Courtney Rose Brown
The difficult and complex friendship between Max (Hopkins) and Andy (Felix Oven-Leach) is a highlight of the show. Oven-Leach’s charisma and charm airbrushes Andy’s flaws as with his continual enforcement of Lion King jokes and quick wit, he is loveable. This in contrast to Hopkins’ tense portrayal of Max, leads to some beautiful moments of comedy because of their electric chemistry.
Set designer Jamie Wallace-Thexton nails the set design. Lining the stage with more decorative props than functional ones, he builds a cold, sterile atmosphere with the aesthetic of a morgue with bottles of coloured liquid on shelves that cover the black walls. However, with the complexities of using gurneys transitions are slow and drag down the pacing. Musical (gloomy tunes) and cold lighting attempt to ease the length but don’t quite play off.
Adam Herbert’s lighting design is simple and helps aid the set, using above light to highlight the embalming products inside the bottles. Herbet also contrasts the coldness of the morgue with warm lighting in the space above the stage where Mr J (Will Collins) is highlighting a contrast between the locations, but also in realities.
Mr J (Collins) is Max’s pun loving father who has a warped sense of sensitivity, strikes up a lovely father son relationship with Max. Often providing comedic relief, Collins has a moment of vulnerability which brings inevitable laughs, but also gasps in response to his sadness.
Fresne-Mann as Lydia provides a lovely grounded performance in contrast, as she tries to mourn the loss of Andy. Multiple times she comments on not wanting to be a small role or a plot device in Max’s life, but that is what she is in the show. It is uncertain what this wants to achieve, because she says she wants to leave, but only because Max hasn’t, yet never do we hear why.
Meesha Kipa’s costume design and Kelly Willis-Pine's SFX makeup unifies the piece. The makeup is exceptional on the dead bodies, showing their battle scars and open wounds (particularly on Andy’s face). Using a muted colour palate for costuming, Kipa focuses on greys and blacks. Interestingly deciding to have Molly in a floral skirt, which makes her the one with the brightest colour palate. This is contrasted against Andy’s black clothes after death, making the reasoning behind this unclear. However it works particularly well with the matching and complementary costuming of Sascha (Olivia Fox) and Paul (Oscar van der Beek) - (striped shirts and dark pants as well as over the top formal funeral attire) whose costumes seem to merge with their narcissistic, social media obsessed personalities.
Dead Days, drifts near the end of a meta realm where Molly (Kayla Morton) and Andy find Max’s script based similarly on his own life. Unfortunately unable to take a direct quote from Max’s long winded play, Baxendale’s joke about being a playwright of his generation lands one of the loudest laughs of the night as he reveals his own structure and themes from Dead Days within it.
There are constant messages throughout of YOLO and seizing the day, particularly funny when coming from the dead. The handling of suicide in the script seems very black and white in the portrayal, suicide is selfish and as soon as attempted there is instant regret. As depression is far more complex, it would be nice to see more of a discussion of the subject matter. However on the topic Morton’s performance (Molly) stills the room as her vulnerability is almost palpable as she talks about why she is there.
Dead Days is definitely worth seeing, there are some lovely messages of seizing life in there. Dead Days is on at BATS Theatre, in the propellor stage, 9.30pm until the 30th of July. For more information about the Young and Hungry Festival or to book visit the BATS website here <bats.co.nz>.