The outset of Hold Me is clever, moulding itself in position to frame what to expect from this performance while we file in. The director, Tabitha Arthur, should be commended for the way she stylishly anticipated how those present would read the primary setting, framing the characters in different ways and in moods which are distinct and infused us with anticipation.
The music at the inception of the play is bass-heavy, sexy and hinting at passionate intimacy, while also including a timpani rhythm and record scratches to indicate all is not quite right. The sound designer, Brad Jenkins, excellently sets the scene with this manoeuvre, telling us we should expect tales of familiarity, sex, betrayal and nostalgia with a beating of the heart that is close to the surface in all instances. This is not a performance of subtleties, albeit, almost oxymoronically, with continuous subtext, and is all the better for it. Jenkins’ work is used throughout to heighten tension. For example, an intermittent ticking creates a constant motif for the show and the speed of it determines much about how you interpret the stories.
The music perfectly complements the lighting designed by Audrey Morgan and is executed with aplomb. The lighting signifies to the audience what particular mood is the overriding theme of each story as it unfolds. Paying attention to the lights colouring the scene enhances the dialogue, without unhinging the delicate balance Emily Duncan’s script emulates so effortlessly. This theatre experience is one which will stay with you.
Another element of this show that will be slow to leave your consciousness is the performance of all three actors, Raquel Roderick, Kirsty Bruce and Alex Grieg. These talented individuals were all able to embody multiple characters with a clarity that ought to be recognised and, in fact, was by the highly encouraged encore bow that the opening night audience impressed upon them at the show’s conclusion.
The musical component of the show was a great piece of transition between the various storylines that embodied this performance. However, when Roderick and Bruce sang a cappella in the final part of the anthology, I did wish that all of the songs were sung live rather than lip-synched, despite the comedy that sometimes accompanied these interludes.
The script of this piece was surprising, ranging from the dramatic to situational comedy in an English landscape that moves from the tension of Downton Abbey to the humour of the early-2000s Coupling. The movements between these juxtaposing genres does not feel jarring in the slightest, the achievement of which should be attributed to the concentrated efforts of both director and cast.
Hold Me is an enterprising show, the premise of which seems daunting at first glance, but glides under the supervision of Tabitha Arthur and the enigmatic performances of the actors. It is a show that will repeat its opening night glory and deserves the full house it received that night.
Hold Me is on at BATS Theatre from the 6th - 10th of September and tickets are available at www.bats.co.nz .