Directed by: Neenah Dekkers-Reihana and Stella Reid
Running at BATS Theatre until 16th Nov 2019
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
ransom. is the most unique work I’ve ever seen. The only thing that comes close to it is Second Unit, an interactive experience that took over Circa Theatre earlier this year. While ransom. activates all the spaces of BATS Theatre in much the same way, it stands apart in its narrative. A rich, textural story is woven through the very fabric of this piece. Every room, every body, every detail ties back to a plot conscientiously devised by Robbie Nicol, Finnius Teppett, and co-directors Stella Reid and Neenah Dekkers-Reihana.
The year is 2024, and One New Zealand Party leader Katie Wakefield has been kidnapped. Clever propaganda in the lobby lets us know Katie is profoundly racist, although the initial video we see loses a bit of this sentiment in crafty camera effects. Once we watch the video, our group of three is taken through the building on a wild ride to discover the culprit.
Audiences themselves inhabit various roles – we’re a family, then we’re students, partygoers, the list goes on. Actors let us know what character we’re playing next without much preamble. My favourite ‘scene’ is when media mogul Kupe (Sepelini Mua'au) thrusts three clipboards, three suit jackets, and three lanyards into our hands and makes us fathom news headlines while putting on deodorant. Remarkably, “Katie Wakefield goes missing, oh no!” is the winner for our group.
The bow is tied a little too neatly for my liking at the end. Every element we see during the show is incorporated into a final explanation, but some of the links feel a little tenuous, especially around the role of the clairvoyant Ffion (a playful performance from Jean Sergent).
Rose Kirkup’s phenomenal, vivid production design brings the world of the play to life. This makes its message hit harder. The things that happen in the work are happening here. ransom. could very well be our 2024. Don’t let it be a warning; let it be a call to action.