Scoop Review: Lovers of Central Park
Scoop Review: Lovers of Central ParkReview by Lyndon Hood
Lovers Of Central Park
By James Hadley
Central Park (Meet at Hotel Willis 318 Willis St,
15 Minutes before)
7 - 24 Feb (6.30pm Wed-Sat + 3pm Sat) meeting
Lovers of Central Park takes its audience on a walk exploring romantic love. In keeping with its theme, it is beautiful theatre.
The audience is guided along the wooded paths of Wellington's Central Park constantly discovering moments from some ten different stories of lovers - relationships occuring within that space, in times ranging from 1855 to beyond the present day. The journey is obviously carefully crafted logistically as well as artistically. The effect of constantly stepping into these various layers of stories is like walking through a warm blizzard.
All the stories have love as a central theme but there is an enormous variety in the situations - from a forbidden love in the early colonial era (a sequence mostly in Maori co-written by Teurikore Biddle), to an American Navy Officer trying to woo a kiwi girl in World War Two, to two modern couples trying to sort out their tangled feelings, to future and the most amiable post-apocalytpic scenario I've ever seen, and many more besides.
Each of these stories had its own arc, and between them they - and our guides - took us through relationships from the beginnings to the death, through the joy, the loss, the ordinariness and the potential horror of love and loneliness. These universal ideas are explored in stories which are all very much of their time.
There were scattered readings of old love poems (as far as I can recall, almost the only actual use of the L word by any of the characters), as well as more abstract sequences at the start and finish, and at a moment when the stories are at or near their tipping points (this is also at the geographical high point of the journey).
But the actual stories are presented naturalistically. Strictly, this means by conveying, sometimes through artifice, the sense of reality (the actors must, for example, be heard, and almost always were). But between the quality of the acting, the dialogue and indeed the costuming, one did not feel the spell being woven, despite having sometimes just been chivvied into exactly the right place to stand. Far from seeming unnatural in the real outdoors, the scenes inhabited the space fully, even transforming in our minds to their own timeframe and personality. I hope some of that alchemy will remain on my next visit to the park.
The performances are uniformally excellent - credit has to be given to the impressively large cast and the directors (James Hadley, L’hibou Hornung, Harriette Cowan, Kate Tarrant and Andrew Mackenzie). The use of multiple co-director may have helped add to the sense of variety in a play where even single character had a distinct voice and humanity to them.
This sincerity, and the simple proximity that the audience often has to the characters, makes the perfomance very intimate as well as - in terms of location - physically engulfing. In fact some members of the audience were clearly feeling the urge to become involved in the action.
A moment of ritual ends the journey, drawing together the threads of story we have collected into a love-affirming whole. It also allows the audience to step back from their personal involvement and simply appreciate a production that is remarkable both in form and execution.
They bill it as '"the most romantic show of in the Fringe Festival" and it's hard to imagine them being wrong. Wear you walking shoes. Numbers are limited, and you will almost certainly have to book. Now is good.