Review: Heroic Faun No One at the Basement

By Paul Simei-Barton

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Gregory Cooper's one-man play is based on his experiences working as an un-named faun on the 'Chronicles of Narnia'. Photo / Supplied
Gregory Cooper's one-man play is based on his experiences working as an un-named faun on the 'Chronicles of Narnia'. Photo / Supplied

In recent years getting a gig as an extra on a mega-budget Hollywood epic has become an almost obligatory rite of passage for aspiring Kiwi actors - something akin to the way an earlier generation were marked by improv workshops or the inevitable Shortland Street episode.

Gregory Cooper's melancholy reflections on the long months he spent working as an un-named faun on the Chronicles of Narnia describe how the surreal experience of helping to create a make-believe world can be both arduous and enlightening.

The one-man show engages the audience with an intimate conversational tone and presents a vividly personal memoir complete with data-projector slides, video footage and souvenir mementoes of the journey.

On one level it feels like a piece of scintillating dinner party conversation that brings us tantalisingly close to the glitz and glamour of a genuine Hollywood blockbuster:

There are fascinating details about make-up, prosthetics and camera angles; chance encounters with stars; some seriously salacious gossip about an Oscar winner's liaison with a promiscuous centaur; an initiation into the alchemy of CGI (computer generated imagery) by which a pair of lime-green tights with red dots is miraculously transformed into the hind quarters of a deer.

However, the intoxication soon gives way to a mind-numbing cycle of 10-hour days spent waiting for a 10-second take and the heartbreak of seeing months of work reduced to a blink-and-you-miss-it moment of screen time.

It is at this point that Cooper's sharp observations and ironic sense of humour bring a moral dimension to the story that is far more satisfying than dinner party anecdotes.

Despite a growing awareness that no one cares about his performance, Cooper pours his heart and soul into his role and hilariously employs Stanislavski's rigorous system of preparation in order to become one with faun.

By refusing to compromise his artistic integrity the plucky faun finds himself locked into a life-and-death struggle with the cynical get-what-you-can attitude of the aforementioned centaur.

The conflict comes to a head in a brilliantly enacted nightmare sequence and the hapless but indubitably heroic faun reaches an epiphany of sorts when some homely advice from Scottish screen star James McAvoy affirms the aphorism attributed to King Solomon: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

What: Heroic Faun No One.

Where: The Basement until June 30.

- NZ Herald

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