REVIEW: Limited Time Only (Te Pou)

Review by Ben Shand-Clennell

Limited Time Only is an entertaining and heartfelt exploration of love, loss, and what is important in life. 

The play follows three siblings who meet up on the one-year anniversary of their mum passing. Opening a mysterious envelope thrusts the siblings into a reluctant journey through the nearby wilderness, with the promise of treasure. The story is funny and emotionally sincere, rousing the audience to laughter and (at least one reviewer) to tears. The writer/director, Hone Ngāwaka Taukiri, expertly lays down plot points and motifs, and revisits them in moving ways throughout the piece. 

The play feels like a 90s road trip movie. Three siblings grudgingly band together for a common goal. They need to work together but still keep secrets from one another. After emotional confrontations, they learn that they each have useful skills and that they can learn to overcome their flaws by being a bit like the others. The play even has Colgate-Feature-esque advertisement breaks. Far from being detracting, this adhesion to the tropes creates a recognisable framework to tell a delightful and genuine story, and creates an instant sentimental hit. 

The advertisement breaks, and the extradiegetic music breaks, are both creative and very well executed. These absurdist elements work well as a way to transition between scenes, and to show some of the internal machinations of the characters. It is even more rewarding that these advertisement breaks become relevant to the story, at the end. One of these advertisement breaks involves audience interaction, and the performer of this, Mateusz Budzyna-Dawidowski, skilfully works with the audience, especially the children in attendance.

The performers all impressively realise the characters, and each gives a uniquely commanding performance. Of particular note are the musical pieces. Hone Ngāwaka Taukiri, should also be commended for finding so many ways to utilise all three singing voices. Nikeidrian Lologa Peters’s performances on the guitar and keyboard are extraordinary and add a lot to the play as a whole. Makanihi Tohu finds a plethora of small moments to draw attention to, and extract the poignance out of.

The set and props within the play are sparse, but used to great effect. Chairs stood in for boats, mountains, butterfly wings, and skydiving harnesses – just to name a few. It is always entertaining to experience a production which exclusively uses a singular resource, in this case chairs, but utilises it in exciting and comprehensive ways. This leads to very inventive and compelling theatre.

The programme describes this play as a ‘human story’, and this is an apt distillation. Hone Ngāwaka Taukiri does an incredible job of creating a piece of theatre that portrays the oft intangible effect of ‘journey’ on humans. The characters are not materially changed by the events of the play, but the journey has left an indelible mark, and the characters are given a new perspective. This is done well, and makes for a satisfying and enchanting play. 

Limited Time Only is an earnest, funny and heartfelt piece. The performers masterfully bring the characters to life and integrate the absurdist elements with ease. The creatives have all done well to construct such an interesting and cohesive piece of theatre. 

 Limited Time Only plays at the Te Pou Theatre as part of the 2023 Rangatahi Season, from the 21st to the 25th of November, 2023.

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