Is it you or is it me, but this show is funny [by James Wenley]
Friday nights have just got more interesting.
If you find yourself in town 11pm on a Friday night and in need of entertainment, the Instant Kiwi Improv series at Q is a big winner.
Being an improvised show, it’s new each week. And they re-theme the shows every few weeks for extra newness.
Playing at the moment is Instant Anatomy, a show that pokes fun in one of New Zealand’s great cultural love affairs: The medical Soap Opera.
Instant Anatomy takes us inside the doors of Grey Lynn Hope. All the familiar tropes are included: Sordid love affairs, scheming CEOs, lesbian doctors, bar staff inexplicably becoming nurses. While not all of us would admit to watching Shortland Street, most of us are familiar enough with it to enjoy what’s on offer in this affectionate spoof.
Auckland Scene gets funny + Deleted Scene! [by James Wenley]
If you already haven't already, fans of Auckland theatre should definitely check out TVNZ's new online comedy Auckland Daze, about four wannabes "chasing fame in Auckland's ridiculously small entertainment industry".
The brainchild of actor/director Kiel McNaughton, local theatre actors amongst its cast include Natalie Medlock, Jacqui Nauman (of Outfit Theatre Company), and Faye Smythe. Our recent interviewee Jennifer Ward-Lealand told us she's been having a ball in her cougarish role of Wanda the Real Estate Agent. "It’s a gorgeous cast, and outrageous, and I haven’t seen anything else like it."
On the show, the main cast play very lose and exagerated versions of themselves. Fasitua Amosa wants to become a stand-up comedian - on the show his routines are terrible, in real-life, as his show during the recent Basement-fest proved, he's actually really kick-ass.
We've been contacted to promote the show, and very happy to too. Its a nice concept - episodes are shot each weekend, and viewers can get a say on the content through their Facebook page. Not to mention, its very funny, and good to see local actors bringing the laughs.
As a sweetener, here's a Deleted Scene from the most recent episode of Auckland Daze, where 'Glenjamin' plays Ninja Golf:
Billy Elliot meets RED [by James Wenley]
With Billy Elliot, everyone remembers the feel good inspirational story of the boy who became a ballet star. In revisiting the film recently, I was struck by the gritty social background – of Thatcher’s England and the miners sacrificing everything with lengthy strike action. For Billy, dancing was a way of escaping a life already set out for him; of following his father underground.
In his play The Pitmen Painters, Elliot screen-writer Lee Hall returns to similar concerns. Based on a book by William Feaver, and a fascinating real-life story, Hall follows the Ashington Group miners through the 30s/40s, who, encouraged by their art tutor, turn to painting for the first time and become darlings of the art world. While Elliott’s rags to riches dancing feet is a populist story (and later turned into a West End / Broadway musical with music by Elton John) and the Pitmen’s story is a far more intellectual one (this is Theatre with a capital ‘T’), they share much in common: Mining, social upheaval and class warfare - exchanging pickets for paints. One miner with great promise, Oliver, is offered a weekly stipend, worth more than his mining pay, to be a full-time painter – a chance to escape the mines and have a “proper creative life”. In both, we see Hall dealing with passions, creativity, self-expression in an otherwise oppressive environment.
Rita and Douglas and Jennifer [by James Wenley]
Jennifer Ward-Lealand says playing Rita Angus is one of the most challenging roles she has ever performed in her career.
“I’ve never done anything like this before”.
It’s a surprising statement from Jennifer, whom over her long career in the performing arts has played roles as diverse as Boadicea in Xena: Warrior Princess to Marlene Dietrich in cabaret Falling in Love again, and has a huge list of theatre credits to her name.
But in the play Rita and Douglas, Jennifer has found a role to test her. Using the real letters from New Zealand artist Rita Angus to her friend and one-time lover, composer Douglas Lilburn, Jennifer has to bring to life the iconic painter, which she compares to “doing a one woman monologue for 80 minutes.” So, the biggest challenge of her career? “Almost the most, almost”.
