Directed by: Sally Richards and Kerryn Palmer
BATS Theatre, 8th Sep 2022
Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus
What constitutes joy? That’s the question this production seeks to answer.
Conceived in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and commissioned expressly for the TAHI New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance, Joy is a set of five monologues and a sweet vignette written by female and non-binary artists Mel Dodge, Etta Bollinger, Indigo Paul, Elspeth Tilley, Nī Dekkers-Reihana, and Stevie Greeks.
As anyone with a shred of life experience knows, things that bring you joy come with an often-equal measure of pain and that is the great success of this new collection of work. Childbirth, a sibling’s wedding, or the rediscovery of single life after a relationship break-up can bring great joy, but they come hand in glove with fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt. As the programme deftly puts it, “joy is a shifting creature” and these writers have captured it with compassion and care.
The three performers, Nī Dekkers-Reihana, Mel Dodge, and Stevie Hancox-Monk, are confident and courageous in owning these stories. They make us laugh, bring a tear to our eyes, and create relatable characters from the excellent writing. Hancox-Monk’s perfectly delivered line, “You’re so nice it bothers me” is my favourite of the night.
The actors are supported by a beautifully simple set and lighting design (Bekky Boyce) that employs soft yellows, oranges, and beiges, with pops of pink to unite the monologues under a strong visual theme. Masterful directing by Sally Richards and Kerryn Palmer, well-balanced sound and music (Matt Parkinson) plus two square frames, an old chair, some textiles, and a handful of props give the actors a comfortable but flexible place to work in and some business to keep them moving. A computer screen with the title and author of each piece subtly lets us know where we are in the narrative.
Not only have this group of artists created a thoughtful and thought-provoking meditation on the theme of joy, but they have also created a joyful production that engages and enlightens while it entertains.