Expect the unexpected [by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth]
A Benjamin Henson show is always distinctly and recognisably his, and Not Psycho is no exception. I must admit that each time I see a Henson play I realise more and more that his creative mind is that of an evil genius. Having seen his most recently creation Ghastly Dash Grimm: A Tale Of Unease, Henson might be in danger of becoming Auckland’s very own Tim Burton but then again who knows what he’s planning to write next!
That being said his plays always have his stamp and quirky take on the well-known. Henson’s ability to take the tried and tested and turn it on its head, keeps Henson junkies coming back for more.
Not Psycho is a clever premise, intelligently delivered, which highlights our desire to please others and displays which moral lines we choose to or not to cross in the process.
The acting by the 6-strong cast is also to be commended. Everyone pulls his or her weight in equal measure demonstrating great skill with the myriad of roles they have to play, making it difficult to choose a stand out. However I believe that Edwin Beats, as the protagonist Matthew, should be given particular mention for being able to stay in character for the duration of the play, during which he has no offstage time at all – which is quite a feat considering the running time of just under the 1 hour 45 minute mark. His uncanny ability to underplay his role with a vulnerable and convincing humanity was truly a sight to behold.
The numerous accent changes that the actors had to adhere to throughout the piece was also quite impressive for the most part, bar a few slip ups which are totally forgivable given first night jitters.
The production’s set is innovative [a collaborative effort from 6 designers based on a model by Christine Urquhart], effective and extremely well thought out. Likewise the seamless costume changes were equally impressive. I assume Eliza Josephson-Rutter should be credited for these smooth transitions. However unfortunately I have no idea who to credit for the fabulous costumes that provided the visual spectacle, matching the superb set [Editor’s Note: I am advised costume design was a collective effort].
Like many in the audience at times the production in front of our eyes was the case of sensory overload, both audio and visual. Speaking of which both Rachel Marlow’s and Thomas Press’ lighting design and soundscape were pivotal to setting the stage and ambience that we were all sucked into. The overall mood that they created made us feel like we were sitting on the edge of our seats for most of the evening.
Everything is unexpected in this play and the audience’s bewilderment with how it was all going to play out was heightened via numerous devices. One of which was the traverse staging where the action and dialogue was taking place on each end, positioning the audience as if in a Gothic Tennis Match with scenes alternating between, and sometimes even taking place concurrently.
The constant change of pace, plot and mood left little or no time for character development, which some might have found unsettling. But it worked well as a deliberate device which complemented the extraordinary treatment of the subject matter of murder, incest, psychoanalysis and greed.
So if you have guests in town who want to see ‘NZ theatre’ with three acts, a traditional storyline with a neat ending, my advice is don’t bother. But if you enjoy a visual and bloody feast, with fabulous acting, innovative direction and imaginative production then make sure you go. It may give you nightmares but it will definitely be worth it!
Presented by Fractious Tash, Not Psycho plays at Q Loft until 29 Aug. Details see Q