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WATER STATION IMAGEYou wouldn’t go to a book­shop that just sold first-per­son nov­els about nurses. You wouldn’t go to a cinema that just showed music doc­u­ment­ar­ies. You wouldn’t go to a res­taur­ant that just sold toast. Actu­ally, scratch that last one — I think people actu­ally do do that. But you get my point. Vari­ety is the spice of life. Options, genres, all the little spec­trums of art we have around us make life so much more inter­est­ing. So, why does all theatre look the same?

There is no art­form — com­ic books excep­ted — that is more mired in a single mode of expres­sion than theatre. There is noth­ing inher­ently wrong with New York- or Lon­don-based real­ist drama. Nor is there any­thing wrong with the very par­tic­u­lar brand of RSVP devis­ing (a Cana­dian tech­nique and sys­tem) that is tak­ing off with the kids. But there is some­thing wrong with those two things being, really, the only two styles of theatre we see on our stages — out­side of the all-too-brief fest­ivals, both New Zea­l­and and Fringe.

Theatre-makers can’t blame audi­ences for this. Audi­ences, when giv­en the option of work from out­side the ‘If Not European Then Cer­tainly Caucasi­an’ norm, take to it with as much enthu­si­asm as they do to any oth­er type. That is, audi­ences come to the non-tra­di­tion­al work when it’s prop­erly sold to them. Unfor­tu­nately, theatres have an ugly habit of hid­ing, under­sell­ing or mis­la­belling work that falls out­side of their usu­al parameters.

Theatre-makers can’t blame their schools either. Every theatre train­ing insti­tu­tion worth its salt — and we have sev­er­al in this city — spends a thor­ough stretch of time ded­ic­ated to many oth­er the­at­ric­al tra­di­tions, often sta­ging com­plete pro­duc­tions in admir­able fac­sim­iles of the styles of oth­er coun­tries and oth­er cultures.

All of which is to say that we should pounce on every single chance we get to inter­face with theatre styles out­side the ‘norm’. This is why we should be excited by The Water Sta­tion, play­ing this month at BATS — which, let’s remem­ber, is still ‘out of site’ on the corner of Cuba and Dix­on while its Kent Ter­race home is ren­ov­ated and earthquake-strengthened.

The Water Sta­tion began life as one of the uni­ver­sity pro­duc­tions I men­tioned above, premier­ing at the VUW theatre depart­ment in the middle of last year. Dir­ec­ted by Dr Megan Evans, a lec­turer in the depart­ment who spe­cial­ises in Asi­an per­form­ance prac­tices, and with a free-of-the-spoken-word script by renowned Japan­ese play­wright Ōta Shōgo, The Water Sta­tion is pre­cisely the kind of work from an altern­at­ive tra­di­tion that Wel­ling­ton is hungry for.

It’s hard to describe without selling it short. So let it be said now that it is, or at least the pro­duc­tion last year that they’re now remount­ing was, sub­lime and trans­port­ing. Vari­ous people pass through and inter­act with a con­stantly run­ning, fall­ing stream of water. And it all takes place in slow motion. All of it.

To watch The Water Sta­tion is to enter a more med­it­at­ive way of watch­ing. The first few moments are bor­ing, but once your brain and your watch­ing have eased into the slow tempo of the work the whole thing comes alive — intric­ate details, a mil­lion tiny stor­ies all told in the tini­est of movements.

Leav­ing the theatre when it was fin­ished was like wak­ing from a dream as the actu­al pace of real­ity reas­ser­ted itself. This is, dare I say it, a very Zen exper­i­ence. This is the joy of oth­er per­form­ance prac­tices. They’re not just new things to watch; there are whole new ways to watch them.

That oth­ers, people unwill­ing to make the jour­ney up the hill, now have a chance to exper­i­ence a work as unique as this is so excit­ing. It may not sound like your cup of tea, but believe me, it is everyone’s cup of tea. Make sure you book; you’ll kick your­self if you miss it. Very slowly.

The Water Sta­tion by Ōta Shōgo, dir­ec­ted by Megan Evans and presen­ted by Hard Sleep­er Theatre Com­pany, is on at BATS theatre ( on 16–26 April (no shows East­er week­end). Book at, or (04) 802 4175.

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