Reviews of Second afterlife by Ralph McCubbin Howell, and Not in our neighbourhood by Jamie McCaskill.

Second Afterlife by Ralph McCubbin Howell

Dan is quitting Facebook. He’s sick of his profile – he’s going to delete it all. It’s not as easy as that though, is it? After waking up in the second afterlife, a mysterious Guide tells him the only way to get back to the world is to meet all his previous online profiles – and defeat them in battle.

The return season of a Young and Hungry show from 2014 includes some new gags, new fight scenes and a couple of new actors. Happily sound designer and operator Philip Jones is still on stage providing sound effects. His well-timed shenanigans are one of the highlights for me. Another set are the fight scenes and physical comedy. They are liberally scattered throughout the production and manage to be both well choreographed (Ricky Dey) and hilarious. The final highlight is seeing young actors comfortably transition to a new theatre space with the guidance of directors Kerryn Palmer and Ryan Knighton.

Michael Hebenton does a good job as the hapless Dan, being dragged from one confrontation to another. Bronwyn Ensor, Michael Trigg, Matthew Staijen, and Mahalia Sinclair-Parker are very good as Dan’s friends, and alter-egos. Lighting by Tony Black shows the different times and places well. It’s especially spooky in the first scene in the second afterlife.

Energetic and fun.

Not in our Neighbourhood by Jamie McCaskill

Maisey Mata makes a documentary about what happens in a safe house for a women’s refuge in Thames. She meets the women in the house, and the women who support them in putting their lives back together.

McCaskill wrote the script while working with Te Whariki Manawahine o Hauraki, a refuge in Thames. His job was to ‘advocate against violence towards women’. He’s chosen to do this by showing the aftermath of the violence, rather than the violence itself. It’s still there as a shadow over the characters lives, but mostly it is their daily, even mundane, existence that is shown. This makes the play more affecting as it allows the ongoing consequences of violence to be felt.

Kali Kopae is an incredible solo performer. Each character is a distinct physical and vocal personality. It’s easy to figure out who is who – from volatile, explosive Sasha, to cheerful, practical Moira. Single sided interactions proceed at the pace of the character she’s portraying at the time, while transitions between characters happen organically. A cameo appearance near the end of the show highlights the insidious nature of domestic violence and the difficult decisions those who’ve faced family violence have to make.

Well balanced between hilarious and poignant. Recommended.