16 September 2012

Clarity begins at home

White Cloud
by Tim Finn & Ken Duncum
Bats Theatre, Wellington
12-22 September 2012

Stephen Lovatt & Dena Kennedy
via Theatrereview.org.nz
Last night I went with CP to catch the penultimate performance of Tim Finn and Ken Duncum's very New Zealand play, White Cloud, at Bats Theatre. I've only been to Bats once before, many years ago for a Jo Randerson play, so a return visit was long overdue. The selling point for White Cloud is that the narrative is stitched together from memories and imagined tales attached to old family snapshots; Finn's original songs are interspersed, including the title track, which re-emerges throughout the piece.

The stories are performed by two actors, whose monologues shift in and out of various characters and the snippets of their lives, sometimes overlapping but mostly distinct. Stephen Lovatt is assured and confident in the male role, successfully blending drama and comedy, and Dena Kennedy is likeable too as the female lead, particularly in the whimsical and counter-culturally optimistic 'Have Faith' and when she is quietly affecting in recounting poignant tales of elderly New Zealanders.  

Musical accompaniment is offered by a five-piece band, with lead vocals shared by the talented Ben King (formerly of Goldenhorse and currently of Grand Rapids, and whose solo album I enjoyed a few years back) and Lisa Crawley on keyboards with a dash of clarinet and whistling thrown in. The songs were excellent - memorable melodies and well performed by the band, with deftly handled harmonies. I particularly enjoyed the title track and a puckish number about national identity that offered a chorus something like 'If you're not quite sure who you are / then you're quite possibly a Pakeha'.

Writer Ken Duncum hopes 'this short season is the first step on a longer journey for White Cloud, but we are very happy that it is starting here at Bats Theatre, and look forward to your response as the first audience to see it'. Songsmith Tim Finn reckons the play 'should feel like a family gathering, with all its intimacy and awkwardness, where the ones who are no longer around are toasted and remembered'.

Salvage something that we need to remember
From the wreck of history
Family images of fading splendour
Where they lead I'm following

Oh, and Jemaine Clement was in the audience too, two rows in front, with his lady friend. He wore a natty hat that made him look all New York-y.
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