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Karen, Pascall, Eileen, Roger and John are not really friends - their relationships are too shallow for that - but they are perhaps acquaintances, and they like nothing better than getting together at birthday parties, where they give one another parcels that are received with extravagantly fake rapture and never opened.
They pass the time in hollow jollity, with jokes at the expense of poor people, homeless people, abused children, dead pets and refugees appreciated with particular merriment. Their movements are manic, smiles forced and appetites for wine and instant gratification seemingly endless.
The hospital-type gowns they wear suggest both their lack of individuality and the unhealthy nature of the world they live in. Mouldy-looking furniture reinforces the impression.
Jo Randerson's Fold was written in 1995 and received the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award in 1997. Far from becoming dated, its gained resonance and power as inequality has become more entrenched in New Zealand society. The absurdist style strengthens the play's biting satire by eschewing conventional plot in favour of bizarre, repetitive and random action, contributing to a blistering attack on the cultures of narcissism and entitlement.
Director Alex Wilson, actors Marea Colombo, Abby Howells, Alex Martyn, Ben McCarthy, Sam Shannon and Nick Tipa work together seamlessly, and lighting by Anna Sinton and sound by Andrew Wardell add to the discord.
The play is slightly lass than one hour long, and the season will end on Saturday.
This is the first production of Arcade Theatre, a new company superseding Centrepoint, which brought innovative theatre to Dunedin from 2012 until last year.
Like its predecessor, Arcade aims to provide young practitioners with challenging roles, and audiences with experiences beyond the usual scope of more conventional providers. The creative team who produced Fold have done just this, and I look forward to their next productions.
-By Barbara Frame