BATS Heyday Dome Theatre has never felt bigger. Maybe it was the exposed, white back wall or the expensive looking furniture. Atlas has done well for himself and “plain” Jane is impressed. A Bauhaus-esque bookcase sits along the back wall of the stage, holding Atlas’ record collection, books, and wine. Contemporary New Zealand art and a framed Metropolis poster are suspended on the walls. His fresh, modern space made me feel like I was viewing a flat I could never afford.
Loveranes brilliantly overcomes the scriptwriting challenge of balancing exposition in a chamber piece. In the first two thirds of the show, the characters’ backgrounds aren’t spelled out for the audience. Instead, we learn about the characters at a satisfying pace. We pick up on their story through their taste in film, what makes them laugh and what they’re reluctant to talk about. In the last third of the show, the novelty of the reunion wears thin and provokes anger and regret. Keen direction from Cain orchestrates a fascinating rise in intensity between Jane and Atlas as secrets are revealed.
The first scene feels a little disconnected from the rest of the play. We first meet Jane riding the bus on the way to Altas’ place. O'Carroll sits in a spotlight and darkness blots out the fancy suite. Jane is engaging, giddy and nervous as she delivers a monologue about how Atlas has reached out to her. Jane is very relaxed and confident when finally in Atlas’ apartment. I was left wondering how they would have embraced in the first moments of her visit.
In one particular part of their catch up, the pair reenact their first meeting. During this playful exchange the lighting and music change and transport us from Atlas’ apartment to a first year toga party. With dim lighting painting the two in a moody blue, we are no longer watching a reenactment but rather a flashback. The technique is powerful and shows how grounded and important this moment was for both Jane and Atlas.
Both actors deliver extremely earnest and polished performances. Their natural chemistry shines from the very first moment Atlas asks Jane to name her top five French new wave directors. Foa’i presents a refreshing vulnerability to Atlas. O’Carroll offers an incredible emotional stamina. The audience laughs with her and cries with her throughout the emotional arc.
MoodPorn is a strong, mature drama and character piece. It isn’t a love story, but a story that explores the ugliness that can lurk behind love.
MoodPorn is on at BATS at 8pm until the 4th May. Book tickets here.