Fringe 2008, BATS Theatre
February 24-28 | Reviewed by Kate Blackhurst

THIS IS A play of many debuts. Both actors, Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove, graduated from Toi Whakaari in 2007 and this is their first professional performance. They also devised and wrote the piece. The director, Sophie Roberts, is having her first outing in this guise, although she has a string of acting credits to her name. They clearly already have a following, as evinced by the full house and waiting list on opening night. It is a following that is richly rewarded.

Monty (Dan Musgrove) is a part-time library assistant and full-time equine hobbyist. He has horse pictures on his walls, and an encyclopaedia and a china figurine on his table. He looks like Ned Flanders and talks like a racing commentator. Upstairs lives Amy (Natalie Medlock); part-time ticket collector and full-time rock fantasist. Her flat is furnished only with a mysteriously ringing telephone. She is starving, poor (she has no other clothes to wear and turns her knickers inside out to ‘dress for dinner’) and almost feral in her gestures and eating habits. I would perhaps question why she acts like a five-year-old with wide eyes and giggles, as this is at odds to her clear passion for ‘Rock and Roll Nigger’.

The two have limited communication although they are vaguely aware of each other’s existence. When Monty invites her down for a meal (of macaroni cheese – ‘It’s Italian’) he is startled by his own boldness. There follows a squirmingly uncomfortable dinner which demonstrates what not to do on a first date – don’t discuss topics such as suicide; make sexual innuendoes; eat like a pig; ridicule the other’s dreams.

Monty is aware that we have a human need for communication, but although this couple are literally living on top of each other, they are both socially inept and spring apart at the shock of contact when their knees accidentally brush beneath the table. We build walls around us to add the physical boundaries, hiding behind fantasy worlds and imaginary friends. Sometimes in order to communicate, these must be literally smashed apart.

Some of the ends remain loose – who is ringing Amy and why does she object so strongly to being called a princess? The metaphor that we might like what we see if we remove our blinkers and open ourselves to possibilities and friendship is a little heavy-handed, but this is generally a charming vignette of theatre and indicates a lot of promise from all involved.