Site-Specific Sci-Fi Comedy
Well, there is no footage or production photos of “The Wind Speaks to Wellington” because, although it was booked for two weeks at BATS Theatre in Wellington, it was only performed for a night. The actress broke her foot in rehearsal two days before opening night during a promotional photo-shoot. She thought it was just a sprain, but after our dress rehearsal left her in agony she went to the doctor and indeed it was a fracture. She asked the doctor if there was any way we could perform that night, and although he was unhappy condoning it he put a trebly thick cast on her, and we quickly re-devised the show to include crutches and a wheel-chair.
This was my directorial debut in Wellington, and by my count I’d say it was one of the most creatively conceived and rehearsed plays I’ve ever been involved with. The initial review was scathing (unnecessarily so) and the subsequent posts from theatre enthusiasts around Wellington dried up countless megabytes on the online review forum for and against the assertions made in the review.
What I love about this is that only 100 people (the capacity of BATS theatre) were able to see the show. Some loved it, some hated it. It was beyond a doubt the most polarizing show I’ve concocted, and to top it off there is no footage, and so the verdict rests on those hundred. In a way (a big way) it was dispiriting to have spent four months of physically intense and creative rehearsal and end with only a single night, but by now I’ve shrugged it off as an experience and focused on the positives.
In an alternate history of New Zealand, after serious nuclear wars and environmental disasters, the entire South Island is left under a black cloud and half-submerged while the North Island has been raised hundreds of meters out of the ocean. Wellington is an annihilated city populated by flesh-eating zombie-types. Koochi (the narrator/story-teller in my solo show “The Gods of Post-Nuclear New Zealand”) is the adopted father of two stray children Adafufu and his sister Efe. The three have taken BATS theatre as their home in this stormy post-apocalyptic city and have developed an odd religion and culture of their own. They tell the audience the story of their birth and travels through the city and how they came to be in BATS theatre. The narrator throughout this mad story-telling, the Windgod, interpolates the action and sheds light on the events happening below before he eventually steps into the narrative and takes matters into his own hands.
Adafufu and Efe interpret the arrival of the audience into BATS theatre as the fulfillment of their most potent prophesy. They try to convince the audience to take them back to the “other place”, from which they’d found many a remnant (stray leaves of magazines, tidbits of recorded material) but soon they find out that there is no “other place” and is in fact the world that has been destroyed. Adafufu ventures out in the middle of the storm and comes back mortally wounded, whereupon the Windgod transfers his life force into the womb of Efe. Efe then joins the audience as they step back into the present, with the chance to choose a different path.
This was great practice for me as a director of devised theatre. I had long rehearsals with very talented actors for four months. We experimented with countless ways (both borrowed and invented) of generating material. Again, although this show could be viewed as a ‘non-event’ in many ways, it was a priceless exercise in my development as a director.