Trojan Barbie at Waikato University superb theatre

Georgia Pollock and Tycho Smith are cast in Waikato University's Trojan Barbie.

Georgia Pollock and Tycho Smith are cast in Waikato University's Trojan Barbie.

What: Trojan Barbie
Who: Theatre Studies: University of Waikato
When: Wednesday, May 31 to June 3 
Where: Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
Wriitten by: Christine Evans
Director: Gaye Poole
Note: Mature content and strong language
Reviewer: Sam Edwards

A challenging shift of venue from the usual Playhouse Theatre to the smaller Te Whare Tapere Iti made Wednesday night's performance an intimate and revealing affair. Intimate in that the audience was close enough to the actors to feel part of the play, revealing in that the proximity made it impossible for the audience not to feel the emotional intensity generated by the players. Two of them in particular had memorable performances. Sherrie Roue-Walker gave us Polly, a young, naive, newly fledged girl who shifted from a wild dreamer to find herself in the company of soldiers who used her like a doll, a trope introduced at the beginning of the play when Georgia Pollock's English tourist turned up as a repairer of dolls. Lily Empson turned up in Cassandra, Polly's older sister, and the same Trojan princess who in Greek mythology was a seer and a prophet. Empson's Cassandra, however, was a kaleidoscopic storm of unpredictable emotion, prescient wisdom, and a total lack of respect for ordinary social norms. Fey, gracefully graceless, a genuine oxymoron of a character, her eventual death was as tragic as her attacks on the undeserving were hilarious. In the role, Empson shifted from Theatre of the Absurd unpredictability, through the erotic, to perspicacious and tragic understanding as if she were born to the theatre. From sheer joy at the wit, to a nightmarishly personal tristesse at the tragedy, Evans's work, brought to life by this versatile and well-trained group from director Gaye Poole's stable, was at once provocative and satisfying. How could one not shout with laughter when the very correct English tourist began her packing list with "Passport, imodium, and aspirin…" No one did.

There may have been a problem for some in the audience in that the play required concentration and mental interaction to extract its best qualities. Right from the opening moments, the audience seemed to be rather strangely respectful and rather less inclined to react to high points with noise or movement or to deliver any kind of overt response to the unfolding narrative. True, the structure was a little unwieldy, morphing from ancient Troy to modern Turkey without the usually obvious dramatic indicators as it followed the human journey of violence and dictatorial authority through the millennia.

The narrative, however, was essentially character driven, and the constant time warping was well controlled by the dramatic strength and movement of the players. It was a different, engaging, and revealing performance, and typical of those evenings which have made me a regular visitor to productions from this group.

The play's run continues until Saturday, June 3. 


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