by Laura Ferguson
The first thing you notice about Wood-Hill is how much he loves telling his story. Many storytelling shows delve into the deep and murky places of a person’s psyche and there are elements of that in How I Met My Father, but Wood-Hill is energised on stage, thrilled to tell us. There is no shying away or self-deprecation in this show, a rarer sight in New Zealand. It’s a good thing since his personality would be hindered by such an approach. Instead, he is confident and speaks to us individually, holding eye-contact and making open gestures with his arms, making you nod along without really knowing it.
He is very good at directly addressing the audience, catering to us as we react to him. He does this without breaking the flow of his narrative or creating tangents. Once I took a beat too long to get a pun and laughed out of sync with the rest of the audience and without pause, Wood-Hill commented, “Only just got that, did you?” with a cheeky grin, causing another ripple of mirth.
Though he is quick to tell us this isn’t a comedy show, and it isn’t, it does have plenty of laughter moments. These come organically and not out of design the way they are at a comedic performance. However, the serious, more emotional parts are deafeningly quiet, we all listen intently as Wood-Hill describes heavy topics on a personal level. He admits discoveries about himself that he isn’t proud of and it is only at these times that he dips his eyes from us, consternation apparent on his brow. His voice is quieter now, too, his speech slower and more deliberate. His gestures aren’t so animated and I am affected as he is, adopting a more self-comforting posture, arms around my middle as I contemplate how I would have dealt with what he went through.
Wood-Hill then gradually spins the darker mood away without doing so flippantly, but there is remembrance here and it gets carried for the rest of the show. The bounce does come back into his performance through his tales of discovering his multicultural heritage. Being half-Pakeha/half-Samoan, Wood-Hill tells of how few outlets he had growing up to explore the Samoan half of himself. It is obvious how important this is to him and such love of both of cultures pours out with unreserved passion. As he makes these connections with his father throughout the show, more and more puzzle pieces get dropped into the pile.
It could be argued that the puzzle is under-utilised given that it is never solved, but this is exactly Wood-Hill’s point. A person sometimes feels like they are missing a few pieces. Wood-Hill points out that you can go and find these pieces and add them to make a complete set. However, we never really are complete, we are all jumbled all the time, and that’s OK, as long as it’s makes a good story. How I Met My Father captures the essence of this message cleverly and with a knowing wink. It isn’t always an easy ride, but Rhian Wood-Hill’s How I Met My Father is a fun, and sometimes dark tale about parental discovery.
It is playing at The Cavern Club on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th. For tickets see www.fringe.co.nz