Auckland Theatre Company: Six Degrees of Separation

Written originally for the stage in 1990 then adapted into a film, Six Degrees of Separation is no newcomer to the scene. Thanks to a blend of superb canon to start with, intelligent set and lighting design plus well appointed casting, Auckland Theatre Company’s adaptation feels fresh, contemporary and still bears relevance today.

The premise that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else through a chain of six people is one that should resonate to most particularly in this digital age in which Facebook tracks your connections through your social network. Where playwright John Guare expands from this theory is by arguing that it’s not just six people but which six people.

Guare’s sharp and intriguing play is brought to life by a small but stellar ensemble cast which include heavyweights in the industry thus already raising the expectations considerably. The play is centered around Flan and Ouisa Kettridge, a rich couple who live the privileged high life in New York City whose lives are turned upside down when a stranger (played excellently by Tane Williams-Accra) stumbles into their home.

The Kettridges are portrayed brilliantly by ATC household name Andrew Grainger and the esteemed Jennifer Ward-Lealand who really needs no introduction. It’s always a treat seeing Ward-Lealand perform – she has a captivating stage presence and commands the stage with ease. Her and Grainger have great on-stage chemistry that was a delight to see and particularly engaging were the moments when they narrate directly to the audience; inviting us in to their world, personalizing the experience.

Another impressive aspect of the piece is John Parker’s set. Imposing columns give the performance space a cavernous depth and combined with the discerningly devised lighting by Jo Kilgour aptly give the overall ‘world’ not only a sense of grandeur but also conveys emptiness which feeds into the premise that while we are seemingly closely connected in this world, this still doesn’t take away feelings of isolation – something we can all relate to.

All in all under the skilled direction of ATC Artistic Director Colin McColl, Six Degrees of Separation is another slick production by Auckland Theatre Company. It’s entertaining theatre with weight – the lighthearted moments are enjoyable and well-placed but its underlying message is thought-provoking and challenging which will give you something to think about as you leave the theatre.

Six Degrees of Separation is on at the ASB Waterfront Theatre until 30 August. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

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