REVIEW: Force Field (Auckland Fringe)

Review by Matt Baker

[To be reckoned with]

Everyone has their own fantasy. Whether it’s living alone in a cabin in the woods, the nuclear family with the white picket fence, or somewhere in between, we each have our own scenario in which if we had that one thing, we would be happy. The truth, however, is that most of us don’t really know what we want, and those who achieve their fantasies are often quick to find there was something much more important to be had.

Enter Chris (Duncan Armstong) and his desire to have a girlfriend for whom he picks vegetables, cooks dinner, and washes dishes. The idea of the ideal partner is one with which many can relate, especially when juxtaposed against the other woman in Chris’ life – his mother. Think Her by Spike Jonze, but instead of learning how to reconnect with the world through the loss of love and false idolisation, our protagonist is learning the importance of independence through the manifestations (both good and bad) of his psyche.

Thanks to design by Meg Rollandi (AV, set, and costume), Jason Wright (composition), and Marcus McShane (lighting), the world which Chris creates has no limitations. The aesthetic is incredibly cohesive, with the lighting transitions and sound levels (operated by Isobel MacKinnon and Jason Wright) perfectly balanced for the Basement mainstage space. Most importantly, the character of Fiona (voice by MacKinnon), is personified with simple evocations, the lack of anthropomorphism allowing the audience to project their own image of the character.

Created by Armstrong and MacKinnon, the most interesting factor is that while Armstrong has Down syndrome, this is never incorporated as a plot piece or character device. Chris is an everyman. He has his fantasies, as we all do. And in order for such diversity in practical representation (as opposed to necessarily mimetic) to not only continue on stage, but to become commonplace, one must first acknowledge not only the step these practitioners have made, but the success with which they have made it.

Force Field is presented by Everybody Cool Lives Here and plays at The Basement until Feb 24 as part of Auckland Fringe. 

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