REVIEW: Looking At Stuff in Clouds (Playfight Productions)

Looking at Stuff in Clouds
Looking at Stuff in Clouds

One way of passing time [by Matt Baker]

Looking at Stuff in Clouds
Looking at Stuff in Clouds

Less a play and more a series of vignettes, the fourth production by Playfight, written and performed by co-founders Shoshana McCallum and Donna Brookbanks, is a self-proclaimed thought provoking commentary on the human condition in the naughties. Said commentary is broken, however, between the nine aforementioned vignettes, and consequently offers little insight into the grander scheme of things that philosophical pareidolia can potentially afford.

While comically based, and well executed in that respect, the scenes don’t offer much other than the pleasure of watching these two actresses enjoying their own work. That isn’t to say that either the performers or scenes are indulgent in any way, only that the lack of narrative tension and release within them result in the overall production being a wholly character based work. Said lack in narrative is, however, moulded well by director Jessica Joy Wood, who clearly extracts enough dynamism from the text for the writers/actresses to work with, while keeping in the style of the material, preventing it from becoming stagnant. Andrew Potvin’s lighting design, however, seems to reflect the abrupt nature of the piece, but is nicely utilised in the hilarious Candle/USB scene.

While I prefer to avoid direct quotes, there is a line spoken by McCallum towards the end of the play which invites examination; “I don’t wanna give the audience the reward they really want.” Within the context of the scene, it’s hilarious; within the context of the production, it’s ironic and seems to act as a disclaimer to justify what the audience has just witnessed – especially when considering the sudden ending which follows mere moments later.

This production has great potential. Particular characters and scenes of note included McCallum’s elocutionary youth, a pair of farmers’ eponymous recreation, and McCallum’s smug new-age ideology spouting Candle versus Brookbanks’ pessimistic USB. Octogenarians Phyllis and Frank were also potential candidates, however, the lack of advancement in their repetition resulted in a weak denouement for their scene. Were the script to be given a more cohesive theme running through it, and were links between characters and events to be made, I have no doubt that Looking At Stuff in Clouds could find a poignancy that resonates more clearly. In the mean time, it is an undoubtedly funny show performed by two undoubtedly great character actresses.

Looking At Stuff in Clouds is presented by Playfight Productions and plays at The Basement Studio until 13 September. Details see The Basement.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe

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