Feeding the Past [by James Wenley]
I first encountered playwright Renee Liang’s The Bone Feeder in 2009, presented as part of her postgraduate diploma of Arts at the University of Auckland, which I reviewed for Craccum Magazine.
Since then, Renee (known also for plays Lantern & The First Asian AB) has continued to develop and work on the play. More productions followed, and now it makes it’s fully fledged professional debut at TAPAC directed by Lauren Jackson, with a cast of ten, 4 live musicians, and even martial arts wire work.
The initial season of The Bone Feeder was the first time I had been exposed to a little known tragedy in early Chinese history in New Zealand, which has ongoing echoes today. The Gold Rush saw a wave of Chinese migration to New Zealand, many working to send back money to their families at home. Liang says they considered themselves “temporary visitors”, hoping to return one day. Many didn’t, and the remains of 499 deceased Chinese miners were to return home to China in 1902 on the SS Ventor. The miners however were never able to be reunited with their families, the Ventor sinking in the Hokianga Harbour.
A Tale of Two Gittins [by Sharu Delilkan]
Having worked on the international film circuit for the past few years, including The King’s Speech and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Calum Gittins jumped at the chance to work in theatre.
And when his dad Paul told him he was directing The Pitmen Painters it was a no brainer.
Paul [Gittins] says “I’ve always wanted an opportunity to work with Calum but he’s been overseas for quite a long time. So I was glad when I managed to persuade him to stay and be in the play.”
The Pitmen Painters, written by the Tony award-winning writer Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), is based on a true story of a group of English miners in Newcastle whose after-work art classes reveal a wealth of hidden artistic talent. Overnight, the amateur artists find themselves propelled from the humble mines of the North East to a rich, intellectual art world.
Tartuffe for the 3D Generation [by James Wenley]
If nothing else, Tartuffe is an experience.
‘This is not museum theatre’, warns/promises Silo Theatre in their bus shelter ads around town.
I’m curious about what their definition is, because I certainly don’t feel like Auckland is ‘afflicted’ by productions of this type. Professional Shakespeare’s in period dress for example are the rare exception, not the norm. Museum theatre suggests old, creaky, irrelevant (and I’m sure modern Museums themselves would have something to say against this!).
Silo’s Tartuffe does everything it can to show that its production of the 17th Century play is still edgy, fresh and up-to-the-minute with contemporary Auckland’s high society. Within the first minute we are treated to a real assault on our senses: funky music, garish neon flashing lighting, not to mention the sight of Cameron Rhodes in drag (nice legs). Sophie Henderson is ‘eaten out’, and a turd ends up in the Swimming pool. Yes, a turd. Museum Theatre? Couldn’t be more fresh.
Sexual Tension as thick as Magnolia Perfume [by James Wenley]
It’s a classic formula, and one we are all familiar with: a miss-matched couple, often from vastly different backgrounds or social spheres meet, bicker, bicker some more, swear they hate each other, then admit their enduring love and affection. Jane Austen for one knew that hate was the secret to a good love story. Written badly, the formula ends in movies like The Ugly Truth (damn you Katherine Heigl!). Written well, you get a simply glorious play called Glorious.
In crafting glorious, playwright Richard Huber took his cue from one manifestation of the formula - screwball comedies of the 30s American depression era (famously described as “a sex comedy without the sex”), often starring names like Katharine Hepburn and tackling class issues in a comedic way. In a knowing nod, lead character Gloria in the play often compares her situation to scenes from Hepburn films. The actress, Anya Tate-Manning (a rising Wellington starlet), took early inspiration from the actress, channeling Hepburn’s distinct manner of speech.
Gloria is of the wealthy American socialite class, used to getting what she wants, and engaged to be married. She sets her sights however on Jimmy, employed as a waiter at her Father’s party, and within minutes of striking up the conversation announces they will be married. And so the courtship begins….