School Dance reminds us of our school days and a whole lot more

Bronwyn Turei plays Hannah Ellis in School Dance.
David Unwin/Fairfax NZ

Bronwyn Turei plays Hannah Ellis in School Dance.

School Dance, by Matthew Whittet, directed by Darlene Mohekey, Centrepoint Theatre, to April 29, reviewed by Tina White

This show had hardly begun before I was remembering my first school ball, where I'd wished all evening that the handsomest boy in the room would ask me to dance. Never mind the others who did, I saw only that one who didn't. I'm willing to bet there was some similar nostalgia going on in the audience last Saturday night as School Dance unfolded at Centrepoint.

The theatre's new artistic director Daniel Pengelly has started off his tenure with an unexpectedly charming theatrical surprise – but it's hard to describe School Dance without going into spoiler country.

It's what you might expect from its title, and then again, quite different. Matthew Whittet's whimsical comedy is part bizarro-world fantasy, part fairy tale, part coming-of-age saga and mostly a tribute to any geeky, gawky teenage kid who doesn't quite fit, in and out of school.

Darlene Mohekey's deft direction, Ian Harman's brilliant set design and costumes, with Tanya Pilcher's lighting design and the intricate sound, along with pounding dance rhythms, combine to whirl the audience away into a daze of action that never lets up.

The storyline's three "loser" teens – Matt (Kyle Chuen) Jonathon (Andrew Paterson) and Luke (Chris Symon) – and the multi-faceted girl characters played by Bronwyn Turei, have to do some incredibly physical things during the show, but hardly stop to take a breath.

School Dance runs about 80 minutes without an interval.

It's the kind of show that might need a second viewing to fully appreciate the technique involved – for sure, it might remind us of our first school dance, but it also evokes a whole lot more than that.

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 - Stuff

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