Perplex is an absurdist play from Germany which sends up poncy plays. Though, it is a bit of a poncey play itself, a series of in-jokes about the theatre scene that make it as naval-gazing as the culture it is sending up. However it is so gloriously ridiculous and well-performed that it doesn't matter. Having said that, I am a big fan of the theatre scene so I may like it more than most. Does New Zealand have a market for plays about plays though? Not sure. The audience numbers were good on the Saturday night I went, but not spectacular. Should you go? If you enjoy theatre and go a few times a year, then yes. Convention after convention is sent up as the cast slip in and out of their roles as various ‘characters’ in this artistic play and as the ‘actors’ trying to perform it. Cliched dialogue is challenged, as are plots. Why must there always be a menage a trois (or even quartre) in any production about the European intelligentsia? What is the gratuitous nudity about? Why must the narrative be so intentionally obscure?
It starts off breaking one of the most ubiquitous conventions that goes almost unnoticed. There is a clock, with the right time on it, facing the audience. This hardly ever happens; here it does. Not quite sure what it means except that the author wants to underline the absurdity of theatre itself, by drawing attention to all the different weird facets of it one by one. Is there a fourth wall or not? In this case there is disagreement. ‘We agreed,' says Natalie, to Nic, who has been talking to the audience. 'No monologues. There is no one there!' The performers are all superb, versatile and embrace the madness of their task. Sam Sneddon and Natalie Medlock particularly have a plastic quality, transforming from threatening to vulnerable, like cartoons. Kura Forrester is a superb actress and does the most convincing hysterical laughter I have ever seen, and Nic Sampson has terrific stage presence. When he raises his status, the others are quashed. Actors games and bags of tricks: it is fun. What it says about the rest of the world is less certain, except perhaps that we are as distracted by smoke and mirrors as the actors themselves, and let the really important matters go past unheeded.