The First Time review – Fresh writing meets great acting

The First Time
The First Time

The First Time revolves around five women who undergo momentous experiences in their lives that changes them in some way or the other. Hence the title, ‘The First Time.’ The five characters of Elle, Jess, Te Rina, Alana and Mereana use extensive monologues to essay their emotive state. It almost feels like one is witnessing honest accounts of five 20-something year olds. Courtney Rose Brown, Ingrid Saker, Iris Henderson, Cassandra Sutherland and Trae Te Wiki are at their best as the five protagonists. Courtney Rose Brown, who has written the play, acts in it as well.

The five characters go on a path of self-exploration employing the monologue style, which at once draws in the audience. And all the five actresses have played their hearts out for this performance.

Elle (Courtney Rose Brown) narrates her traumatic experience of physical abuse, which affects her self-esteem. The feeling of being left out is a recurring motif in Te Rina’s (Cassandra Sutherland) story. Peer pressure, the constant feeling of not belonging and being disposable from her group of friends pushes her to find new avenues for self-expression. In Jess (Ingrid Saker), we have a prodigious student who sees her grades go down as she goes up the social circle and begins her ‘first’ same-sex relation. With Mereana (Trae Te Wiki), we have the naive eager-to-please girlfriend who is excited at the prospect of her new relationship but simultaneously endures severe self-doubt. In Alana (Iris Henderson), we have the quintessential dewy-eyed girl who thinks being in love would fulfill her until she finds out it did not. The five stories, which begin on separate notes, gradually give way to common themes and interrelate.

The five characters go on a path of self-exploration employing the monologue style, which at once draws in the audience. And all the five actresses have played their hearts out for this performance. Stage movements are scarce and the characters interact with each other circuitously. Occasionally, what breaks the flow of the narrative is when they start to directly engage with each other, especially, when Elle and Te Rina’s subplots begin to interact.

The First Time successfully manages to keep the audiences hooked till the last minute with some sharp writing, fine direction and great acting.

Neenah Dekkers-Reihana’s direction breathes fresh life into the framework of monologue-based performances. Each character has a unique way of speaking, body language and set of traits, which are beautifully presented on stage. The play succinctly voices the pain, shame, self-doubt, emotional inadequacy and self-discovery that tints the individual ‘first time’ encounters of Elle, Alana, Te Rina, Jess and Mereana. Minimal stage design and lighting add depth to the narration. The five different chairs impart meaning to the overall stage construction as the unspoken vehicles of conversation where the five distinctive personalities sit down and engage through soliloquies with the audience. The writing is notable as it deftly incorporates much of today’s social media inspired idiom and colloquialism that is a part of every 20-year-old’s diction. The First Time successfully manages to keep the audiences hooked till the last minute with some sharp writing, fine direction and great acting.

Written by Courtney Rose Brown

Directed by Neenah Dekkers-Reihana

BATS Theatre, Wellington (New Zealand), 8 pm until March 25

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