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REVIEW: Loser, Whitireia Applied Arts Students, Bats Theatre, Wellington. March 2012

Loser – Which one were you?
Written by Thomas Sainsbury
Performed by Whitireia Bachelor of Applied Arts Students
Directed by Richard Finn
Venue: Bats Theatre
Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes (no interval)
Season: 20-24 March 2012 (performances start 6:30pm)
Review date: 20 March
Reviewed by David Murray

I can't say this was a great production of a great play, but, over-all, Loser is an entertaining and engaging black comedy that explores different types of personal dysfunction that can cause a person to spiral down the social heap.

It does so by presenting six ex high school students building up to, during, and after the Glenwood High School's ten year reunion. Each of the six students is a loser in one way or another – some more obvious than others. The preset presented to the audience as we walked in was a mostly bare stage, save for several stacks of white stackable chairs scattered around the stage, a small platform with a working microphone upstage centre, and downstage left (audience's right) was a table with what looked like a large cushion done up to look like a cake, with party decorations on the black-box walls.

All eleven of the performers – Holly Hornell, Melissa Andrew, Jessie Walker-Hale, Regan Moyes, George Harach, Dwayne Kyle, Sarah McMillan, Judy Iva, Robert Bullen, Sina Leasuasu, and Kahu Taiaroa each gave solid, credible performances as more than twenty four colorful somewhat larger-than-life characters. Even when tempted at moments to look around the set instead of at the focus of the action it was clear that all the cast were totally inhabiting the characters they were presenting.

The six ex-students were solidly presented with the various “loser” traits ranging from being mental illness, social ineptitude, being the school slut, being ugly (and therefore shunned), to needing to have everything excessively organized and in a box, and extreme shyness and over analyzing everything.

A recurring gag in the play was Liz's pitiful attempts to get attention by various suicide attempts with the bystanders egging her on - “Jump jump jump jump...”. Certainly not Politically Correct but definitely was a positive contribution to the play.

When the performers on stage weren't central to various scenes they contributed to what was a very effective “chorus” giving an underlying commentary to the action.

The lighting was conspicuously uneven. While as a general rule of thumb it can be said that actors should “find the light”, there were several scenes were actors were moving in and out of pools of light, or even were completely out of the light when on the face of it they should have been lit.
A couple of scenes had the audience expecting the action to be in one part of the set, but then dialogue started in another dimly lit part of the set causing the audience to need to shift focus from what was expected, meaning that the initial sentences of dialogue were lost due to the movement that was holding attention in the more brightly lit part of the set and the loudness of other sounds and background music. These scenes probably could benefit from either better lighting or changing how the characters in the scene move into position, or both.

Sound: Some of the sound effects were, to my ear, unnecessarily loud. The dialogue in some scenes was inaudible due to the background music being too loud.

Chairs were used to good effect as props for the different scenes ranging from domestic lounges, cars, beds, the school classroom, and the reunion hall.

For me the highlight of the performance was the icing on the cake scene. Over all, Loser was an entertaining production that I enjoyed seeing.

David Murray

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