Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lost Girls, Lost Trees and Lost in Thought

Lost Girls is a stunning, shocking and excellently produced play. It was written by Patrick Graham and has been produced elsewhere too. This latest startling performance, in Auckland, NZ at 21 Mercury was by Theatrewhack. I write more about it further along in this blog.

Lost Trees, in this blog title refers to the hundreds and maybe thousands of trees being slaughtered where I live, Auckland New Zealand. Developers are allowed now to cut down any trees they like without any permission, they are doing so in appalling acts of eco-vandalism.

And I'm Lost in Thought in the hope this action could assist me with a review for the play and solutions to the tree wreckage. We shall be planting some trees, guerilla-style, in parks, on verges and in natural reserves but if you also do this, make sure you research the best place to plant them and how to do this. A tree must be well-planted and where no one will chop it down easily, or where it could die or get tangled in underground pipes and cables.

Followers of this blog know I plant trees to cover the carbon cost of long distance travel, and I promote this vital activity to others. Tree planting and other gardening can assist to slow, or halt the extreme climate change we're experiencing now on planet Earth. No other planet available, we do need to look after this one.

I'm therefore, again promoting this cause, trees for travel and also, gardening or planting wherever possible. The review of the play, Lost Girls follows this short message, because planting and maintaining trees matters most, to me.

Trees absorb carbon. Some say they farm us and have done so too well, making us produce all this carbon for them to breathe. Trees beguile us with their beauty, and bounty. Truly, there is no poem lovelier than a tree, as Kilmer wrote.  We gather fruits, nuts, leaves, roots and bark to eat and make medicines or cosmetics, and other products. A tree provides shade and shelter from wind effects. Trees are lovely, they last for hundreds of years some of them, and the oldest things alive today on earth are trees.

One of The World's Ten Oldest Trees

If fruit trees are planted on the sunny side of a house, they provide shade in summer, then in winter when they lose their leaves, they let the sun shine in. In many cases, the front of the house faces the sunny side, so fruit trees out the front make it easier to share produce with your neighbours, too. Sharing what we have creates stronger more connected, and happier communities.

A lack of fences along the front of our properties also encourages cars to drive more safely, they're more likely to see people live there and anyone could walk out onto the road at any time. The evidence of human beings living nearby encourages others, usually to behave with more thought and care. In New Zealand, people seem to love high fences, a terrible pity. An opportunity to create safer communities is lost. A high fence may make your house a target for burglary, because once inside the property it is easy to hide and break in. The fence provides cover. For a little privacy and to create something of a barrier, consider fruit trees along the front of your place, or a low hedge instead of a fence.


The other night I went to see the play, Lost Girls. It was held in what is called a 'found space', being the shop frontage of a double storey building in the central city. People live upstairs and I believe the downstairs area was used as a film production company HQ, at some stage, here in Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland, NZ. 

There are stairs at the front, and an open area beyond, past a low landing. The staging area was somewhat visible from the recessed area off the street, where we waited and chatted til the door opened. Clearly a busy set, strewn artfully from the window with toys such as Lego and curious little rubber and plastic figures, 80's makeup, LP records, (like the Velvet Underground record featuring Andy Warhol's banana on the cover), portable record players, soft toys, glitzy wigs, feather boas...I could list for line after line. The souvenirs of a kitsch hound, you could say, but also evoking the past with some diverse imagery, accessible and fascinating.

In the slightly-worn space, circled with serviceable black chairs, bright set items created a sense of memory-stream or junk shop absorption. O all the many stories we could invent or recall, while searching through them. A table and chairs also featured mid-set with a toaster, other kitchen effects and a couple of chairs besides. A corner shelf was back in a recess halfway along, and a rack of clothes were down the far end.

Three young women sat on a comfy retro sofa at the back of the room, with a bright collage of magazine pictures above them, on the worn white wall. Some words were cut out too and hinted at violence or drama. In front of the young women a table piled with fashion magazines, beside them a long-playing record player, and a more modern stereo somewhat camouflaged by a retro-apron covered in teapots. The girls chatted and cut things out or sulked over a magazine, like people waiting for something to happen.

The girls were plainly performers but also, intriguing and realistic. It was a little like eavesdropping on them in a waiting room, like we were all in the same boat.

