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Pondlife Angels

Pondlife Angels

Reviewed by Roz

“Pondlife” - not a compliment.

I loved this play. I want my friends to see it so we can talk about it. 

If you’ve ever felt like pondlife, or if you’ve ever seen someone not coping, you’ll get this play.

People just don’t see the angel in us all of the time.  Jean has her own “mixed abilities” Her obsessive compulsive disorder is a nightmare. The people around her don’t get it.

Or just don’t care.

There are some great bits, like the time she gets her own back and completely freaks Grandma’s old crusty church friends out. And then there’s her kindness, which really shows through when she talks about her friend Eve.

Catriona Troop  (Jean) is wild in this performance. She’s trapped. Her mind can’t find the freedom she craves. Her face is angelic even though she’s full of frustration and anger.

Kyle Chuen’s many characters are so alive and totally convincing - and he doesn’t even change costumes, so it’s totally about his incredible acting abilities. He’s Jean’s mother, father, 3 friends, supermarket colleague and the love of her life.

The energy in this 77 minute -  no interval -  performance is amazing. Go see it.

Interview with the leads

"She's wearing her Minnie Mouse nightshirt and for the first time she realises it's covered in blood …"

Pondlife Angels: Jean has a thing about doorways. She can't go through them without freaking out. She's 18, still living at home, in a dead-end job and tonight the boy she loves is marrying someone else.

Edna Walsh is an award winning Irish writer and describes his latest play as a 'comedy, horror story, soap opera, supernatural thriller, all taking place in the split second between life and death' - we thought this all sounded rather intriguing so we sent one of the team off to meet the two lead actors - Catriona Toop (20, 3rd Year Student at NASDA)and Kyle Chuen (23, 1st year student at NASDA).

What's the play essentially about?
Cat: A teenage girl called Jean who works in a supermarket. It's sort of her story in the split second before she dies - which isn't really the ending though because there's this huge twist. It's all about her discoveries and stuff and how she gets through the last day of her life.
Kyle: Well, there's this one character who's there the whole way through and I'm him! It does become clear but there's a lot left to your own discovery although you are given a few ideas of who he really is. He's like a through-line character and his main objective is to get Jean through her story but he also pops in as all the other characters on her life too - and I play all of them too - Jean's mother, father, best friend, boss, work mates. It's a great challenge. It's also a very physical play with a lot of movement.
How do you get into character?
Cat: We've got a friend of mine coming into rehearsals this afternoon so that Kyle can see what we're really like together, how we interact and stuff.
Kyle: Jean's a very intense little girl in her head but what she's like on the outside is totally different and people's perception of her is totally false as she's not at all like how she appears. As to my characters, I have to control all of them through my main character and it's most challenging to actually be HIM. I also play lots of different females and that's challenging as well!
Cat: The thing with Jean is that she's quite young and she's got something that everyone in their late teens or early 20s can relate to - like, OCD tendencies and she's insanely imaginative. Finding out who Jean is is like making new discoveries all the time. I guess when you're really in the moment you're kind of like really there and you simply ARE that character.
Kyle: It's a bit scary getting inside a girl's head because they're a lot different to how us guys perceive them.
Have you always wanted to act?
Cat: Yeah. Mum's a drama teacher so it's always been something I've wanted to do.
Kyle: It was a bit different for me. I grew up in a small town and if I'd stayed there, I'd have ended up a dairy farmer or apprentice of some type. I got out and tried to make something of myself and acting was something that I was passionate about.
What's NASDA really like?
Cat: Well, it's kind of competitive to get in because applications come from all over New Zealand and there are only about 2--25 places. If you go to NASDA you've really got to want to do it because it's long hours and intense work. It's not like nine to five. You could be in rehearsals from nine until real late or if you're checking something you're there even to the early hours of the morning but I loveit.
Kyle: It's an awesome experience though. Awesome.
Favourite actors, plays, movies?
Interviewer's aside: I think this was a rather dumb question as both Cat and Kyle stared at me as if I was totally off the planet before breaking out into disbelieving laughter
Cat: God, I dunno. There's so many. It's a really hard question! I love Johnny Depp, of course. Um, Natalie Portman. As to plays, I see so many. Bedbound was wicked. I love drama although I'd really like to be in a comedy one day too.
Kyle: I don't have any personal favourites. Hold on though - maybe Gene Kelly. I like singing a lot and there's a musical called Jekyll and Jyde. The lead role is really difficult to play but I'd love to have a go at it one day.
Any regrets?
Cat: Nope. Well … hmmm … no. I sometimes wonder whether it would have been good to have a year out instead of coming straight from school. It would have given me more life experience but this is so cool because I'll like graduate when I'm twenty.
Kyle: There's nothing I'd change. I'm happy I ended up doing all this in the time frame that I've done it in. Everything that's happened has always been part of the path I'm heading down.
Ultimate dream?
Cat: When I've finished here I want to go overseas with my drama - London, Europe. I really want to get out of Christchurch and I'd love to do film but just to keep working … that'd be cool!
Kyle: I want to do it all really. Heaps of stuff. Performance, directing, tour, Broadway, West End, movies … the whole lot!