Theatre Scenes: Auckland Theatre Blog (Reviews, interviews and commentary)
6Mar/150

REVIEW: Hikoi (Auckland Arts Festival)

Mōrihariha [by Sharu Delilkan]

Kali Kopae plays Nellie Miller.

Kali Kopae plays Nellie Miller.

Witnessing a theatrical premiere is indeed a privilege but when it’s local with historical ties, such as Hīkoi, and it's a world premiere makes for an even more momentous occasion.

Writer Nancy Brunning’s cleverly crafted words come alive as soon as the show begins. Her ability to reel in the crowd with her sharp-witted dialogue and repartee, incites crowd reaction instantaneously.

The Miller family is headed by mother Nellie (Kali Kopae) and father Charlie (Jamie McCaskill), who are astutely matched by the flawless performances of the young ensemble cast playing their hard case teenage children i.e. Janey-Girl (Aroha White) May (Kura Forrester), Joseph (Manuel Solomon), Pearl (Ngakopa Volkering) and Bubba (Amanda Noblett). Completing the cast is none other than Wesley Dowdell who is perfectly cast as Charlie’s bestie Barry, providing the perfect foil for all the ‘dramas’ taking place within the Miller whanau.

Brunning’s award-winning play about a Māori family at a social and cultural crossroads, in the 1970s and 80s, definitely resonates with the audience – evident by the craning necks as they get sucked deeper into the intriguing storyline.

Hīkoi is a typical case of role reversal where kids teach their parents and in this instance it's the quick-witted quintet that dishes up home truths to their folks because they are fed up with their parents’ silences, secrets and incessant quarrels, which ultimately results in them leaving home to find their own answers.

Besides celebrating Māori and their culture, Hīkoi provides insight into the historical effects of political change in Aotearoa. It also talks about Te Reo as a language and it’s need to be preserved in this country, which is beautifully woven into the complex family issues that the Miller whanau battles throughout.

Wai Mihinui and Jaimee Warda’s set design is nothing short of dramatic. Without giving too much away all I’ll say is that the ‘static’ set ends up being exceptionally versatile, demonstrated by its elements’ varied utility.

Jane Hakaraia lighting design complements the set impeccably. Her intelligent projections on the set really establishes the tone of each scene, heightening the theatrical experience even more. Mara TK’s sound design works fabulously well with Hakaraia’s lighting, adding to the overall authenticity of the scene changes.

It’s not often that a writer can direct his or her own work effectively and objectively but that’s exactly what Brunning has done, and that’s definitely no mean feat!

Hīkoi is certainly a great choice to open the Auckland Arts Festival – may audiences flock to make it’s world premiere a rip roaring success.

Hīkoi is presented by Auckland Arts Festival and Hāpai Productions and plays at Rangatira, Q Theatre until 8 March. Details see Auckland Arts Festival

SEE ALSO: Theatreview review by Dione Joseph

4Mar/150

REVIEW: The Non-Surgeon’s Guide to the Appendectomy (and other games) (The Basement)

We lost the patient [by Matt Baker]

Check out this set!

Check out this set!

Successfully transforming a performance space can win over your audience before the dialogue of a show even begins, and the combination Christine Urquhart's foreboding set, stark lighting by Nicole Astrella, and ominous sound composition by Sinisha Milkovic has me immediately geared for Finnius Teppet's (arguably) absurdist play. Even though the debate on the purpose of the appendix is waning due to conclusive theory on its lymphatic tissue, combining the knowledge of our scientific world with the mythology of Teppett's play is an enjoyable suspension of disbelief. This suspension begins to wane, however, as the script never takes what appears early on as a potentially harrowing journey to its logical extreme.

Like Ionesco's Berenger or The Matrix's Neo, every journey into an unknown world requires an every man conduit with whom the audience can relate. Unfortunately, Chris Bryan seems too caught up in forcing the style of the play to understand his part in it, so much so that I don't get the impression that he is a character who "know['s] how to slip into the background." Add to this the fact that it sounds like he has laryngitis (it actually hurts to listen to him) and the audience is thrown head first at the rabbit-hole, instead of being teased into it.

