The 2019 Long Cloud Youth Theatre presents Breaks, a worthwhile dreamlike escape from everyday life. Written by Ben Wilson and directed by Keegan Bragg, this ambitious show offers an eclectic collection of stories inspired by the concept of breaks and all its forms. It is whimsical, dark, funny and not entirely what I expected.
The night’s entertainment was divided into four chapters. The first chapter, Work Break, assumes the most literal interpretation. The audience is privy to a hospitality workers’ break room where gossip and general moaning ensue. A simple black-curtain backdrop separates us from the busy cafe backstage. It’s Evie’s (Sam Wahlers) last day, Richie’s (Stella Henderson) first day and Carol’s (Katie Alexander) worst day on the job.
If you’re expecting more work-place gossip, the next story may take viewers by surprise. Break-Out tells the fantastical tale of four orphans and their attempt to escape the clutches of their headmistress (Charlie Tilly). Tilly plays the role with a hilariously shrill delivery. The shift in tone is jarring but lighting, sound and set design by Becky Boyce and Ethan Morse work extremely well together to build the dreamy spectacle. The black curtain used in the first chapter draws back to reveal a stunning white linen and fairylit fort, which could have been plucked from a seven-year-olds dreams. Giant jellyfish made of pulsing umbrellas serve as fascinating props as the children make a watery escape. The actors flash torches at scary circus performers, who move only in the dark - like Doctor Who’s horrifying weeping angels.
I loved seeing how well the cast moved together, sometimes like parts of the same machine. Ensemble dances like the orphans’ ‘Blue Danube’ ballet and the finale’s giant puppetry are among my favourite moments. Cast and crew shine together and it's great to see they enjoy sharing the spotlight. Their dedication to their production is obvious.
Next up, Emma (Brit O’Rouke) and David (Morse) deal with their parents’ impending divorce in Break-Up. This segment is the unexpected heavyweight. Since Breakout, the audience is once again grounded, and the characters drive the scene in a subdued lounge setting. The satisfying chemistry and build between the two actors is excellent.
Ironically, for a play about breaks this two-hour show had no interval. At times, especially the last chapter, the production felt quite long and a bit wordy. Both the ambitious set and prop-heavy choreography creates Breaks’ biggest challenge: transitions. Despite the actors’ and stage hands’ best efforts, the breaks between chapters feel long and awkward. The lyrical songs playing over the wrestling of props unfortunately aren’t enough to keep reality sufficiently suspended.
Long Cloud Youth Theatre have devised a very interesting and surprising piece of work in their 14th year. Get lost in Wilson’s wonderland at Te Whaea D10 Space at 8pm until 18th November. Opening night was full, book your tickets here.