As the foyer begins to fill up with eager audience members like myself, out of the corner of my eye I see a man in a jumpsuit carrying around a mop; who we soon find out is Francis. There’s something I really enjoy about small details like this, being given the chance to start easing into the world of the play before the doors even open feels warm and inviting, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Tapere Iti is dark as we file in, aside from a deep purple light bathing the stage (reminiscent of UV light maybe) and two bins sitting on the side. So Fresh So Clean is playing by OutKast, of course, and finally the janitor slinking around the Te Auaha foyer, has the spotlight.
What follows is 60 minutes of Francis making “magic out of the little he has on him”. The story itself is a simple work day, but in an effort to make the job less miserable (a sentiment I think we can all relate to) Francis creates his own world that we get the pleasure of participating in. The monotony of cleaning is made fun through skits, stories, and Burling’s impressive physicality. I won’t give away too much, but this is an example of how such a simple concept can be so effective. Cleaners are seldom talked about - hell, even acknowledged in a world where we devalue necessary labour - and this show will ensure you always smile at your cleaners.
Dialogue is used sparingly, with the sound creating much of the atmosphere, but the moments where we do hear from Francis are worth the wait. We see his personality shine through his physicality as he performs for an audience who seemingly appeared out of nowhere, just for him. Selfishly I wish there were more moments to hear from his loveable self, but perhaps that’s the point.
Lighting was a huge part of the design (Genoveva Reverte). Each state was simple but transformed the space effectively, especially when he was going from place to place in the airport - the elevator was a particularly clever choice. The mop and bucket are transformed at several points throughout as he goes about his day, and boy can Burling use a mop!
Joyfulness is something we don’t see often onstage - don’t get me wrong I love crying and thinking as much as the rest of you - but it’s a breath of fresh air to see a show all about finding joy in small things. We’ve all made up games and stories to make the hours tick by faster at a job we hate, we’ve all been yelled at by our bosses, and we all come home at the end of the day feeling a lot more like Francis than we care to admit.
CAUTION: WET FLOOR is what happens when the child that lives in all of us gets a chance to play. Trust me, you’ll be dancing with a mop when you get home.
CAUTION: WET FLOOR is on until 25th February in Te Auaha’s Tapere Iti space.