Dreamy wonderment offers chocolate-box assortment of life

By Janet McAllister

Dominic Ona-Ariki, of the Massive Company theatre ensemble.
Dominic Ona-Ariki, of the Massive Company theatre ensemble.

As the cast "wake up" at the beginning of this gentle, slow reverie, the audience settles down from busy life to watching an atmospheric dream, sweetly scored by Chris O'Connor, played by the NZTrio, and illustrated in mellow tones by the Cut Collective.

Bed is just the starting point - the dream-logic montage of musings and anecdotes spreads out to encompass neighbourhoods and suburbs. Life is a box of chocolates, an assortment of redemptions: the helpful neighbour, the questioning of faith, the regretted violence, the besotted parent.

The chorus of six take turns in the spotlight: young characters give way to older ones as the show charts movement from the morning to the evening of life. (Surprisingly, romance is omitted in this romantic universe.) In Massive Company tradition, Gary Henderson has "blended, sculpted, refined" the stories of real people. With unsurprising ideas given the lightest of glosses, the script feels pitched to a teenage audience - as well it might be, given Massive Company's traditional focus on youth.

Jane Hakaraia once again bathes the company's stage in an appealing warm glow, and the diverse energy of the piece - interspersing contemplation with dancerly moves - works well. However, heavy portent is given to lines which aren't resonant enough to deserve their pauses and repetition.

The whimsical personal nostalgia sometimes excludes the audience.

But then, every so often, a good line is said as an aside: The sun travels "93 million miles to my bedroom wall, just to say 'wake up"'; and "What if we are just a little painting to God, hanging in his living room?"

The show is at its best when not taking itself too seriously. Miriama McDowell, vivacious and mesmerising, relishes her "Shore girl" parody, and the collective hitting of imaginary snooze buttons - stopping NZTrio's live strings - is fabulous, and turns into a percussive piece all of its own.

The musicians move and surround the actors as the music - rumbling, poignant, charming - nicely envelops and supports the action.

Tasteful wonderment at life.

What: My Bed, My Universe.
Where: Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber, to Sunday; Mangere Arts Centre, April 9-12.

- NZ Herald

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