1Mar/150

REVIEW: Mother/Jaw (Auckland Fringe)

Jawdropping [by Matt Baker]

Mother/Jaw

Mother/Jaw

It has been said that at spoken word performances of Grace Taylor's poetry collection, Afakasi Speaks, the inspiration for Mother/Jaw, that "the poem is wrapped in the body's movement, and the body's movement is wrapped in the poem." This integration of word and movement has been taken on its natural progression by choreographers Jahra 'Rager' Wasasala and Grace Woollett, in what is simply a stunning multi-faceted performance.

From the moment Woollett enters the stage, the tone and quality of the show is set. Her internal struggle and its physical manifestation is emotionally resonant, articulate, and truly engaging. Wasasala is full of attitude and points of view, bringing full dimension to her characters, and Vivian Hosking-Aue evokes a strong sense of the dramatic irony of performance ritual.

While predominantly a dance piece, the spoken-word component of Taylor's original work is incorporated into the performance, with Alisha Anderson delivering a perfectly cadenced monologue. In addition to the performers' physical interpretation, musicians Addison Chase and Christoph El' Truento, who sit visibly side-stage throughout the performance, have orchestrated a full-bodied soundscape that not only compliments, but also enhances them, and consequently provides a sense of completeness to the theatrics of the show.

26Feb/150

REVIEW: Prehistoria (Auckland Fringe)

Evolutionary [by Matt Baker]

Prehistoria

Prehistoria

From its opening narration by ever-funny anti-wordsmith Nic Sampson, to its audience-participatory ending, Prehistoria engages a variety of theatrical conventions and a hilarious narrative, offering its patrons a gorgeous comedic gem for the 2015 Fringe Festival. It's a story we all know. Girl meets dinosaur, girl meets boy, dinosaur loses girl, girl loses boy, dinosaur gets girl, boy gets comeuppance. Luckily, what makes this show its own is how these things occur, so even a one-line synopsis doesn't actually ruin the fun.

Laura Daniel proves her worth as an actress, holding the audience in the palm of her hand as she sashays around the stage, while Eli Matthewson is incredibly endearing as a non-descript and playful, if not neurotic, dinosaur. Their vocabulary as performers is vast and when they do actually speak, it's always worth it. Oscar Wilson's impressive dance moves in contrast to the world that has been created is a brilliant dynamic. Wilson exudes showmanship, epitomising the macho swagger, but can afford to follow this quality through more strongly in his non-dance performance.

26Feb/150

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (AUSA Outdoor Summer Shakespeare)

A strong and vital theme [by James Wenley]

Presented by AUSA Outdoor Summer Shakespeare

Presented by AUSA Outdoor Summer Shakespeare

British Shakespeare great Simon Russell Beale (who toured here as Leontes in The Winter’s Tale alongside Ethan Hawke) was recently quoted in The Observer arguing that it is fine to take liberties with Shakespeare. “You can do what you like with it – as long as you make coherent, emotional sense… I see absolutely no problem in throwing Shakespeare around” says Russell Beale.

These are comments that New Zealand’s Shakespeare all-rounder Michael Hurst would agree with. In his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the University of Auckland’s Outdoor Summer Shakespeare, the first time he has directed the play in his long career, he’s thrown Shakespeare around quite a bit. There are gentle textual nips (Egeus’ ultimatum that his daughter should go to a nunnery or be put to death if she disobeys him is downplayed) and a flutter of elderly fairies (more on this later), but the most striking aspect is the liberal dose of modern English asides and exclamations the actors have inserted into the iambic. The result is one of the clearest productions of Shakespeare I have seen in terms of communicating the storytelling, and it achieves this without dumbing itself down.

