Going to a show by Wellington's Binge Culture Collective is always exciting; their risks don't always pay off but they've produced some of the most compelling theatre I've experienced.
Torture became a game show in Elimination Rounds; a self-help seminar was genuinely scary in For Your Future Guidance; a whale beaching in Aotea Square lets us all make ourselves important by being helpful. In 2012, Wake Less seemed confused, but friends another night reported a very different experience, and, as always, Binge Culture played with theatrical limits.
The collective's latest show, Enter the New World, is an audio-guided tour of the Victoria Park New World supermarket (you walk there from the Basement Theatre). Equipped with headphones, we are sailors on "the good ship Conscious Consumer" and the supermarket is a "siren on the rocks" we must outsmart.
It's a promising premise and the soundtrack of epic adventure, composed by Gareth Hobbs and Dvorak (New World Symphony, naturally), is well-produced. Funny moments include a heavy threatening to give your character a "Dolmio grin" with his knife.
Alas, the message is both simplified and unclear. We're told supermarkets are evil but why, exactly? Our sailors don't get any specific mission; instead, we're in the role of the white male explorer in a thin and vague re-enactment of Disney's patriarchal Pocahontas in which, perversely, the new world's inhabitants represent capitalism's victors. (No mention of, say, the congealed labour of plantation workers.)
The mise-en-scene also disappoints. The audience, not the two guides, knew the way to the supermarket. One guide character promises dire consequences if we buy the "expensive capsicums" but it's such a hollow threat we never meet him again.
Overall, it's half-baked. Still, without the show, I wouldn't have seen the $45.99 maple syrup; the show doesn't mention this product, but I did wonder about the morality of a city that buys such luxuries while people go hungry.
But because Binge Culture is capable of so much more, I'll still turn up eagerly to their next show.
What: Auckland Fringe Festival - Enter the New World
Where & when: Basement Theatre; till Saturday
Reviewer: Janet McAllister