The Wasp is a dark psychological thriller about the intertwined lives of two women who started as best friends as children until one became a nemesis bully and the other the victim.
Performers: Bree Peters, Miriama McDowell
Director: Sam Snedden Playwright: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
The women meet again 25 years later and the story begins there.
Bree Peters plays Heather, a well-to-do Dink (double-income no-kids) who has a self-assured nature with an undercurrent of ill-defined anxiety.
Miriama McDowell plays Carla, the polar opposite. A difficult life, four children and heavily pregnant with another. Surly and blunt to the point of unveiled hostility.
The time has come for both characters to confront their past, but this can also be dangerous territory. Themes of domestic violence, sexual violence and be careful where the female psyche of Jung’s anima can explode.
It is no accident that Carla appears more Māori in her portrayal as it is a deliberate sub-text in this presentation.
Director Sam Snedden has embraced the confronting nature of the themes underlying this dark story and is bold in exploring and bringing them out.
Both actors are of Māori descent. Well-seasoned local artists of stage and screen who have collaborated in the past and appeared in common productions. Shortland Street, Outrageous Fortune, Emilia, Pop-Up Globe Theatre.
UK writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm published this in 2015, and tellingly, she has said it was inspired by dark thoughts I had as a young mother that came up when I was feeding my baby at 3am. The title refers to the tarantula hawk, a wasp which lays its egg on the underbelly of the scary arthropod after stinging it with a vicious paralyzing venom. The larva then feeds on the body of the tarantula, keeping it alive as long as possible until it hatches. Deliciously dark thoughts indeed as you feed the monster.
The set design is wonderful and fascinating, from production designer Meg Rollandi, and production assistants Sophie Forsyth and Kate Carrington. Collections of wasps, insects, moths and butterflies to museum piece standard form the impressive back-drop. Violin and double bass provide a Hitchcock-style macabre ambience complete with the sounds of big winged insects flying around the room.
Dark humour with some obvious inspiration from the master director but possibly more directly from Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. There’s a lineage there.
That’s all the reveal I will indulge in here.
Lovers of the macabre will enjoy the great two-hander performance of these artists. They do it with some relish which heightens the impact.
The themes are confrontational and difficult, being issues which are constantly in the media, and there never seems to be any genuine will to address them in a true and open fashion. But that is our deep human nature.
The Wasp is both unsettling and wickedly funny. It is also tragic and doomed. That is what great art aspires to and why you should see it, even if it plumbs depths you wish were left untroubled.
Rev Orange Peel
Photos courtesy: Andi Crown
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