Play focuses on Courtenay Pl nightlife

TOM CARDY
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
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LIFE FORCE: Long Cloud Youth Theatre's new show is based on the nightlife of Wellington's Courtenay Place. Cast members include, from left, Livvy Nonoa, Lewis Mcleod, Lily della Porta and Olivia Mahood.

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In the evenings, most people go to Courtenay Place in Wellington for what it is best known for – bars, restaurants and a bustling nightlife.

But, for about 20 young actors and theatre director Leo Gene Peters, going to Courtenay Place at night was all about work.

Courtenay Place and surrounding streets were a source of inspiration for Perfectly Wasted.

The play, opening on Friday, looks at people out on the town, from attending a party at someone's home to heading into downtown bars and nightclubs.

As part of their research, Peters and members of Long Cloud Youth Theatre company went to Courtenay Place at the weekend to interview people about their experiences of going out.

"People are so quick to tell these amazingly personal things about the night. It's such an enjoyable, weird experience.

"People would tell embarrassing stories, really candidly, with no shame. It's that kind of thing where you've survived it and you've had the shame the next day and you go 'oh, why did I do that?'"

Peters says the strangers they encountered weren't put off when the group explained it wanted to hear their stories for possible inclusion in the play. "Most of the interviews would start off a little bit awkward but, soon as they got their head around it, they would start talking and not stop. We would go for a 10-minute interview and get 40 minutes."

Other sources and research for the play, which has been devised by Peters and the actors, who are part of the theatre company's summer school project, included their own experiences and also asking friends and family.

They also solicited contributions via social media.

The cast began working on the play in October and, in recent weeks, have been whittling down the research and stories into the basis of the play.

Important to the play is how it will use the space in Downstage theatre. The main performance will be "in the round" and is the first time the main auditorium has been reconfigured since Apollo 13: Mission Control in 2010.

But, as Peters says, Perfectly Wasted also "bleeds" into other parts of Downstage, including the bar on the first floor. The bar will feature summaries of some of the night-out stories the theatre company collated and the audience can contribute their stories if they wish.

"It's a reflective space where people can read stories, write up your own thing or even graffiti the walls. It's an event where you can, in a very easy way, hang out, chill and chat with people you want to, like at a party. Or you can just sit in the corner and hang out with your mates and have your own night out and experience the show in whatever way you want."

Having the play in the round will also mean different experiences for the audience depending on where they are seated, Peters says.

It includes a scene at a party in someone's home. Those closest to the action on the deck of the home will have a different experience to that of those closer to what is happening in the living room.

However, Perfectly Wasted isn't simply a depiction of what happens in central Wellington once the sun goes down. Peters says the play looks at several aspects to "going out". It includes our aspirations and how – often helped by alcohol – people's behaviour changes. "It's trying to reflect on it in a way. People go out and they drink all the time – it's so prevalent in our culture. But we are often not happy with our behaviour. It's having that opportunity to reflect, even on the things we don't like about it."

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Peters, whose previous works include the play Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants in 2011, says what Long Cloud Youth Theatre has also come to realise is that there is something more to people's desire to go out on the town and enjoy themselves married with their hopes for what will happen, planned or not.

"In a way the night is a metaphor for our lives," he says. "We are trying to do that with our lives all the time – our careers, our families – even if we don't articulate it. That's kind of what we want. We want the most meaning and the most beauty.

THE DETAILS

Perfectly Wasted, Downstage, Wellington, February 1-16

- The Dominion Post

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