For example, Hermia says what any teenage girl would say when their father is messing with her love life – “God Dad, you’re so embarrassing”. These are Helena and Hermia’s for the Girls generation. Natasha Daniel’s Hermia is not going to put up with anyone getting in the way of the man she has set her sights on – Lysander (Liam Ferguson). Anthea Hill’s Helena, who fancies Demetrius (Ryan Dulieu on my night, he shares the role with Arlo Gibson) is a Lena Dunham train-wreck. Tipsy when we first meet her, she casts herself as one of life’s victims. With a readily sympathetic performance, Hill was a standout audience favourite. The boys are less distinct, but their puppy dog antics when a certain love potion causes them to both fall for Helena are a riot.

26Feb/152

REVIEW: Wanted Thoughts (Auckland Fringe)

Left Wanting [by Guest Reviewer Lauren Owens]

Mike Loder's Wanted Thoughts

Mike Loder's Wanted Thoughts

Mike Loder was dealing out the comedy this Tuesday at his late-night show, Wanted Thoughts.  Not many people dared to brave the 9pm start, but those who did were committed to laugh.

The enticing title, Wanted Thoughts, was a warning of what was to come as Mike delivered his insights on the changing world of dating, his favourite strip clubs and a barrage of sex stories.

The crowd were in a great mood and though there were less than a dozen of us - that didn’t throw Mike for a second.  His banter with the audience made me feel like we were getting the kind of show the Fringe Festival aspires to deliver.  Mike’s advice to a Canadian woman on how to keep her man happy had the women laughing, and the men nodding in thoughtful agreement.

23Feb/150

Auckland Fringe 2015: Week Three Schedule and Daily Picks

One last gulp [by James Wenley]

MONDAY'S PICK: Chelsea McEwan Millar and Elizabeth McMenamin's comedy Up on Lomwan is out of this world funny. They've also been scheduled rather randomly across the Fringe, so don't miss out

MONDAY'S PICK: Chelsea McEwan Millar and Elizabeth McMenamin's comedy Up on Lomwan is out of this world funny. They've also been scheduled rather randomly across the Fringe, so don't miss out

Well the Auckland Fringe website have updated their daily schedule once again and it looks much better, but there's still one thing it lacks - a link to buy the all important tickets!! Never fear Fringe Fans, we have everything listed here. Make sure you don't get Fringe regret - choose some shows and get along.

Monday 23 Feb

City:

5:30pm The Basement - The Dummy
7pm The Basement -  Up on Lowman

Suburbs:

7pm Portland Public House - Rain Dogs Cabaret

 

Tuesday 24 Feb

TUESDAY'S PICK: Eat the Young Fresh is a musical with a "challenging score" and "grusome plot". I'm in it for the superb cast: Paul Fagamalo, Romy Hooper and Alexandra McKellar

TUESDAY'S PICK: Eat the Young Fresh is a musical with a "challenging score" and "grusome plot". I'm in it for the superb cast: Paul Fagamalo, Romy Hooper and Alexandra McKellar

City:

5:30pm The Basement - The Dummy
6pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
7pm The Basement - Bucket's List 
7pm Q Vault - Eat the Young Fresh
8pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon 
8:45pm Q Vault- Mike Loder's Wanted Thoughts

 

Wednesday 25 Feb

City:

5:30pm The Basement - Jabber
6pm Aotea Centre Level 3 – Risk & Win Arcade: The Theatrical Competition
6pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
7pm The Basement - Bucket's List 
7pm Q Vault - Eat the Young Fresh

WEDNESDAY'S PICK: Inspired by Grace Taylor's poetry collection Afakasi Speaks with choreography by Jahra Rager and Grace Woollett Mother/Jaw is going to be gripping.

WEDNESDAY'S PICK: Inspired by Grace Taylor's poetry collection Afakasi Speaks with choreography by Jahra Rager and Grace Woollett Mother/Jaw is going to be gripping.

8pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon
8pm Ironbar Cafe - Vow
8:30pm The Basement - Mother/Jaw
8:45pm Q VaultMike Loder's Wanted Thoughts
10pm The Basement - Prehistoria
10pm The Basement – Keep out of my Box (and other advice) [Free Show]

Suburbs:

12:30pm Pt England Reserve - The River Talks [Free Show!]

