You’re at a party. You don’t really know anyone but you’ve got a very excited host making sure you have a good time. It doesn’t matter that nobody here is the type that likes parties - because this is the last party before we are devoured by a black hole. DEEP and MEANINGFUL, written and starring Alayne Dick, produced by Toi Ngākau, and directed by Jennifer O’Sullivan is one final hurrah before the end of the world as we know it.
As we enter the Heyday Dome in BATS theatre, upbeat yet macabre songs play over speakers (The End of the World as We Know It by R.E.M) while Dick plays party games with us, such as making us write down all the things we wished we had done before the world ends. She is charming, awkward, and charismatic which sets the tone of the night. It isn’t lost on us that the timing of a show about the end of the world is depressingly poignant at a time like this yet we laugh, put on party hats and blow our noisemakers.
The set colours are aesthetic and reminiscent of a well-to-do student or yo-pro’s bedroom; lush green houseplants, pastel banners, fairy lights, balloons, and persian style rugs. Paired with Dick’s warm and positive energy, and her cute faded pink denim overalls, I feel like I am lounging in the house of my slightly anxious, more successful-than-me friend.
Aaron Pyke quietly plays music, and is an unobtrusive guest on stage. Their cigar box guitar and pre-recorded synth adds a dream pop element that creates a sense of surrealness to the show. The music made a great sensory pairing with the pastel aesthetics of the stage. Pyke feels like one of Dick’s close friends at this party and adds energy by staying attuned to her, solemnly acknowledging her darker moods, and grinning along with the jokes. He also controls the Supermassive Black Hole who looms in and out of the party. While the lines are recorded well and make us giggle (it’s apparent that the Supermassive Black Hole is just Dick doing a spooky voice with distortion), the timing doesn’t account for audience laughter, and at times key details in the recordings are unable to be heard.
This is a one woman show - unless you count the Supermassive Black Hole - and Dick keeps us well entertained, with poetry, prose, games, and wish lists. Dick has poured her heart into the language of this show; her poetry is funny, precious, and loving. I feel like listening to Dick’s poetry is like soul food for me at this challenging time.
Dick weaves in her thoughts and feelings about herself and her life with the storyline of what could be a really good, or a really bad party. It’s hard to know how much fun you are having when you are stuck in your own head, and we empathise with Dick as she comes to terms with the fact that this might be her last night on earth. There are occasional times where I lose whether we are at the party or in a memory in her head; for instance, at one point, draped in a blanket, playing on her phone, she talks of the couples around her - and I can’t tell if this is past or present. I would have liked more clarity and sincerity in these moments, and to feel like this is part of a house party - faded party music could help this, as could recordings of people chattering, to set the scene. However, overall I am invested and connected to Dick throughout her night.
A stellar feature to this show is the audience interaction, strengthened with direction from O’Sullivan. Dick is well paced, taking her time with the audience, and never misses a moment to make us laugh. A particularly funny moment is after Dick discusses the shining veneer of being part of the group that does “The Drugs”, and locks onto a particular audience member, persuading them to take part in The Drugs. It’s heady stuff, she says. She pulls out a Bop-It! toy… and we all lose our minds. O’Sullivan and Dick work well together to pull the gold from the text. The show ties up nicely, as Dick can only rent this room for one hour- Wellington flat prices are crazy, after all!
DEEP and MEANINGFUL gives a sense of wonder and hope amongst the despair of the inevitable end of the world, and Dick does a fantastic job of holding us tight through this journey. Without wanting to spoil the story of this show, as the absurdity part of the fun, this is a feel good, at times bittersweet hour of entertainment.