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Review: The Sensemaker at Gryphon Theatre

Review By Carly Fisher

Fair to say, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t mind waiting on hold when on the phone…we’ve all done the eye roll, the sing along, the grunts of frustration, the shouting at the phone, etc etc. What we have not all done is turn this experience into a show, a show currently performing a world tour no less, and so, the stage is set for Elsa Couvreur’s one woman show, The Sensemaker.

Produced by Woman’s Move, the show is currently on a NZ/Australia tour and its inclusion in the Fringe Festival in Wellington seems a perfect home for this rather experimental piece. Set in a black box theatre at the Gryphon, the set is kept intentionally minimal. A single chair sits upstage left, whilst a stool with a telephone takes stage downstage right. Lighting effects are kept extremely minimal…it’s a perfect touring show for these reasons. It really can go up anywhere anytime. With almost no dialogue in the one hour show, the piece instead focuses almost exclusively on sound and movement.

Offering a mix between physical theatre and dance, the show plays on our discomfort to achieve its comedy. Discomfort and familiarity. Again, because we have all been there, we totally get the early frustrations the protagonist feels.

The show then takes a dystopian turn…what if in order to get through, we had to go beyond our comfort zones? What if those making us hold could see through the phone? How desperate are we sometimes to get through? And what does this desperation lead us to do?

Couvreur’s characterisation of this professional and almost shy character that expresses herself through the occasional dance outbreak is on point for this production. She has clearly refined this piece and tours it now with a depth of character that allows the piece to transcend the need for dialogue. With a mix of almost clowning, physical movement and dance, she is a talented performer with a clear knack for storytelling and I am glad to see her piece being so widely accepted in cities and at festivals around the world.

The execution of the piece is impressive and Couvreur’s commitment to the character is admirable. I appreciate that Couvreur and her co-director, Iona D’Annunzio have tried to create a piece of physical theatre that really makes you think. It is cutting edge and certainly different to a majority of what you will see at the fringe.

This is a divisive piece in that it will not hold appeal for everyone. Whilst some audience members cackled through the hour, I must admit, this style of theatre is not my personal favourite and for me, the establishment in the first 20 minutes of the show felt as though it could be tightened slightly to achieve a slightly shorter run time. I felt that some of the show was overly gratuitous in its direction.

That said, I appreciate the artistry behind a show like this and acknowledge that for some audiences, this will be a delightful surprise, whilst for others, this may be just a bit too far fetched to capture you. There’s only one way to find out how you will respond to it and it is to get a ticket and to support Independent Artists like Couvreur with something clever to say and a strong command of the stage with which to say it.

Image Supplied


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