Thursday 26 Feb

City:

5:30pm The Basement - Jabber
6pm Aotea Centre Level 3 – Risk & Win Arcade: The Theatrical Competition

THURSDAY'S PICK: Snort comedians Laura Daniel and Eli Mathewson team up for a jurassic love-story between a cave-woman and a dinosaur in Prehistoria.

THURSDAY'S PICK: Snort comedians Laura Daniel and Eli Mathewson team up for a Jurassic love-story between a cave-woman and a dinosaur in Prehistoria.

6pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
7pm The Basement - Bucket's List 
7pm Q Vault - Eat the Young Fresh
7:30pm Old Folks Association - My Celebrity Husbands and maybe some Wives 
8pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon
8pm Ironbar Cafe - Vow
8:30pm The Basement - Mother/Jaw
8:45pm Q VaultMike Loder's Wanted Thoughts
10pm The Basement - Prehistoria
10pm The Basement – Keep out of my Box (and other advice) [Free Show]

Suburbs:

12:30pm Pt England ReserveThe River Talks [Free Show!]
5:30pm  Pt England ReserveThe River Talks [Free Show!]

Friday 27 Feb

City:

FRIDAY's PICK: Comedian Mike Loder marks 20 years in the standup biz with a new show, Wanted Thoughts, where he'll record his new CD.

FRIDAY's PICK: Comedian Mike Loder marks 20 years in the standup biz with a new show, Wanted Thoughts, where he'll record his new CD.

5:30pm The Basement - Jabber
6pm Aotea Centre Level 3 – Risk & Win Arcade: The Theatrical Competition
6pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
7pm The Basement - Bucket's List 
7pm Q Vault - Eat the Young Fresh
8pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon
8pm Ironbar Cafe - Vow
8pm Audio Foundation - A Symphony of Sloths [Free Show!]
8:30pm The Basement - Mother/Jaw
8:45pm Q VaultMike Loder's Wanted Thoughts
10pm The Basement - Prehistoria
11pm The Basement - Fringey Snort

Suburbs:

12:30pm Pt England Reserve - The River Talks [Free Show!]
5:30pm  Pt England Reserve - The River Talks [Free Show!]
7:30pm Ponsonby Baptist Church -  A Play upon Words

 

Sat 1 March

City:

SATURDAY'S PICK: Last chance to catch unconventional poet Matthew Harvey in his late-night Saturday slot.

SATURDAY'S PICK: Last chance to catch unconventional poet Matthew Harvey in his late-night Saturday slot.

2pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
4pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon 
5:30pm The Basement - Squirrel 
6pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
7pm The Basement - Bucket's List 
7pm Q Vault - Eat the Young Fresh
7:30pm University of Auckland Clocktower - Sounds like Keen Spirit
8pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon 
8pm Audio Foundation - A Symphony of Sloths [Free Show!]
8:30pm The Basement - Mother/Jaw
8:45pm Q VaultMike Loder's Wanted Thoughts
10pm The Basement - Prehistoria
11pm The Basement - Matthew Harvey Blows Up

Suburbs:

3pm Takapuna Beach Wipe Out! (The Wet Hot Beauties) [Free Show!]

Sun 2 March

City:

SUNDAY'S PICK: Two chances today to catch Renee Liang's brand new play, Under the Same Moon.

SUNDAY'S PICK: Two chances today to catch Renee Liang's brand new play, Under the Same Moon.

2pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
4pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon 
5:30pm The Basement - Squirrel 
6pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - The Two Farting Sisters
7pm The Basement - Up on Lowman
8pm Musgrove Studio, Maidment - Under the Same Moon 
8:30pm The Basement - Squirrel 

Suburbs

2pm Ponsonby Baptist Church -  A Play upon Words

22Feb/150

REVIEW: The Dummy (Auckland Fringe)

Negative Comment [by Guest Reviewer Tim George]

The Dummy

Presented by Navi Collaborative

The line between provocation and exploitation is blurred in this multi-media examination of young woman's spiral from depression to suicide. The Dummy combines live actors and back-projections of Facebook profiles and news footage and crams a lot of big ideas into its short running time. So many in fact that it never takes the time to really delve into the complexities surrounding the issues and social stigma of depression and anti-depressants.

