Q opens in triumph, Fringe overshadows Festival, Outfit Rise, Rugby, Rugby, Rugby, and the Death of the Theatre. [by James Wenley]
Attending the recent Hackman Theatre awards, Auckland Theatre circa 2011 would appear to be in rude health. Rude being the word, hosts Nic Sampson and Joseph Moore proudly observing it was a record year of nudity on stage, from the very brave Mr. Sam Seddon in The Only Child to the Dame bosoms of the Calendar Girls. It was certainly year that didn’t leave much to the imagination, containing everything from dildos to knitted phalluses, bath tubs to swimming pools.
The Hackmans were a big communal pat on the back for the industry, a brash and bold celebration of a huge year in theatre. As Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Robyn Malcom closed the awards night performing in a Thomas Sainsbury play that he had written under duress that very night, there was a sense that anything and everything was possible.
As a critic moving from Craccum to my own Theatre Scenes blog this year, I’ve welcomed the end-of-year theatre break. Throughout the year, I could often be heard to exclaim: ‘Auckland Theatre: There is too much of you!’. It’s been exhausting going to opening to opening night after night. And immensely rewarding. While containing some duds for sure, my impression of the year is one of great strength and eclectic activity. There was no shortage of things to write about at least. There was always something on. Between fellow blogger Sharu Delilkan and me, we reviewed or previewed 96 different shows, and even that barely scratched the surface.
Shimmy into the Silly Season [by Sharu Delilkan]
The very title The Secret of a Bellydancer conjures up multiple images. And depending on how vivid your imagination is, it can be as raunchy as you like.
For that reason I decided to go with an open mind. And also having done bellydancing classes before, when I lived in Hong Kong in the late 1990s, I was curious to see what the show had on offer.
There is no doubt that bellydancing is one of those activities that intrigues and puts a smile on everyone’s face – whether you’re the dancer or just a member of the audience.
And that’s exactly what the general feeling was like in the foyer of The Musgrove, despite the fact that it was one of the dreariest wettest Auckland evenings.
People not only had traipsed across town to come to the show but there were members of the audience that came dressed in their bellydancing accessories.
The cardboard boxes scattered around the stage set the scene for the supermarket locality, where most of the action takes place.
The story about the central character Jamila/Janice (Gina Timberlake), who leaves her husband in Egypt to live with her parents is nothing new. However her obsession with bellydancing, which is revealed early in the piece to her fellow co-workers in the supermarket Save and Go, is a great tribute to the inner beauty of women. And a story where emancipation triumphs over strict religious beliefs always goes down well.
Spend the Night with Irene [by James Wenley]
Irene McMunn’s Christmas cheer has been charming audiences in small venues across the country.
So much so, that director Stephen Papps has lost track of how many seasons the one woman show has had. This return season at TAPAC is the first time he’s seen the show since March. Impressively, it’s the third Auckland season after its debut at the Musgrove Theatre this time last year, a testament to its audience appeal, and the performance of actor/playwright Yvette Parsons.
The Christmas themed Silent Night has played both during ‘on’ and ‘off’ seasons, and while its strength of character and message is relevant at all times, I suspect at this time of the year it gains its extra poignancy.
TAPAC has been decked out with cabaret style tables and seating. The touring set, a homely interior, is raised high on rostra for audience visibility. Pink, in all its shades, is the overwhelming colour in this unit; the couch, floral wall paper and Irene’s dress are awash in it. As a space it tells much that we’ll need to know about the character, full of individual touches and flourishes, from the displays of Prince Charles and Diana wedding memorabilia, to the beautiful doll sitting on the couch.
The first we hear of Irene is her booming voice as she belts out her own unique version of the perennial Silent Night. It’s an instant charmer, her trait of bursting into carols welcome interludes throughout the show, and later touching expression of emotion. She appears onstage, and begins to chat away at us. We are warmly eased into her world as she freely espouses on different topics as they occur to her, flitting from one train of thought to another. The Chrisco’s hamper has newly arrived, and she takes us through an inventory (“That’s a good brand”). It’s Christmas day, and she’s waiting for her guests to arrive for a tea party.
April is the cruelest month... [by James Wenley]
Last week I was fortunate enough to experience a profound theatrical event. It’s been a few days now – most productions wash off soon after viewing – but in this one I keep returning to its moment in my head.
I find experiences like these are all too rare, but it’s what keeps me coming back to theatre; the promise of being taken out of my body, to be transported to an undiscovered territory, to feel something new. And when that promise is realised, it’s a special thing indeed.
T.S Eliot’s 1922, 432-line poem The Waste Land is considered one of the most important works of literature of the 20th Century. I don’t claim to understand it. It’s a work that rewards the academic, full of allusions and depths to unravel. It flicks from image to image, voice to voice.