I enjoyed having so much to look at, to consider and get involved with before the play truly started. The lights were low, so it felt like I was entitled to peer at the set and the women. even if they were having a private conversation and not particularly 'acting'. So many cues are offered in fine theatre for people watching to understand what is expected of us, as an audience, this was no exception.

The usherette who showed me in, appeared rather like a stern librarian. The effect of that was to set a tone of officialdom or 'behave yourself' as well. Gradually, I also gathered what each character on the sofa was like, and some audience members could've believed they were people about to watch the play, like we all were, at first.

This play is about women or girls who were murdered and are now in a state of limbo, until they face their fate and understand they need to move on to whatever happens next. I'm not going to explain the stories. Part of the magnetic quality of this play is how those tales build. I must say, Lost Girls is though a wake-up call for everyone, in that we do need to care for each other and when something goes wrong, face up to the police with our evidence.

A well-paced play, the mood develops and alters with skill with a definite crisis, and many emotive scenes, ranging from subtle to way over the top. Extraordinary demands were made on these young actors, all of whom play various roles, some being another gender. or far younger or older. The actors perform well and in some cases with frightening or deeply touching results, a few times I was truly absorbed as if they were people I knew.

It worked well, the characters changing but being the same four performers, this also gave a true sense of Lost Girls being about memory and 'another realm', whatever that may mean. It could be simply that Lost Girls is however, prosaically stories the survivors pieced together from evidence and imagination, (which it is in some manner), or it could be an attempt to present the after-life, or it may be that these actors take us to places we now need never go, where their lives are at stake and the risks they took created mayhem and misery. There may be many interpretations of the play, that's one of it's great strengths.

A tangible sense of the backgrounds of the characters, various stories they followed, what everyday life was like for each, how they approached relationships, danger, their fate and also, how they felt, thought and reacted, emerges in satisfying ways. The programme carries a warning about the end, and I was horrified, crying at one point. The play may have triggers for some people, but Lost Girls expertly shows what has happened to far too many people, particularly young women in vulnerable states, and the bewildering effects of neglect, abuse, isolation and the horror that drawing a veneer of faux-decency over crime produces, inevitably.

Every actor produces characters who tell the story well. Katherine Hair, Natalie Hugill , Julia Hyde and Catherine McHattie were also well cast, using the stage well and for the most part showing well developed characterisations. The use of quick on-stage costume changes and some idiosyncratic wigs, along with spectacles or other accessories, the actors physically altering their stance and voice too, amply changes their presentation, so the audience stays focused. Clever staging with music-box sound machinery directed audience gaze to various places, where necessary. These rinky-dink sounds also added to the carnivale, sinister, strange and yet playful and at times, amusing aspects of the play.

I would think that a longer season would assist some of the characters to become more fully developed. The drunken mother, for instance, could've had her flamboyance and slurring subside occasionally, so when she did let fly those melodramatic moments were all the more startling. Also, the very young girl could've been perhaps less loud or enthusiastic on occasion, for the same reason. Then the sister who was pixting, those actions needed to be more believable. The various male characters being so well played by a woman was a stroke of brilliance, and could've stopped some audience members from jumping up to 'save' the others, but again, playing a man in many demanding roles can benefit from a longer run, to gain more expertise with the subtleties of such a part. The male characters were all performed without exception excellently on the whole so far, despite my having made those small criticisms, as are the other roles, but I believe a three day showing was not long enough.

Really, what I'm angling for here is more. Lost Girls needs much more time on a stage and more people to see it. Lost Girls is a fine play and deserves your attention. I have heard it may pop up again somewhere soon, do keep an eye out for it. You will be engrossed, perplexed and horrified, you could also find this play life-changing. Kudos to all involved. Four stars out of five and highly recommended.


Lost in Thought - yes, well it's where I like to wander most. I suppose I shall stay here, so much to think about lately. I'm writing a play of my own for instance, and soon the term starts again for my lectures about writing. Plus, two of my poetry collections have gone to publishers this last while. I hope to find some success there.

Starting from 27 May 2013, Cosset, Paper Gallery in Mt. Albert, Auckland NZ - 1087 New North Road - shall be exhibiting my recent work. Ripped with Love could be the title, I haven't quite decided. What do you think of the title?

Please do come along and see it. We shall have an opening event with poetry and BYO wine, on the Monday. Let me know if you want an invite or just turn up after 5.30pm. Thanks.

Detail of one collage with poetry - Raewyn Alexander 2013

All comments welcome, thanks so much for reading my blog.