Skip to main content

THIS RUGGED BEAUTY - (left to right) Simon Haren and Claire O'Loughlin - Photo by Rachel BrandonFor a com­pany com­fort­ably in its fifth year, the Binge Cul­ture Col­lect­ive ( still man­ages to seem pretty young, pretty new. Per­haps that comes from how unex­pec­ted, fresh and excit­ing their work is. And let me be clear, while unex­pec­ted, fresh and excit­ing are three words thrown at almost any­one who can whip togeth­er a work at BATS in a week­end, I use them here very precisely.

You nev­er know what you’ll get in a Binge show. It could be a heart­felt, beau­ti­ful tone-poem like last year’s sub­lime For Your Future Guid­ance, or a scab­rous acid­ic attack on injustice like 2011’s Wake Less, or simply some of the fun­ni­est jokes on the Wel­ling­ton theatre scene like in, well, everything they do. Their work is always prop­erly, actu­ally unex­pec­ted.

Their work is always new, always sur­pris­ing. While it does iter­ate and evolve, it always does so in new ways. Every night, their shows evolve, grow and change. I saw their first ‘offi­cial’ work (the com­pany star­ted in 2008 as Ral­ph Upton’s Hon­ours in Theatre Research pro­ject and they did sev­er­al show­ings through­out that year), Drown­ing Bird, Plum­met­ing Fish, in the 2009 New Zea­l­and Fringe Fest­iv­al three times over its sea­son and every night it was dif­fer­ent. Lines changed, whole ener­gies shif­ted, new images emerged. Every night it sur­prised me. This, com­bined with the raw, elec­tric, dir­ect, audi­ence-inclus­ive/in­ter­rog­at­ive style they work in, makes everything they do really, actu­ally fresh. This is stuff you haven’t seen before, and prob­ably won’t see again.

Someone much smarter than me once said that the collective’s work has “all the raw bril­liance of a hunk of mag­nesi­um chucked in a buck­et of water” (it was Thomas LaHood review­ing their show 2009 show Anim­al Hour on, if you care). There is no bet­ter descrip­tion. It is dazzling and bright – almost blind­ing, but attract­ive too. In this year’s Fringe Fest­iv­al they per­formed a work called Break Up [We Need to Talk]. It was a six-hour-long break-up, noth­ing more, noth­ing less. A year ago they won Best of the Fringe with Whales, a show where they, and volun­teers, pre­tend to be beached whales and got pass­ers-by to help get them back to sea.

The con­stant devel­op­ment of their per­spect­ive and work across their half-dec­ade his­tory is excit­ing because it shakes up the whole Wel­ling­ton theatre scene, dar­ing every­one else to make more, and make it bet­ter. Binge are excit­ing because they excite our senses and our thoughts, and they fuel more of this city’s arts than you’d ever think.

They cre­ated and con­tin­ue to cur­ate monthly cab­aret-style per­form­ance labs, in the Under­study bar at BATS (, called Scratch Nights. By provid­ing a safe envir­on­ment for loc­al theatre-makers to exper­i­ment – like a faster-turn-around Per­form­ance Arcade – they are cre­at­ing a grow­ing fur­nace in which more excit­ing loc­al work is being forged.

So, where to now for Binge? Their future has nev­er had a career­ist force – they have toured work to fest­ivals but only so more people will see it rather than more people buy it. When faced with ques­tions about the future, they seem to choose the most inter­est­ing path rather than the most com­mer­cial or most pub­lic. For a few years Binge have been slowly eas­ing their way out of tra­di­tion­al theatre spaces into com­munity halls, out­door fest­ivals, classrooms and even con­fer­ence centres. Sick of wait­ing for people to come to them, Binge are tak­ing their work to the people. That’s anoth­er thing that keeps them seem­ing so young: they nev­er seem to stop moving.

This month they’re present­ing a heav­ily redeveloped sea­son of their 2011 show This Rugged Beauty at BATS theatre (which, remem­ber, is still Out of Site on Dix­on Street) from 25 March to 5 April. A close ana­lys­is of all the icons and ideas that make up this little coun­try of ours, this show prom­ises to be, well, unex­pec­ted, fresh and excit­ing. Make sure you get to it – I prom­ise you’ve nev­er seen any­thing like it, or will again.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.