Christchurch Arts Festival 2009

Love You Approximately

at Centre of Contemporary Art: CoCA, Christchurch
From 28 Jul 2009 to 1 Aug 2009

Reviewed by Lindsay Clark, 1 Aug 2009

The clinic has established a strong reputation for multi-media work , blending live performance with video projection to set up a new threshold for disbelief.  The live performer in this long- distance romance story is hardly seen in the actual flesh but with such candid and intimate screen work that does not seem to matter.

The clinic in action is proof that there is no limit to creative collaboration. This piece blends film from Spain and New Zealand, the live performer at CoCA and liberal use of webcam, e-mail and texting to advance the story. Scriptwriter Lucette Hindin and director Julieanne Eason have achieved a meticulous composite.

The story itself is a simple one of a blossoming love affair which develops from Kiwi Imogen's OE fling. Pere is in Spain, Imogen is back home and we are in the living rooms of both by virtue of the various screens making up the set. We track through tentative initial encounters to virtual flat-mate status and on to increasingly serious conversations before the leap of faith that resolves all doubt, for in the face of love, technology proves both too much and too little.

The 'playing' is intimate without feeling voyeuristic, but once the screen involves family or friends, the information they bring feels surplus to requirements and interest in the essential relationship is diminished a little.

The constant switches from this screen to that, from this medium to the next and occasionally from on screen to live presence, require focused attention quite different from that we take for granted with conventional live performance.

The on-scrren actor Olmo Hidalgo, who plays Pere, and Lara Fischel-Chisholm as Imogen, are nevertheless, engaging and convincing in the everyday truthfulness of their interaction. Very rarely a cue seemed twitched out of alignment or a non sequitur skipped a beat, but the blend of media and the story it covers is a triumph of applied technology.

The clinic has done it again, redefining what the shared experience of theatre might involve. In this festival season their enterprise and skill are particularly welcome.