While the show features a rather large cast, most of the characters are brief audio snippets from phone messages and voice-overs of comments from social media pages. The only really developed character is the young woman herself, played by Morgan Bradley. Her performance feels like a series of moments rather than a fully realised person. There are many points during the performance where the show stops to introduce some new element (a video clip, an audio collage), that hinders any sense of progression. With such a short running time and so many ideas to explore, it may have been to the play's (and Bradley’s) advantage for director and creator Dawn Glover to take a slightly more conventional approach without such a reliance on theatrical gimmicks.

21Feb/150

REVIEW: The Memory Shelf (Auckland Fringe)

Tearoom Reflections [by Guest Reviewer Amanda Leo]

Presented by Amelia and Saraid

Presented by Amelia and Saraid

Sitting at just 45 minutes, The Memory Shelf has all the potential for a great, short fringe piece whose message goes a little deeper than for just pure entertainment. Written and performed by duo Amelia Reynolds and Saraid Cameron with direction by Renee Lyons, it focuses on the happenings in a tearoom in small-town Arohanui that is famous for its delicious lamingtons.

The first image is of the well-known Edmond’s Baking Power (in giant tin can form) being lowered from the ceiling onto the stage. Such iconic cultural kiwi references colour some of the characters and delights and entertains. Although the play starts with a bang with excitement from Reynold’s character Jess, the pace of the play throughout remains somewhat slow, despite the change of characters every few scenes. Such changes and transitions can often be confusing, as the audience is left to do too much of the work in trying to make sense of how and why the different characters are connected. This may be more a function of the writing, however, than Renee Lyon’s sharp direction- one gets the feeling that the order of the scenes and way in which they intersect needs to be reworked to leave out drops in energy between scene changes.

21Feb/150

REVIEW: Take Back the Hood (Auckland Fringe)

Back to the Hood [by Guest Reviewer Tim George]

Presented by Deborah Eve Rea

Presented by Deborah Eve Rea

At its core, a good story, whatever the medium, gives its audience a question that it will hopefully provide an answer for by the resolution. Take The Godfather. Can a man separate himself from his past and his family, or is he destined to fail? The journey from question to answer is what provides the drama, the anticipation of what the potential answer could be.

This long-winded introduction is my way of contextualising my mixed feelings about Take Back the Hood. On the one hand, picking apart the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and teasing out its psychosexual implications and old-fashioned gender relations is a strong idea. A similar premise, albeit different in tone, served as the basis for Neil Jordan's film The Company of Wolves. And, of course, one cannot forget Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, which remains something of a gold standard for this kind of fairy tale revisionism.

Taking more anarchic, humorous approach to the story, Take Back the Hood plays out like the bastard love child of a stand-up special and karaoke night at an AA meeting. Based around a mature Red recounting her story, it features a series of vignettes in which she rubbishes the 're-writes' which completely obscured what really happened and have caused her so much anguish and pain in her adult life. A particular highlight is a rather macabre recollection of Red's relationship with Goldilocks, who, since her own experience, has developed some rather disturbing attachment issues. Overall, the performance is excellent and the jokes come at a rapid clip, but you might come away feeling somewhat under-served by the potential of the story's ideas.

The show is 45 minutes, which feels too short for the ideas it wants to tackle. As stated at the outset, if you are going to skewer a fairy tale, you have to bring something new to the table. And that's ultimately the only real issue I had with Take Back the Hood. It felt like it was going over ground that was already well-toiled.

Take Back the Hood plays as part of Auckland Fringe at The Basement until 22nd Feb. Details see The Basement.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Dione Joseph 

Tim George is vaguely unemployed, but you can find him contributing the occasional piece of pop culture nonsense on denofgeek.com and at his own blog http://midniteramble.blogspot.co.nz.