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Review: One Green Bottle at The Ellen Stewart Theatre, La MaMa Experimental Theatre

Review By Rebecca Morris

Absurd, witty, shocking but also wildly hilarious, “One Green Bottle” skilfully encompasses all of this and much more in a one act 75-minute play. Hideki Noda’s work is a play-on the last verse of the children’s song “Ten Green Bottles”, and not unlike other nursery rhymes of old, has a dark undertone.

“One Green Bottle” is written, directed and stars Japanese actor Hideki Noda (English translation adapted by Will Sharpe) and is a comedic story following three family members for one night. The story centres on the main characters; a mother/housewife Boo (Hideki Noda), a husband/father/theatre actor Bo (Lilo Baur) and their socially obsessed daughter Pickle (Glyn Pritchard). All three insist that they have important engagements and must leave the house. Arguments ensue as each try to persuade the others to stay and look after the unseen and pregnant Princess. This humorous depiction of a family unit, juxtaposes the quite real modern concept of technology and its effects on family and personal lives. Noda’s unique portrayal of the fight between old and new keeps the audience engaged and thinking “What could possibly happen next?”. Whilst the smart decision of gender-flipping the characters, created a level of comedy that has been seen before, it did allow for the message of gender and the roles in society and family to shine through. This decision to gender-flip stands out even clearer against the traditional Japanese family picture that is trying to be portrayed by Bo.

When first entering The Ellen Stewart Theatre, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, you are immediately drawn to the set. Set designer Yukio Horio has created the perfect backdrop for the fight between old and new with elaborate pressed metal covering the stage and walls, and a handful of traditional Japanese instruments set on the side. Noda’s direction creates some beautiful sequences that are so smooth you would think it’s a dance and, in a way it is. One moment in particular that stuck to mind is the putting on and taking off of the gowns, it is a seamless transition and this fluidity is often repeated later when Bo and Boos daughter Pickle (Pritchard) joins in on the game of who will be left standing. As the story continues we find out that the important engagements that none are willing to give up are actually not what they seem and with each new argument, the stakes get deliciously higher.

Glyn Pritchard’s, Pickle is the perfect combination of all stereotypes of a millennial teenage girl addicted to her phone and wanting to fit in. He has created an egotistical yet loveable Pickle and you can see the complexity of underlying feelings. He is also just incredibly funny and you often find yourself drawn to Prichard’s nuanced, detailed performance. There is also beautiful chemistry between Pickle and Noda’s Boo, as the mother daughter bond is shown to be quite strong. Noda shows moments of pure comedic timing that has you laughing almost before his line was even said. The way Noda sits in this role is comfortable and we, as the audience feel safe, even though Boo is hilariously crazy and we are taken on a ride with this character. The other connection in this play that is well crafted is the one between Boo and Bo. While at times Lilo Baur’s work is overshadowed by the strong performances of Pritchard and Noda, Baur brings a sensitive side in moments with Boo showing some contrast to her deliberate over-playing as the theatre actor Bo which helps set the absurdist tone of the play.

Overall “One Green Bottle” is the perfect comedy to get your mind working, showing the fight against gender stereotypes as well as the challenge in keeping traditions alive and how technology is affecting our lives. In the end, not unlike the song “If that one green bottle should accidentally fall, there’ll be no green bottles hanging on the wall” we are left wondering what really happens to the green bottle if it should it fall.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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