Structurally, Blonde Mountain Wolf Man is split into four parts or chapters, titled “Blonde”, “Mountain”, “Wolf”, and “Man” respectively. The beer samples correspond, each titled to go with a section in the show’s arc in a way that is reminiscent of matching drinks to food, pairing them instead with the themes of Geenty’s tale. This creative format turns the piece into a sensory experience that helps to successfully ground the audience in an unfamiliar story. At times, however, the connections between the beers, the section titles (which link for the most part to the meanings of his names), and the story, do become, as Geenty accurately diagnoses at one point, “tenuous”. The metaphors that string the piece together begin to feel like a bit of a stretch, serving as an easy route for piling together content that is perhaps not as cohesive as it could be.
The performance is best described as a piece of storytelling, and Craig Geenty has a knack for keeping his tale in the air with the improvised, conversational style that he brings to the room. It is vocally interesting, with Geenty experimenting with different qualities and accents, even acknowledging to the audience when he knows he doesn’t quite get it right.
Visually, Geenty maps out a kind of “family tree” on the stage floor with empty labelled flower pots (there is definitely a pun about roots hiding in there somewhere), which he interacts with throughout the duration of the show. Each pot represents an individual from his family, and this theatrical device is invaluable to the piece as it makes the characters and their relationships a lot more tangible for the audience. This is a necessity, as it becomes quite challenging to keep up with such a long list of unfamiliar people. He moves through them with fluidity, and it gives the piece a dynamic element.
The strength of Blonde Mountain Wolf Man comes from Geenty’s self awareness. Throughout the performance, he is able to make statements with irony, reflecting on the differences between the world of today and the world of his ancestors, and beyond that, reflecting on the differences between the current and former versions of himself. The final section of the show, “Man”, was by far the most impactful for this reason. The piece has a focus on constructing an atmosphere of rugged, rural masculinity from the moment the audience enters the room, supported by everything from music, to costuming, props, and beverage choice. In the last chapter, Geenty poses the question: what does it really mean to be a man? Here he subverts expectations, questions his own construction of the concept, and offers the audience a piece of introspection to leave the space with, giving depth to an otherwise casual piece of theatre.
Blonde Mountain Wolf Man is showing at BATS in The Heyday Dome until tonight, Tuesday 5th March, at 7pm. To purchase tickets, visit the BATS website, or for information on other shows in Wellington Fringe Festival, visit the NZ Fringe website.