Our Own Little Mess - Reviewed by Tanya Piejus | Regional News Connecting Wellington
Maaka Pohatu | Issue

Maaka Pohatu
Photo by Andi Crown

Our Own Little Mess

Created by: A Slightly Isolated Dog

Directed by: Leo Gene Peters and Jane Yonge

Circa Theatre, 23rd Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

The opportunity to see a performance from the creative team at A Slightly Isolated Dog is always something to look forward to and they’ve outdone themselves with Our Own Little Mess. Champions of innovation and audience collaboration, they’ve taken their mission to another level with this immersive exploration of the inner voices that drive us.

Five ordinary Kiwis are on personal journeys. An academic (Maaka Pohatu) isolates himself after being rejected for a promotion; a young woman (Louise Jiang) goes on a desperate trip to Europe, lost in grief for her mum’s death; a ventriloquist (Jack Buchanan) has an existential crisis in the desert; a stressed mum (Laurel Devenie) tells stories to her young daughter and misses her husband who’s overseas; and a gay man (Andrew Paterson) imagines his life as a series of art installations while he navigates the dating scene in New York.

As the audience, we hear through headphones the thoughts and anxieties that propel these people on their sometimes-surreal journeys to their own resolutions. This device enables us to hear the voices, both internal and external, that inform their view of the world and how they respond to it. Far from being merely a creative whim, this approach is underpinned by research evidence and the credits boast cognitive neuroscientists (Drs David Carmel and Gina Grimshaw). Audience members are invited to complete an online survey after the show, the responses to which will be part of a full academic study on inner speech.

The uber theatre production design (Meg Rollandi) features clever set pieces that are utilised over and over in new ways, while the lighting design (Leo Gene Peters) sees largely handheld lighting from lamps and torches accentuated by a few stage lights. The two work together to support the narratives. Voices are supplemented by effective and well-balanced music and sound effects (Sam Clavis).

Our Own Little Mess is a spellbinding examination of our inner worlds for this Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts.

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