Review: The Intricate Art of Actually Caring
Like the characters in it, this play itself has been on somewhat of a journey since it first saw the light of day as part of the 2009 Fringe Festival.
Then it was a little innovative and off the wall production performed in the writer's bedroom. Now, three years and three productions later, it is in essence still the same play, performed by the same actors in the same laidback but engaging style, but somehow the intimacy of the audience actually being part of the characters' lives and experiencing with them their journey has been lost in the transfer to Downstage Theatre.
Their mate Johnny has just died, on his 21st birthday. Do they actually care is the question they ask themselves.
It also transpires that James K Baxter was the great-uncle of one of them, Eli (Eli Kent), yet he really has no interest in his family history. His bedroom is also stacked with poetry books, care of his mother, which he has no interest in.
It is his mate Jack (Jack Shadbolt) who becomes the driving force, becoming interested in poetry, that of Baxter and Hone Tuwhare, and wanting to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, up the Whanganui River to where Baxter is buried.
It will also be a way of exercising their guilt over not care or understanding why they don't care about Johnny's death.
Thus they embark on a road trip which takes up most of the play. Not just a trip to Baxter's grave but a journey of self-discovery, about themselves and their relationship to each other and life in general.
Using the same devices as in previous productions – such as simple but effective overhead projections to flesh out the road trip and the people they encounter – they talk to each other, and the audience, interspersed with poetry readings, in a way that although is existentialist in concept is nevertheless engaging.
The style of delivery is laidback and casual yet hauntingly perceptive as they probe their inner thoughts and feelings. Both actors have a way of engaging with their audience that is endearing and totally believable and as a team under Eleanor Bishop's direction the two work exceptionally well together, comfortable in each other's space yet providing moments of tension when needed to add depth to the piece.
The humour, often dark, is genuinely funny and offers counterpoint to the many poignant moments that makes this piece of theatre, even if seen before, well worth seeing again.
The Intricate Art of Actually Caring by Eli Kent directed by Eleanor Bishop Downstage Theatre, until June 3
The Dominion Post