July – 9 August
Book tickets here.


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The Press review of Ache

Another great review of Ache from Georgina Stylianou of The Christchuch Press

Comedy made unique by honesty

A trendy wedding. Summer. Night. The smoker’s balcony. Words are projected onto the stage’s simple, brilliant set. It’s all you need to know. The rest is every romantic movie you’ve ever seen smashed together with the pithy dialogue of real life.

Two twenty-somethings meet. He’s experiencing ‘‘modern-day malaise’’ and she has just returned from London.

Ache, by Kiwi playwright Pip Hall, is a freshly honest account of the quarter-life crisis, a troublesome phase being experienced by young, ambitious men and women all over the world.

The simple script, and its series of vignettes, navigates the lives of our unnamed twenty-somethings through serendipitous encounters and poor timing. Hall was in the audience for the opening night (and world premiere) and nodded and laughed approvingly throughout. It is clear the small cast of four and director Daniel Pengelly had a lot of fun with this show. The attention to detail is stunning and the whole performance screams ‘‘unique’’.

Amy Straker and Jono Kenyon (the guy from TV2’s Step Dave) have some seriously good chemistry on stage. They seem to know and trust each other as actors and the result is intimate and hilarious. Without wanting to give away too much of the plot, let me just say that Straker conveys an emotional drunk faultlessly and Kenyon is the quintessential good guy with a habit of correcting people’s grammar.

Straker’s character is dealing with some of life’s baggage, but she is strong and fun. Kenyon plays the good ‘‘private school’’ boy scared of creating his own path in life. They both deliver sterling performances, although Straker outshines Kenyon at times.

There’s a hospital scene where Kenyon’s character becomes angry and emotional. The buildup to this snapping point isn’t quite right and, as such, seems to come out of nowhere. However, Kenyon’s portrayal of his twenty-something includes some David Brent ( The Office) mannerisms and this ticks all the boxes for me.

Alice Canton, who plays the immature and carefree girlfriend, is a delight to watch. She has boundless energy in her role and provides enough comedy for all four actors. Owen Black bounces from one character to the next with ease, adding much-needed personalities to the script.

The music is perfectly handpicked throughout the show and the use of Top 40 songs helps to compound the sense of occasion.

I was thoroughly impressed with Ache. It’s a modern-day romantic comedy made effortlessly unique by honesty.

Go and see it.

Georgina Stylianou
The Press
22 July, 2014

First review is in for Ache!

Ache opened on Saturday.  Here’s what Lindsay Clarke of Theatreview had to say.

STYLE AND A DASH OF VINEGAR TO RELISH

Print Version

ACHE
By Pip Hall
Directed by Daniel Pengelly

at Court Theatre Pub Charity Studio, Christchurch
Until 9 Aug 2014

Reviewed by Lindsay Clark, 20 Jul 2014

It is no surprise to read that this neatly crafted romantic comedy won the 2012 Pumphouse Theatre Award for an Auckland playwright in its fledgling stage, before the workshopping and public reading processes which brought it to the current premier production. Its roots are in middle class contemporary urban culture, where bright young professionals can get away with indecision and ‘malaise’ before the realities of life put the nips in.

Romantic comedy infuses the whole but this is no mere soap stuff, in spite of the tantalising delays before the final clinch. It seems that the luxury of choice and liberty to toss back the bubbly are really not much help when it comes to actually managing life. Saved from a sense of indulgence by engaging characters and briskly evolving situations, the play is generously endowed with humour, nimble wit and assured audience appeal.

As The Court’s new Associate Director at The Forge (aka The Pub Cjarity Studio), Daniel Pengelly does a fine job. The flip side of single is subtly presented to expand the broadly comic treatment of love and marriage, and for all its sophistication and slickness the play does align with the human heart suggested by the title. It also has a shrewd dig at the passing fad. “So hot right now” is a recurring refrain in the dialogue.

The fun begins on the smoking balcony of a wedding reception where Man’s escape for a quiet puff is interrupted by Woman, teetering tipsily on her glorious high heels. Jono Kenyon and Amy Straker will meet again and again, through that fate/coincidence imperative which shapes the play. He is spoken for, she is on a fleeting visit, but that is not the way things stay.

Their generalised titles invite us to take them and the other two cast members (Alice Canton as Actor One and Owen Black as Actor Two) as typical players in the contemporary scene. Certainly many laughs come from recognisable situations rich in comic potential: the wedding where inhibitions are swept away with the Moet, the pretentious dining experience, the equally pretentious gallery event and the late night adventures with a desk sergeant at the police station.

The efficient transition from one location to another is smoothly enabled by the changing configuration of David Thornley’s clever set pieces and at one point earn delighted response from the audience – but that should not be spoiled. Suffice to say that it all works with clean precision in this minimalist world, supported by lighting from Giles Tanner and sound from Luke Di-Somma. Costume from Tina Hutchison-Thomas is similarly effective.

As the central couple, Jono Kenyon and Amy Straker are well in charge, each working on the fine line between attraction and commitment with well-judged skill.

Owen Black has much fun with a range of clearly defined roles, his versatility and experience meeting the challenges with ease. Alice Canton in the other supporting roles finds comic expression of her own, though with less material to work on .She is usually required to arrive in a dizzy flurry and provides a valuable counterpoint to the cooler assurance of Woman.

A clever treatment, then, of that relationship territory so often explored. In this case there is style and a dash of vinegar to relish.
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On opening night Artistic Director Ross Gumbley dedicated this premiere performance to Elizabeth O’Connor, who was The Court’s Literary Manager and died unexpectedly in Auckland on Friday night. In a Facebook message, Pip Hall wrote: “A very sad day. Glad I got to spend time with her last month. She was such a great friend of the writer.” – JS