A truly wonderful play with complex and contradictory characters.
Image by Eugyeene Teh.
I had a mental list of important elements that a play needs to include for me to walk out smiling. After seeing Hello There, We've Been Waiting For You on opening night at ACMI, some points were no longer on the list.
One of them was, for example, an easily graspable plot - it certainly doesn't need to be linear, or anything like that: but I thought that I at least had to understand what the plot was to like the play. Turns out I don't.
I also thought it needed to be clear what the play was trying to say. No. Less important than I thought. Whereas good writing (by Louris van de Geer), good direction (by Samara Hersch) and a brilliantly driven concept through smashing dialogue, all grew in significance. They were all there.
Performers who can add something to a script and raise it up further (Don Bridges, Susie Dee, Genevieve Giuffre and Aaron Orzech) followed closely behind. Through multiple characters, and together with van der Geer's insights, Don Bridges and Susie Dee just smashed it, making complex and contradictory characters out of distant looks, screams, grimaces, smiles and sidelong glances.
And then they made it funny. Giuffre and Orzech were refreshing and clever, funny and heartbreaking. The smallest details matter in this performance, rather than the big ideas.
Hello There presents a day or two in the lives of the People of Truth or Consequences, the town that changed it's name in honour of the game show. But to think about the play in those terms is rather limiting, and you don't have to know any of this to enjoy it.
This is the material point: Hello There had so little context for me outside of the flyer. But it captured me without using that context. It was just truthful. I didn't know that there was a book. I didn't know that it was based on a real town - I've never seen the game show. None of that mattered, even though concepts such as these usually form the basis of the play - the crazy, whacky, crowd pleasing hook.
In the play, a game show host looked at himself in a mirror; fans and hopefuls had their dreams shattered, and people decided whether life is more than what can exist in a small town. In this way, van der Geer has zoomed in on the people, their lives and their motivations, and captured them in a moment together. Hello There is a truly wonderful play, and if I could see it again for the first time, I would.
And lists are limiting, anyway.
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting For You
Studio 1, ACMI
Next Wave Festival
30 April, 1 - 4, 7 - 11 May