I recently appeared, alongside Campbell Walker, Colin Hodson and Grace Campbell-Russell, as a performer/writer in the latest incarnation of Tao Wells’ play Inuit Time, once described by the National Business Review’s theatre critic John Smythe as “an insult to the fundamentals of theatre.”
“The premise for Inuit Time is simple enough; the players write the script from their conversations, they are in control of the script (although the instruction is to write down every utterance). The resulting text is then edited together by Wells with each group’s transcript forming alternating scenes. The players form a performative intersection with the artist, who, over time pushes at the limits of their commitment to the activity through the use of repetition. Wells assumes control of the performance as he silently projects the script on an OHP for the players and audience to read and follow. Working through the sheets of dialogue he does not necessarily stop once the script has been read through once, but might keep on cycling through it endlessly, forcing the players to choose between regurgitation of their own, often banal, conversations or something else. At a point unknown this breaks down as one or more players’ rebel, refusing to continue or reading others’ parts and generally interrupting the established structure of the piece. At its best a performance like this runs the gamut from tedious to engaging, encompassing moments of hilarity and insight into how social structures and relationships operate. Like those social relationships its attempts can be abortive and banal. Yet there is even something to be gained from this because it has a built in authenticity, stemming from the anything and everything approach to content, that cannot be denied by any one iteration of the piece. The experience of Inuit Time retains the possibility of being something transformative, which lies in the occurrence of the poetic moment and in the hovering threat of conflict.” (Charlotte Huddleston, Problems)
“I have taken the elements of theatre and shifted them slightly… The original notion of the arts doing a good deed in purging dangerous emotions from a populace is reversed. I uncover these emotions, but I ask the audience to take responsibility for them, till the wheels of the theatre fall off.” (Tao Wells, read more)
“Now, this might all sound a bit wanky, but it managed to be a really enjoyable evening. While the dialogue was ordinary, the script was smart and entertaining, and the performances (or lack of) worked well with the space. The play ended with a remix of the script, with Wells jumping around the script, the actors reading what was in front of them like those crazy South American soap operas where the actors are fed lines via earpiece. And when the writer/actors tired, audience members jumped in (one of whom may have been me). The evening ended with Wells collapsing on the floor, declaring, ‘You’ve beaten me!’ Ha!” (Wellingtonista review)
“This felt like art should, as an event and an experience. Immersive, alive, challenging. The way I ended up engaging with the piece was fascinating; a suspension of thought, plus all sorts of meta-textual awareness, veering from hilarity to disbelief to other things.” (Undulating Ungulate review)
Inuit Time was directed by Tao Wells, as part of the Wells Group installation The Beneficiary’s Office. There will be a second performance on Monday 25 of October at The Frederick Street Sound and Light Exploration Society (46 Frederick Street, Wellington, New Zealand).