Reviewed by: Waikato Times
Reviewer: Gail Pittaway
Date: 21st August, 2009
Imagine a world in which young people don’t talk to their parents and choose to escape from the monotony of their suburban landscapes into virtual worlds of games. Worlds where virtuality becomes more exciting than reality. Not so difficult is it?
This recent play by American author Jennifer Haley translates remarkably easily into a contemporary NZ town, with brick and tile suburbs, empty streets and vast silences between generations. While there have been many notable movies which play upon virtual reality – dating from perhaps Tron and Ghost in the Machine- this might be one of the few plays which tackle the idea. It’s relevant, compelling and very entertaining. The kids are more alive online than AFK (away from the keyboard); the parents think the kids have become monsters, then call themselves monsters when they realise they have ignored them and allowed this to happen.
The Carving In Ice Company, directed by Gaye Poole, is perfectly placed to realise the concept. For its relatively young cast, already experienced with interpreting and working on plays with unpredictable set -ups or unusual scripts, like Attempts on her Life, this play is probably rather straight forward. Each scene is enacted between two characters--combinations of parents and /or children, of four families in the same neighbourhood.
While the characters interact they are also not entirely rounded—rather more as if dazed or dulled. Only when two young characters interact as in the opening scene, between Zoe Vaile and Alex Tarrant Keepa, is there a sense of authenticity and transaction of energy. For the most, however, the play suppresses that instinct of connection in performance by providing a stilted script, stereotypical, flattened characters, and, structured in episodes, a fractured narrative that inexplicably suggests impending threat. In other words, it’s mimicking the very games it is describing.
The cast are evenly good- from the establishing scene already mentioned it moves to building suspense, to a girlfriend and mother politely discussing a son/boyfriend as if talking about different people. Then a son and father discuss the mysterious death and treatment of a cat as if they are having two other conversations; two neighbours, adults from two households discuss their children and the smashing of a garden gnome; and in yet another scene a mother confronts a neighbour wielding a weed-eater like an AK47. All sense doom in the neighbourhood.
Standout performances are from, Keagan Fransch as Chelsea and Alistair Swale as Steve, Mandy Faulkner as Barbara, and Jason Tolley as Blake/Zombiekllr. Michael Forde, Richard Homan, Sara Young and Michael Gaastra as game master also shine, while Athene Jensen shifts reality back and forward in the closing scene with chilling intensity.
In every good show there’s at least one moment when it all comes together like opera-- the acting, the script, the lighting and sound, the properties and set. In this production, while each scene is arresting and each part a cameo, that moment came when the computer game of “Neighourhood 3” came alive on stage. A woman and an avatar, with a background of moving street scene, moving at the pace of their running feet- neither knowing who is real or indeed what reality is any more.
I drove home through the brick and tile suburbs and empty streets to boot my son offhis new computer game download and get to the computer. Unreal.
Reviewed by: Hamilton Press
Reviewer: Nick Silvester
Date: 26th August, 2009
PLAY MIXES VIRTUAL WITH REAL WORLD
CARVING in Ice’s latest production Neighbourhood 3: Requisition of Doom
brings a concept to the stage that is both entertaining and intriguing. Many parents would have had the experience of trying to have a conversation with the back of an unresponsive teenager’s head, whether they are engaged in a video game as portrayed here, or another piece of technology like a cellphone – and this is one of the mainstays on the play.
It revolves around a suburb where a few teenagers have been spending a lot of time playing a zombie battling video game that is set in their own neighbourhood. The play’s adult characters are aware that something sinister is happening, but nobody wants to confront the fact that their children could be involved. The play builds the tension from here, until things reach breaking point.
The play’s digital backgrounds worked well with the subject matter, and the point in the play where the virtual and the real world collide was well thought out.
The play has only two characters on stage at a time, and overall the cast were convincing, with notable performances from Richard Homan, Mandy Faulkner, Michael Forde, Keagan Fransch and Alistair Swale. Jason Tolley did well as both Blake and his character from the game Zombiekllr14.
The game had the audience laughing, as the characters’ mannerisms were a very good imitation of the characters in a certain real online game.