REVIEW: RAW! ASMR (Auckland Fringe)

Review by Tim George

[Gonzo! The musical]

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) refers to specific audio-visual stimuli which cause an individual to experience a tingling sensation around the head and the back of the head. 

Outside of youtube recommendations and advertisements, I have almost no experience with ASMR.

That ignorance was hammered home about 0.5 seconds into the show when creator/performer Amy Atkins asked the audience what the acronym stood for.

The set is barebones – a trestle table stands in front of a screen, with a microphone stand in the far left corner of the stage. 

Projected on the screen is the live feed from a cellphone camera on a tripod, pointing at the table.

The table might as well be called Checkov’s Showcase – an array of various hard and soft fruit are placed in a row, like suspects in a lineup.

While the show is designed for ASMR, all those fruit reminded me of one of those model cities Godzilla would destroy. 

Directed by Sara Hirsch, RAW! is charming in its lack of deeper meaning.

It is ASMR, and it is raw.

But what makes the show work is how Atkins uses silence, and quiet, to focus the audience’s attention and draw out suspense. 

As the show progresses, she pushes at the audience’s senses and sensibilities, adding and subtracting the visual to make the experience more disorienting. 

Since this is Fringe and taking place in the Basement’s Studio, it eventually descends into chaos. 

Because of the distance of traditional stagecraft, that chaos is amplified by cinematic techniques – lingering close-ups and – in a gloriously depraved touch – contrapuntal sound, as the sounds Atkins creates are separated, replayed and drawn out until they form a delirious wall of sound.

It is ridiculous, it is gonzo and it is very funny.

RAW! ASMR plays Basement Theatre Studio 30th August to 3rd September, 2022 as part of Auckland Fringe.

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