[The worm’s audience turns]
The stage is bare aside from bundles of beige cloth. When the show begins, the most human-shaped of the bundles begins to move.
This is Worm (Phoebe Hurst), the latest denizen to occupy the Basement’s Studio. If there was ever a Mount Rushmore for the various entities that have slithered and crawled across its boards, Worm would be on it.
A one cephalopod-show created by Hurst, WORM is a comic extrapolation of the essentialist existence of the humble worm, transformed into an interactive performance piece that requires full participation (or else).
There is no plot to speak of. An organism who is seemingly only interested in eating and procreation, Worm demands that the audience take its various tasks seriously. You can laugh if you like, but if she gives you something to do…
The funniest thing about Worm is how fiendishly simple it is – Hurst is building a character with a personality out of a creature that is motivated by no higher function beyond basic life-sustaining actions. In overview this premise could feel small – but Hurst mines it for everything she can get out of it.
Hurst’s performance as Worm is completely and gloriously ridiculous – the unbroken Kubrickian stare beneath the greasepaint eyebrows, the darting tongue, the diabolical grin. The audience may laugh but it is clear the joke is completely on them.
With a tight runtime that feels hilariously protracted, Worm never out-stays its welcome. The pace is dictated by Hurst’s interactions with the audience – there was an attempt at stonewalling during my show, and it did not resolve in the way anybody expected.
While it is questionable whether Worm will affect peoples’ appreciation for the vital role worms play in our everyday lives, it proves once again that Basement Theatre’s Studio remains the venue of choice for Auckland’s most absurd and imaginative productions.
WORM plays Basement Theatre until 19 October.