Written by: Tama Smith
Directed by: Tama Smith and Belinda Campbell
Gryphon Theatre, 3rd Aug 2022
Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus
Set in April 2020 during the first nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, Apartment centres on a disparate group of tenants in a Wellington apartment block as they negotiate life, relationships, and work during an unprecedented period of social isolation.
After a rather slow start with three lengthy monologues, the pace, energy, and humour kick in when young supermarket worker Hendric (a charming Austin Harrison) catches a ride home with Uber driver Ben (Tim Gruar). A shoutout here to whoever built Ben’s car, which was the highlight of a clever, multi-level set design (Tama Smith), excellently and effectively lit by Scott Maxim.
From there, the various characters talk to each other or directly to the audience about their experiences of the pandemic. Particularly touching is nurse Marissa (Helen Jones) who trudges exhaustedly between home and work and receives disturbing voice messages from the UK where her elderly mother is gravely ill with the virus.
Apartment bills itself as “A play about us, two years ago” and that is exactly what it delivers. However, I would have been more interested in a less literal take on this concept given we’re still well inside the pandemic and a good chunk of the audience was wearing masks, unlike the actors in the supermarket scenes who oddly weren’t.
The play shines brightest in the scenes of absurdist humour, such as Adele (Lucy Fulford) venturing to the supermarket in ridiculous homemade PPE to sort out the delivery failure of her online shopping order, and her and Hendric meeting unmasked in the apartment block elevator.
At almost 90 minutes, Apartment is long for a one-act play. More character development and funny moments would turn this into a successful full-length play that allows for a toilet break and more time to reflect on the themes being canvassed.
All power to Smith, co-director Belinda Campbell, and their cast and crew for taking on these themes and to Wellington Repertory Theatre for taking a punt on a new work.