Theatre review: Love After Dark, The Basement

By Paul Simei-Barton

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Joel Herbert plays a a borderline manic-depressive in Thicker Than Water. Photo / Supplied
Joel Herbert plays a a borderline manic-depressive in Thicker Than Water. Photo / Supplied

The Basement's reputation as a hot-house for new talent is emphatically confirmed by a blast of youthful energy that has teams of young actors, each with their own writer and director, devising three short plays.

The plays are all set in motion by the same opening lines and the teams have come up with intriguing variations on an open-ended scenario in which four party-people try to coax a reluctant stay-at-home to join them for a night on the town.

First up, To Cassette, offers a wry commentary on the courtship rituals of Kiwi youth - ranging from the anxiety-ridden awkwardness of a geeky first date through to the crudely utilitarian, down-to-business approach.

Writer Brad Johnson displays a great ear for naturalistic dialogue with fluid overlapping conversations capturing the shambolic flow of a pre-party drinking session.

The sharply drawn characters provide plenty of opportunities for the cast and Jatinder Singh convincingly represents the alcoholic fuelled machismo of a Kiwi Casanova while Peter Coates is engagingly sweet as the love-struck nerd.

The second offering Thicker than Water delivers a disturbing portrait of a borderline manic-depressive brought to life in a strong, brooding performance by Joel Herbert.

There is some great humour as Jacqui Nauman's character is manipulated into
seducing a morose, unresponsive partner but the supporting characters are not clearly distinguished from each other and the bombshell ending somehow fails to ignite.

For the final play, Love After Dark, playwright Colin Garlick has created a clever play-within-a-play structure heavily laced with post-modern irony.

The cast skilfully cope with a demanding set-up that requires them to switch between hammy performances in the play they are rehearsing and the naturalistic dialogue of students engaging in drama school banter.

There are some hilarious exchanges as the actors obsessively analyse their performances, massage their fragile egos and savagely criticise the script.

An explosive tantrum from the exasperated director played by Ema Barton provides a comical climax to a highly entertaining show.

What: Love After Dark
Where: The Basement
When: Until October 15

- Herald online

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