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We hear daily of just how hard it is to be young, and of the anxiety, loneliness, insecurity and depression that damage far too many young lives. The Wholehearted, by contrast, communicates something else: glee, the joy of being alive and a sense of wonder.
Seven versatile, agile performers, some highly experienced and others just beginning their theatrical careers, explore the minefield of finding love. Through comedy and dance, they describe the yearning for intimacy, the perils of online dating, self-revelation and rejection, the depths of heartbreak and the huge effort of picking yourself up and starting again.
The show's message is unfailingly positive, upbeat and good-humoured - keep going, take things lightly if you can, be comfortable with yourself and understand that things take the time they take. It can be a little preachy, but on the whole its two strands of entertainment and therapy are well-balanced.
This is probably the least glamorous show I've ever seen. The performers appear not to be wearing any makeup, hairstyles are basic and outfits look worn and drab, and all of this is in keeping with the emphasis on optimism, honesty and acceptance.
Some words are not quite distinct, and a more continuous narrative would improve the show's unity, but it's polished and the performers' commitment is evident. The challenge to be wholehearted, to take risks, to favour boldness over caution and generosity over self-interest clearly resonated with last night's audience, although people of the target age, late teens and 20s, were noticeably under-represented.
The Wholehearted, devised by the cast and directed by Sam Scott and Scotty Cotter, is brought to Dunedin by Massive, an Auckland theatre company that focuses on the lives of younger people. The Dunedin season will run until Friday.
-By Barbara Frama