Review by Carly Fisher
Once you’ve climbed the steps to the top of the BATS theatre and enter the little studio theatre, you’re greeted immediately by a big smile coming from the guitarist in the corner, happily strumming away. It’s a fabulous entrance into the intimate space and sets the stage well for the incredibly sweet show that you are about to see before you.
The best way to describe Lizzy Burton-Wood’s ‘Five Words or Less’ is endearing.
It is a show that from only a minute into the first song, you want to see succeed.
And largely, it does. Described by Burton-Wood as a ‘labour of love,’ you can feel the heart that has gone into creating this performance and, from the incredibly enthusiastic responses of the show team in the front row, you can tell that this theatre company is a close knit team proud to be creating together.
The show opens with Eudora and Jamie giving us a run down on the greeting card industry, in which they work. Comet and Creature are responsible for the Music and Lyrics and they have done a fabulous job! The wit through the lyrics is palpable and grabs the audience from the get go. There’s a greeting card for everything and as the two sing, they pass cards through the audience for us to get involved too. I received a card for that time your friend gets out of a cult and I won’t lie, I took it with me, have shown everyone since and will be using this little folded piece of paper to continue to promote this show because it deserves it. It is cute, clever and entertaining - a perfect fringe hour!
Sick of being lumped in the Birthday card department, the storyline follows our protagonists as, for the first time in years, rather than working together, they find each other to be competition as they aim for the single promotion available to the Father’s Day card department. Cat Reynolds plays Eudora who certainly seems more focused on getting this promotion than Jaime, played by Katia Constanza, whose primary goal is unquestionably to continue working together. When both find that they are struggling to write Father’s Day cards, they turn to field research, bringing in additional characters of the two fathers (portrayed by the same actors doubling in their roles).
Reynolds takes the role of the focused and driven Cat in her stride. She is confident on stage and has an opportunity to show off her higher notes, which certainly seem more comfortable to her, in her solo song towards the middle of the show. Constanza is charming throughout. There is a sheepishness to them that makes them instantly likeable. Both show off more with their acting chops than singing but the audience seems quick to overlook this - we are here for the love story that you can sense is coming from as early as the opening song.
Rounding out the onstage team, Damian Tjiptono on guitar is exciting to watch and clearly talented. It is refreshing to see a show base its accompaniment on guitar rather than piano - a very cool choice from the creative team.
The direction is perhaps what lets the show down slightly. It is overly complicated with too many props that, whilst I understand and see their purpose, leads to lengthy transitions that need better choreography to propel the storytelling through these scene changes. Some small elevations would have gone a long way for this show - for example, using the desks as other settings or environments (eg. a bench) for the scene with the Dads rather than constantly rolling them in and out, would have resulted in a less clunky performance. Similarly, some advanced staging would see the need for the actors to walk to the back and turn around to remind the audience it is the other actor’s turn to speak, null and void. That said, all those things will come with more experience for the new theatre company and what the director has done immensely well is focus on the character development with their cast to achieve authentic and beautiful storytelling.
The choice to have a brief intermission in the middle of the one hour show would ordinarily leave me questioning but not here. Here, a table is set up for you to make your own cards in the middle of the show and the interactivity is as clever as it is adorable. A truly inspired touch for this little show!
The show sits well in a fringe context but should it one day want to go beyond the fringe festivals, it would need some considerable development. NZ Fringe seems to be the perfect starting block for this show and I look forward to seeing what comes next for it.
It’s a show about friendship, ambition, communication and inter-generational relationships.
It’s also very much a show about office romance and that time when you both realise that perhaps you’re more than just friends…or you could be more than just friends…there are no answers to what happens next for the pair, just a hopefulness that the next stage of their relationship is as endearing as the part we just watched on stage.
Congratulations to the whole team. You have a work here to be proud of.