REVIEW: Vague Meditations and the Irresponsible Use of a Time Machine (New Performance Festival)

A scene from Vague Meditations and the Irresponsible Use of a Time Machine

Vague vs Vivid [by Sharu Delilkan]

A scene from Vague Meditations and the Irresponsible Use of a Time Machine

As we walked into the Wintergarden we were greeted by one of the three actors Leo Gene Peters, who handed us notecards with pens.

“What is this for?” we asked. Please list down 5 things that you are afraid you won’t achieve before you die, he said. To which I answered, “Is that the opposite of a bucket list?” Leo nodded and smiled.

I really liked the fact that every audience member was able to interact with the three cast members, even before the show started. Almost like we were being made to feel comfortable while being asked to do something uncomfortable – almost like bearing one’s soul.

It took me a while before I started writing. “What if what I write isn’t good enough?” I thought. I turned to my husband seated next to me and said “Is this going to be anonymous? Because if it is I could take a whole different tone.”

The Wellington-based performance company A Slightly Isolated Dog kicked off the show like a chat, as advertised in the programme for their latest show Vague Meditations and the Irresponsible Use of a Time Machine.

People shouted out what they had written down. Among the obscure things were “fear of not fulfilling my potential” and “I want to have sex with my partner at my parents’ party”.

I was all set for a very artsy audience participation chat about the meaning of life, when all of a sudden something changed (not telling). The change at first was subtle and revealed itself to be very smart, bringing us into a different story (not telling) and world (not telling). Suffice to say it was skillfully done through various very clever, low budget but highly effective means using humour, depression, absurdity, familiarity and nostalgia for bygone experiences.

All I CAN say is that unlike what we were led to believe, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a ‘scripted play’. The Segway was so smooth that we were sucked into the whole situation, without warning – absolute genius!

The ‘play’ had all the elements including straight acting, silent storytelling with placards, puppetry and even some hip gyration. All of which was fast paced, making the whole presentation fascinating.

One thing I thought the whole experience lacked was an ending, a punctuation point to bring us full circle to where it started. I almost expected some of the audience’s equivocal suggestions to be interwoven into the play, giving it an improv element. This would have left us with a feeling of satisfaction that only comes from having a good conversation. Instead I felt rather abandoned, particularly since there was no mention of our emotional experiences once ‘the play’ commenced – something that could possibly be addressed if this show is given a new lease of life.

This innovative piece was very shrewdly conceived. At first sight it didn’t appear to have been conceived at all. But closer inspection revealed the intelligence of thought behind it, which shone through in its delivery. I for one was left exhilarated and impressed.

The cunning stunt, a devious slight of hand, was enjoyable as well as an absolute privilege and pleasure to be a part of and to witness. Shame it was only on for one night.

A Slightly Isolated Dog presented Vague Meditations and the Irresponsible Use of a Time Machine as part of the New Performance Festival on 23 February at The Wintergarden, The Civic. Details see The Edge.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview review by Stephen Austin

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