Devenie’s grasp and delivery of the verbose text and her command of Te Reo - the native language - is impressive and there are aptly placed humourous moments peppered throughout the story
Penned by seasoned playwright Arthur Meek and directed by Colin McColl, this Auckland Theatre Company production is certainly of quality pedigree and it shows. The production is extremely polished and Laurel Devenie is a skilled performer, not only portraying Lady Martin and all the other characters with great conviction, but also transitioning between the roles of storyteller, narrator and performer with ease.
The forest of interlocking ladders which inhabits the stage towers over Devenie but does not dominate her performance or interfere with the narrative. Equally the sound design, which includes live interludes between scenes from an onstage cellist, perfectly complements what happens on stage. The use of props is kept to a minimum so the focus is very much on the story and its characters.
This play is more word-heavy than action-based, so may not be suitable for those who prefer their theatre lighthearted. Still, Devenie’s grasp and delivery of the verbose text and her command of Te Reo - the native language - is impressive and there are aptly placed humourous moments peppered throughout the story which do provide some laughs. The highly descriptive nature of the text also helps paint a visual picture of the space and easily transports the audience to the lush native landscape in which Lady Martin finds herself.
On the Upside Down of the World is a moving and inspiring story of one woman’s life-changing journey during New Zealand’s colonial history. It provides a vivid snapshot of this significant period in time and not just from a colonialist perspective. It also gives enlightening insight into where New Zealand as a nation comes from, shaping who they are today as a people.