Pan is Dead
University of Auckland Drama Studio, Symonds Street, Auckland
February 20th, 2018
4/5 stars
Review by SOPHIE STONE 

 

It’s Tuesday night, and I’m hurrying down Symonds Street. Nestled in among the road, the Auckland University Arts Centre beckons me. It’s the opening night of the Theatre of Love’s dystopian fantasy musical, Pan Is Dead, and I’m somewhat predictably running late.

As I awkwardly take a seat around the side of the stage, grateful that the play hasn’t started yet and I don’t have to dramatically open the doors on a performance in motion, I flip the programme over and have a read of the synopsis. My understanding of the play is relatively limited at this point. I’d read the press release and understood that the play’s focus is on Pan, Greek god of all things wild, a goat-man hybrid. According to the release the play is set in Arcadia, a dystopian world where while those in power claim everything is equal, a small band of followers continue to worship Pan and the ways of the old.

Not having studied the Greek gods since year nine, I’d had a cheeky glance over Pan’s Wikipedia page, and learnt that he was also considered to be God of theatrical criticism, kind of fitting given his depiction in a play. An influential figure associated with fun and debauchery, he was also noteworthy for being one of the few Gods who managed to die.

So you could say I had a little understanding of what was about to fold out in front of me. I figured the next ninety minutes would be spent following some guy with goat horns frolicking around and chasing nymphs or something. In reality, I had no idea of the experience that awaited me. Dark fantasy, haunting music, and the immersion into a world deeply rooted in strict ideals and surveillance, contrasting with the soulfulness and glee of the forest.

The musical tells the story of Cass, a person (gender is no longer recognised in Arcadia) raised to serve the progression of their society. As Cass is thrown deeper into an unforeseen role thrust upon them, they encounter Pan and his supporters, marking the beginning of their internal conflict, between doing what is considered right by society, and what Cass’s body and heart yearn for.

The strength of the performances was something to behold. Carla Newton, playing protagonist Cass, was believable and expressive, while Quentin Warren, who played Pan, managed to steal the short amount of scenes he appeared in with his majestic presence. Brady Peeti’s portrayal of the Doctor gave the otherwise dark play some much needed comic relief.

The music was terrific, often uneasy and eerie to set the scenes where Pan made appearances. The use of varied instruments like the piano, mandolin, guitar, violin, and penny whistle helped contribute to the mystical backdrop of the forest Pan’s supporters frequent. The cast as a whole were all talented singers and actors who captured the hubris the God Pan is known for.

As a dystopian musical, I was unsurprised to find that the plot was very dark, escalating to a point where at times it seemed there was no hope whatsoever for protagonist Cass. I did wonder if perhaps at times it would benefit from a little more comic relief. However this was also in some way a strength of the play, as it meant many of the darker twists were unexpected. It was never the kind of play where I felt I could predict the ending, which is always refreshing.

On the whole, I would describe Pan Is Dead as a thought provoking and interesting play. The performances alone make it worth seeing, and if you’re the kind of person who enjoys dystopian theatre or musicals, I’d urge you to check it out.

You can catch Pan is Dead at:

  • Tuesday 20th February – Saturday 25th February at 7pm
  •  Sunday 26th February at 5pm.
  •  Click here to get your tickets!

SOPHIE STONE is a geeky 19-year-old who loves Doctor Who and has been writing for TEARAWAY for two years. Currently trying to navigate her gap year, wishing she could pursue a degree in chicken nugget tasting. Check out more of her work below:

Auckland Pride Festival 2018: A Celebration Of Queer Youth

Q&A With Tupou Neiufi: The Life Of A Young Para-Swimmer

The Whanganui River’s Legal Status: What You Need To Know

In Review: How To Win At Feminism

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