Acting duo open performance to people from other industries to try to find a new perspective on their work.

Acting duo open performance to people from other industries to try to find a new perspective on their work

Stephen Bain and Nisha Madhan want to know how people react to What Have You Done to Me?

Theatre-makers Nisha Madhan and Stephen Bain have created a unique experiment for their new show at The Basement, What Have You Done To Me? They've invited 30 representatives from various industries to watch the play, then critique it from the perspective of what they do for their day jobs.

A second-hand dealer will value the set and props, a cleaning company will quote how much it will cost to tidy up afterwards, a horse-racing commentator will compare the performance to a race, a lawyer will offer legal advice to the two characters, and a relationship counsellor will provide couples' counselling. Their musings will be posted online.


What Have You Done To Me? is an absurdist cabaret about relationships and obsessions, loosely inspired by the work of French photographer Sophie Calle as well as Madhan's own partnership with Bain.

"I've always been interested in the context of how theatre plays out in daily life, whether it's relevant and what's the point of it all," says Bain, who has worked throughout Europe, North America and Australia on new works where performing arts disciplines mix and theatrical conventions are tossed aside.

"That's why we've invited these experts, to see what it means to them, to get a better idea of how to contextualise it for other people. I guess we'll end up extracting information and finding out things about the show that we didn't realise were there."

Madhan and Bain will take the play to Finland's New Performance Turku Festival after its Auckland season.

Madhan's company, The Towncentre, is staging another play at The Basement this week -- Lies, in which cast members Julia Croft, Lara Fischel-Chisholm, Simon Haren and Ash Jones lie, cheat and run gleefully into the face of possible failure.

There is a story -- of sorts -- replete with the types of narrative tropes commonly used in theatre: a scare, a love scene, crying, a meaningful moment and a dangerous threat.

"Theatre is about artifice so this piece really explores that and, I guess, strives to get to something quite pure," says Madhan. "We look at the way theatre is made; for example, the crying scene involves the actors in a crying competition."

Theatre Preview
What: What Have You Done To Me?

Where and when: The Basement, to September 13

What: Lies

Where and when: The Basement, September 6-13