Theatre Review: Eigengrau, The Basement

By Paul Simei-Barton

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Deconstructed modern romcom engages well at emotional level.

From left, Simon Ward, Michelle Blundell, Chelsea McEwan-Millar and Calum Gittins inhabit their characters well. Photo / Supplied
From left, Simon Ward, Michelle Blundell, Chelsea McEwan-Millar and Calum Gittins inhabit their characters well. Photo / Supplied

In choosing a recent work from a rising star of British theatre, Potent Pause Productions is looking towards younger audiences while building on its reputation for taking on challenging works from the modernist canon.

Eigengrau has an up-to-the minute contemporary edge but also demonstrates the value of critical engagement with the rich traditions of European drama. The play holds up a mirror to a protean generation that has proved too fluid to be pinned down by any tagline. The lively drama is carried by a quartet of sharply differentiated characters passionately searching for something to believe in only to find they are willing to believe in anything.

Playwright Penelope Skinner cleverly deconstructs the conventions of romantic comedy with sparklingly witty dialogue interspersed with glimpses of explicit sex.

The light tone is deceptive and the humour is powerfully disrupted by the cathartic emotions of classical tragedy when the play appropriates the act of self-mutilation from the climax of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex.

These stylistic jolts are neatly handled by Paul Gittins' finely honed direction and the superb young cast seem to effortlessly inhabit their idiosyncratic characters.

Calum Gittins is at ease as an unscrupulous womaniser whose insouciant charm seduces both a hard-nosed feminist, convincingly played by Chelsea McEwan Millar, and a relentlessly optimistic latter-day hippie, engagingly brought to life by Michelle Blundell.

The ensemble is nicely rounded off by Simon Ward playing an unemployed loser who turns out to be the most sympathetic character.

Contemporary drama eschews anything that remotely resembles a message, but Eigengrau rises above the bland neutrality of a just-tell-it-like-it-is documentary and offers a moving affirmation of the value of genuine human connection.

Review

What: Eigengrau
Where: The Basement, to November 24.

- NZ Herald

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