REVIEW: Bus Stop (Auckland Fringe)

Bus Stop
Bus Stop

Any minute now… [by Matt Baker]

Bus Stop
Bus Stop

Youth suicide. It’s an unquestionably prevalent and heavy-handed topic, and it’s been chosen as the theme for Dark Horse Productions’ (a group of eight of The Actors’ Program graduates) fringe show. Writers notes, and Youthline and LifeLine advertisements in the programme indicate a genuine attempt to address the issue, however, it would have been more pertinent if the theme had been more integrated into the direct subject matter instead of layered as a thin veil over the majority of the scenes. While this may have been done to avoid pressuring the audience into a particular theatrical environment, ultimately, it leaves the play unfulfilled.

The combination of characters is questionable, with only two degrees of separation between them and the victim. Apparently only dysfunctional families, prostitutes, and teachers are the ones who youth suicide really affects. Art reflecting life is a fundamental concept, and, for those who have been directly affected by youth suicide, the show delivers a minor degree of emotional representation through Anoushka Klaus’ Sylvia. However, for those who are removed from the subject, there is nothing. The character with the most to learn, Alex MacDonald’s Ben, doesn’t. Instead, he sits in a bus stop with a bloodied hand (which no one questions) creepily pontificating to a schoolgirl, and then argues with his partner who’s just lost a student with whom she had developed a personal relationship. Dick.

This mosaic of interrelatedness revolves around the titular bus stop, except for the parental scenes, which are presented with a direct to audience monologue and symbolic tango, just because. There’s also some abruptly addressed incest, again, just because. Viewed separately, some scenes are entertaining, with highlight performances including Mikassa Cornwall’s Margaret and Lisa, Simea Holland’s Maddie, and Samuel Christopher’s Wiremu. Director Scott Wills also takes on the role of Peter, adding some depth of age to the cast as well as more settled, naturalistic style of acting.

The overall style of the production is generally realistic, with a moment of absurdism from ‘Teddy’ that is lost due to soap-opera dialogue, and some spot-lighting effects to highlight the beginning and end of the show (and characters’ journeys, I guess). Music and sound is far too loud. Ultimately, the show, like the fate of some of its characters, simply doesn’t pull out of the station.

Bus Stop plays at TAPAC as part of Auckland Fringe until Sun 24 Feb. Details see Auckland Fringe.

SEE ALSO: review by Lexie Matheson

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