But as a poem, it contains its own sort of dark power. Certain words and phrases linger on the tongue. There’s an obsession with mortality and death. It’s a poem that means many different things to many different people, but within its words, you might just find the totality of existence.
The poem is given a startling voice and vitality in a theatrical interpretation by director Michael Hurst, the first production in Auckland Theatre Company’s Participate program. What immediately distinguishes the production is Hurst is working with a company of 34 actors, an immense number that professional stages costs hardly allow. What then makes the production exceptional is that this company of 34 are all aged 65 years old and over. Some were alive before The Waste Land had even been written. It’s an age group that is rarely given a voice and platform in the professional arts, and certainly never in these sorts of numbers.
These shows won't last, buy your ticket today! [by James Wenley]
Turns out Xmas is a lot like the Rugby World Cup, whether you’re into it or not, you simply can’t avoid it – its everywhere. Xmas trees and tinsels have sprouted up everywhere. All I want for Christmas is you is on repeat. A GIANT Xmas Tree bauble has landed in Aotea Square, narrowly missing the Occupy Auckland protestors.
And now even our theatres aren’t safe. A recent tradition in Auckland has been the annual Xmas show at The Basement (The Reindeer Monologues, Christ Almighty!, Toys), where a conveyer belt of different ‘weren’t-you-on-the-tele-once’ actors perform each night.
While there’s no end-of-year Basement show this time round, others have arrived with sleigh bells on to take its place.
This week, two alliterated xmas shows have been going antler to antler. At the Herald Theatre is Outfit Theatre Company’s wicked farce A Criminal Christmas, and Upstairs at the Basement is Thomas Sainsbury’s series of Xmas shorts, A Krazy Kristmas.
A CRIMINAL CHRISTMAS
Outfit Theatre Company have topped off a cracker of a year (which included The Sex Show, Boys' Life and Love After Dark) with A Criminal Christmas, in partnership with STAMP at The EDGE. While The EDGE affords the company with the Herald Theatre and their best production values so far, what wins the season is the edgy and reckless ensemble feel that makes their work unique.
A chat with Yvette Parsons aka Irene McMunn[by Sharu Delilkan]
I have known Yvette Parsons for a number of years now.
And I’ve been a big fan. In fact I would go so far as to say I consider her one of Auckland’s greatest actors.
Naturally I’ve seen Silent Night during both the Auckland seasons and am hoping to go along to the show again this month at TAPAC (The Auckland Performing Arts Centre).
And when I heard the show was back in Auckland, by popular demand, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with the talented Yvette at her fabulous character-home in Westmere.
I was greeted by her lovely partner Jason when I arrived who said, “Yvette is running late. That’s so uncharacteristic of her.” To which I replied “Do I detect an air of sarcasm?” I believe we hit it off thereafter.
While Jason made me a cuppa, I couldn’t help observing all the wonderful memorabilia in their home reminiscent of the set of Silent Night. I soon realised that quite a few of Yvette’s personal treasures, collected over the years, are part of the living room where Silent Night takes place.
Nasty delights in an upside-down world [by James Wenley]
Roald Dahl has a lot to answer for. His childrens stories, among them Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Fantastic Mr Fox are gruesome and subversive tales, in George’s Marvellous Medicine for example, 8 year old George is responsible for the death of his Grandmother (causing her to shrink into nothing). The adults in Dahl’s stories, like Boggis, Bunce and Bean in Mr Fox or Principal Trunchball in Matilda, are a mean and reprehensible lot.
And with these wicked and whimsical stories, Dahl has been a champion for generations of children. His books were a constant presence during my childhood. Never talking down to or underestimating his readership, his works speak to the mind of a child growing up in a confusing world. Adults, as all children know, don’t always know best.
In The Twits, Dahl introduced us to two of his most loathsome characters – Mr and Mrs Twit. Mr Twit eats weeks old food caught in his beard. We’re told Mrs Twit used to be beautiful, but after thinking years of “ugly thoughts”, her face turned ugly too (great message there). The couple are always trying to play tricks on each other – their mutual hatred of each other seemingly the only thing keeping them together. Add to this villainy Mr Twit’s slavery and abuse of a family of monkeys who he plans to train to perform in an upside-down circus, and the Twit’s desire to trap a flock of birds and cook them in a pie, and you have two outright despicable people!
For their final year show, and first Children’s show in a number of year, Auckland Theatre Company brings repulsive life to The Twits in the forms of Te Radar and David Fane (for who else would make an uglier woman?). Their disgusting habits and tricks – including a glass eye cocktail, and serving worms on spaghetti - earn big wicked laughs from the children in attendance. Like big kids themselves, the Twits tricks appeals to a child’s naughty side.
And as it turned out, this production appealed to the naughty side of a lot of adults too…