The Wholehearted

27 September 2017, Blyth Performing Arts Centre, Havelock North
Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival

Where do I begin to write about a work conceptually devised through considered exploration about how our hearts matter to all we do and be? I simply wish to stay in that fragrant, determined place of feeling it all – the heart. This performance is such a gift to its audience and actors.

It was clear from the onset that seven of Massive Company‘s awesome actors would be extending a reaching and honest vulnerability far into the depths of the audience. We laughed and fell silent, and I am sure for many there came a swell of tears.  As devised theatre, Massive’s process was core to captivating the audience, leading us through storylines and honed gestures.

The Wholehearted presented recognisable, contemporary scenarios, emoting how our hearts are pulled and pushed and how we hold onto tumultuous inner dialogues, debating between our head talk and heart’s feelings as a way through living – even if our heart fractures.

There is a strong emphasis on finding bravery and inner courage just to surface in our own lives, to be how we really are. An ever re-occurring alter-ego superhero, martial art icons and its physical form, along with cultural gesture all postulating bravery. How we strut and puff ourselves to protect our hearts. How we might, and do, step forward in courage to keep on going.

I found myself in a permissable landscape, readily questioning just where are we all climbing to each day.  I mean really, how are we living our lives?  Maybe just a little heartedly, a-once-in-a-while heartedly, over-keen heartedly, and all-in-a-rush heartedly… The stories were all there.

Massive gave it all…wholeheartedly.  Striking costumes in a grey, red-threaded form, with the only prop a grey half-threaded box representative of the heart, containment, a place in which to climb into or elate into the air with, or to sit on.  The staging was simple with three narrow, angled shear drops to duck behind.

Plenty of physical theatre led the way, concise gestures flipping the visual language of youth and the language of popular culture, down to our apparatuses, like mobile phones and social media like Tinder, and Facebook. Gestures accurate right down to three fingers rolling in the air imitating how messenger shows three dots 1,2,3 repeating when a person is writing back to you. The audience understood it all.  At times, I wanted to leap from my seat and declare a full ‘yes’. The lighting and sound design intimated thorough intimacy, always orientating us back towards our heart – of itself, a beautiful purpose.

It was a bit of a shock when the actors came out after the show as themselves – so, fantastic character development here, and kudos to co-directors Sam Scott and Scotty Cotter.  Massive Company also works extensively with youth and this core connectivity was apparent throughout.  If there is anything I can further say, it would be to encourage you all to see this work. It really is a ‘wholehearted’ experience.

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