Erin Harrington reviews My NIGHTMARE Wedding by Play Space Productions at The Quarters at Riccarton House and Bush, Monday 18 July 2022.
In Play Space Productions’ interactive show My Nightmare Wedding, we’re at the historic Riccarton House for the dream wedding of sweethearts Abigail and Charlie, and anything that can go wrong is honestly going terribly. We, the guests, have all arrived too early, much to the consternation of the bride’s parents. In one room, the bridesmaids are gritting their teeth as they competitively negotiate who’s really the best best friend while doing each other’s hair. In another, the groomsmen are trying to talk Charlie off a metaphorical ledge as he fails to write his vows and tries to decide whether true love is even possible. Then, cake: offensive. Dress: disaster. Cost: outrageous. Celebrant: down with Covid. Best man: macking onto anything that moves. Father of the groom: went to the shops years ago and never came back. And so on.
For the first hour of the show audience members can pick-a-path by wandering through the rooms at will with drink in hand, nabbing canapes as wait staff pass, and posing for pics with the photographer. You can get drawn into the drama (team mother-of-the-groom Sally or team mother-of-the-bride Heather?) or not, and interact if you like. I have a good yarn with the bride about kiwifruit juice cleanses (yikes) and do a poor job of helping with about the fiftieth iteration of Charlie’s vows. And the venue is also a character in itself, the walls of the foyer lined with rather intimidating hundred-year-old deer and moose trophies, and the rooms lushly furnished. It offers a sense of occasion.
At first, given the amount of simultaneous action, and potential visibility issues because of the movement of the audience, I was worried I would miss something vital – but really it’s the chaos and the misunderstandings that are vital. You can keep rough track of what’s happening as characters run messages from room to room, have catastrophic miscommunications, wind each other up, and pester audience members for help writing poems, or tying ties, or giving pep talks. Enough is reiterated to get a sense of where characters are at, and what’s making things worse. The various lines of action crash back together in a handful of comic set pieces. I suspect the best way to enjoy this would be to go with friends and split up so that you can compare notes in the break before sitting down, in the second half, to see whether the wedding will, or even can, proceed.
And it’s a huge amount of fun. Interactive, immersive shows are often only as successful as their weakest links, but the cast of twelve, as directed by Georgie Sivier and Kat Forrester, is consistently strong. They offer high-energy, clearly-drawn characters who build upon easily legible types: the flaky new age overfamiliar mum, the douchey rich-kid bro, the sweet giggly basic bitch, the terrified nerd whose found himself in a world of chiffon and lace and squealing. Together, the cast improvise around well-defined (and often fractious) relationships, which bend and strain under the pressures offered by cascading issues and comedic beats. Their interactions are fast and funny, offering evidence of some stringent background work and clever, carefully devised scripting. Despite the chaos, we really get to know them.
For all the drama the production is fundamentally very sweet. It demonstrates a lot of love for its characters and their stories, and despite putting them through the wringer it wants the best for them. The action of the denouement is still pretty loose, although the ending itself is satisfying, and there’s a grand finish, for those who want it – karaoke and dancing. In pretty trying times it’s an apt finale for those who are looking for something to celebrate.
My NIGHTMARE Wedding runs at Riccarton House and Bush until 23 July 2022. Audience members are advised to combine their best wedding outfits with shoes comfortable enough for wandering through the venue.