Review: Hello Stranger
“The bus leaves promptly at 7:30 and cannot wait for latecomers” my ticket reads. This is terrifying for someone like me who is chronically late. I told everyone at my work that I would be leaving ten minutes early and for weeks I had the date of Hello Stranger written in my dairy with the words ‘don’t be late’ next to it. That diary entry had a lot of anticipation attached to it; I would have to be early for once and why was there a bus involved a theatre production? The day came and I still found myself sprinting across the road with a mere five minutes to spare.
My friend and I arrived panting and had our names marked off by two smiling girls Zoe and Belinda, wearing an outfit similar to a flight attendant. They were friendly and courteous, making my curiosity and excitement peak even more. When we boarded we were handed a program and stamped by two men, Cooper and James, wearing bow ties. For the night they would be our attendants. Once we sat down the bus promptly departed Civic Station at 7:30 – so don’t be late.
After a quick introduction to our hosts we’re then told about ways to be safe when you’re out, from staying in groups to walking in well-lit areas. It was the kind of talk my mum often gives me, be wary of strangers. Then the attendants talked with each person on the bus, changing from strangers to familiar faces, until we arrive at the space where Hello Stranger takes place. The room looks like a galaxy as we walk around and interact with one another while the performers Sarah Coffee, Tamara Gazzard and Lucy Shepherd of Paper Cut move around us. The set up inside the room is an innovative way to create an inclusive performance while still being able to conduct crowd control.
The idea for Hello Stranger came from a real life situation which occurred in San Francisco during September, 2013. A man openly waved a gun around before shooting one passenger, the other passengers were too engrossed in their tablets and mobile phones to notice what was happening. Inspired by the story, the Paper Cut team set out to talk to strangers about their stories of love, fear and interactions then compiled those stories into Hello Stranger.
The stories can sometimes be familiar, daunting and touching. My favourite segment was centred on the ways in which men talk to females by asking their number and sometimes transforming from interested to intimidating. It was a familiar situation to me but I could see men in the audience feeling uncomfortable with the girls yelling out quips around us. The music was jarring and the dark room aided these feelings, creating very real and powerful reactions from the audience. Some sections I could see people looking worried, other times happy and at peace.
It’s these emotions that makes Hello Stranger such a multi layered performance and brings the audience right in with the action, the music and action creating a whole new level of experience. A lot of the stories told are based in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle and a few from Europe creating a worldwide dynamic. Everything about this play is a journey, from the moment I walked up to the attendants outside Civic Station to the moment I was dropped back I felt like I was part of a different world. I feel that the Paper Cut team gave ten times more than what the ticket was sold for with their solid choreography, space usage, music and transportation.
This performance pokes and pulls on your compassion, it demonstrates the emotions when placed in a threatening and non-threatening environments. It’s a thought provoking, compelling and poignant piece of being open to the world around you and being empathetic in our modern times while understanding that strangers can be unpredictable. A piece that made me laugh, step outside of my bubble and be thankful to the strangers I have met – it’s a night not to miss. See below for performance dates and tickets:
17, 19-21, 26-28 February & 4-5 March
Bus leaves from Civic Station, Hunter St Newcastle at 7.30pm.
Approximate running time is 90 minutes.
$30 adult & $20 concession
Bookings through stickytickets.com.au/a33898
*Photo credit Claire Albrecht.
Event review by Jodie Millard for Culture Hunter.
Are you holding an arts event in Newcastle or broader Lower Hunter? Would you like to have your event reviewed be the Culture Hunter Editorial Team? Request an interview today. As long as we have someone available, we’ll be sure to send them along to review your event.