Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near Post-Apocalyptic Future, created by UVic alumnae Kathleen Greenfield and Ingrid Hansen with Rod Peter Jr. played at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre this month as UVic’s annual spotlight on alumni productions. It is the sequel to Hansen’s Little Orange Man.
The play begins as ninth graders Kitt and Jane bar the doors and hijack their school assembly in fear that they will die in an hour, informing their peers and guiding them on how to survive the impending apocalypse.
Apocalyptic pieces have been coming out for decades, yet the past few years have seen an increase in popular demand for the genre. Unlike other recent films and TV shows such as The Walking Dead and This is the End, Kitt & Jane is neither a zombie outbreak nor supernatural apocalypse but instead is set against the real, tangible threat of environmental destruction. While most entries into the apocalyptic genre set themselves in alternate realities where zombies, aliens, and other supernatural beings can enter to wreak havoc, Kitt & Jane directly places the blame on us. The play is clearly set in the real world, with real-life issues: our food has added toxins, overpopulation is quickly depleting resources, and big corporations are only making things worse. What surprised me most about Kitt & Jane was its ability to inspire discussion of major problems while keeping it light and retaining comedic value. For the casual observer this is a hilarious 75 minutes, but for those wanting some substance with their comedy this will really impress.
Ingrid Hansen’s Kitt, an intelligent, enthusiastic 14-year-old girl, lights up the stage with her energy and charisma. Hansen portrays a realistic girl coming into her own, sometimes presenting Kitt as the overly excitable teenager and other times as quietly emotional.
Rod Peter Jr. stands out as the timid, awkward Jane, the shy but lovable boy who slowly gains confidence during this hour-long assembly, and is a perfect accompaniment to Kitt’s boisterous personality. Their initial unwanted connection and quickly formed friendship starts this comedy out onto a fast-paced journey of unexpected twists and turns. The humorous yet honest depiction of two young people taking off their rose-coloured glasses and really looking at the world mirrors the transition everyone goes through in the process of growing up.
Shadow-play is ingeniously used as Kitt and Jane use flashlights during their dramatic re-enactments to tell their story. This effect engages viewers and displays impressive choreography. A live video, reminiscent of a teenager’s YouTube channel, is used for Kitt’s final song, which allows for a realistic, childlike storytelling that isn’t common in live productions but that effectively transmits emotion in this setting. This low-tech, high-energy performance produces dynamic characters who I hope will continue their adventures for years to come.