Get in the car. We are leaving this place.
A literal journey of modern experimental theatre, CAR, is currently on this week in Auckland.
The Virginia Frankovich play is housed by the popular Basement Theatre, or rather, outside the Basement Theatre. CAR is a moving play, a show presented entirely outside the confines of a traditional stage. The show’s press release reveals the polarising motorised nature of the event, a promise that audience members will “view their city in a new light”, and not much else. Armed with only curiosity and a voice recorder, I met with four of the cast to delve a little deeper.
Caleb Wells (Westside), Mirabai Lily Pease, Nastaha Verney, and Doug Grant represent a large chunk of CAR’s ensemble. I arrived early to chat with this crew, and as each member appeared their closeness became further apparent. The young actors told me they all met the previous year through Auckland Theatre Company’s July production of Bed. Frankovich was also the director of this show, and seems to have contacted some of her favourites to participate in her latest production. The similarities to Bed don’t end there however, with Wells explaining to me that it has a similar style, “just kind of the next stage” – or as Pease simply puts it, “it goes, Bed, CAR”.
Which brings me to my next, and undeniably biggest, question. What is CAR? Well, this proved a harder one to answer. Wells was quick to call it a journey, something that takes you “somewhere else that’s not here”. It instantly appeared that the plot of CAR was pretty under wraps, with its surprises essential to the viewing experience. Pease and Grant were able to offer slightly more insight though, presenting themselves as “basically the guide for each car”. Grant called his character a case worker, with his role primarily about keeping the audience “entertained the whole time” and acting as “something to hold on to”. Pease added that they were primarily there to “maintain the plot”.
It seems that this secrecy might not just have been down to confidentiality but also about an actual lack of concrete plans – not to say the cast and crew of CAR are unprepared (they’ve been in vehicles for weeks now) but rather that the play still being under construction is one of its attractive quirks. CAR is a devised play, developed through provocations from Frankovich and assistant director Freya Mairead Boyle. CAR’s unpredictability links to its devised nature. Wells earlier journey comment makes sense from this standpoint; he explained to me that, “we kind of made all this stuff first and kind of bashed it into a structure – and we still are, we’re still going”. Verney and Pease added to this, stating they are still “making new things” and “changing locations”.
All actors emphasise that this uncertainty is part of the magic of the show, the “mystery”, says Wells. Safety is not compromised though, Verney was quick to clarify that the drivers of the two cars are not acting, stressing how important they know it will be “for the audience to feel safe and in control”.
Somehow, without any information on concrete plot, these four members of CAR completely enticed me during out short chat. In the hours that followed I found myself booking tickets with only the slightest touch of apprehension, a feeling that was easily outweighed by curiosity and excitement. I think what is most appealing about this new endeavour was expertly summed up by the casts last comments when I asked them who the show was for. Verney was thoughtful for a moment then carefully stated that, “it’s for all the people who want to go on an adventure, and do something different”. Wells response was much shorter - he smoothly told me, “it’s for you”. He meant this (for the most part) without humour though, explaining that the outweighing number of cast to audience members means that the show is truly a personal experience. Wells comment immediately received approval from the other young actors, and our conversation came to an end over a chorus of nodding heads and chants of “you you you, CAR CAR CAR”.
CAR is running from now until next Saturday. Limited ticket quantities are available here.