You Can Be a Successful Woman, Too! (Terms and Conditions Apply) [by Rosabel Tan]
When people talk about women having careers, there’s a trade-off implied: You can’t have a career and a family – one will suffer if you try, and if you pursue the former, you’re defeminised: there’s something wrong with you or, at the very least, your womb.
Society has come far to ensure that this is a trade-off we can make, but it’s clear we have a long way to go and it’s this position that Silo explores in Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls. Divided into three acts, the play opens with Marlene (Danielle Cormack) celebrating her recent promotion to managing director with an eclectic and incredible bunch of women from history: There’s Isabella Bird (Bronwyn Bradley) a nineteenth century explorer and writer, Lady Nijo (Nancy Brunning), a thirteenth century concubine to the Japanese emperor, Dull Gret (Sophie Hambleton), the painted figure who led an army of women to Hell, Patient Griselda (Rachel Forman), whose obedience was the centre of many a fourteenth century tale, and Pope Joan (Rima Te Wiata), who rose to her seat by masquerading as a man.
I am incredibly excited to announce that Rosabel Tan has joined the team at Theatre Scenes as a reviewer. I've long admired Rosabel's writing and reviews, previously having reviewed for The Lumiere Reader and Craccum magazine, where she was Theatre Editor from 2007-2008.
Treating degrees like Pokémon, Rosabel has a BA/BCom majoring in English, psychology and marketing, a Master’s in psychology and, most recently, a Master’s in Creative Writing.
Rosabel says: "Of all storytelling modes, theatre feels to me the most powerful, and it's because of this power to affect and transform that I'm continually drawn, inspired and changed by it."
Rosabel was my predecessor as Craccum Theatre Editor, and it was actually thanks to her that I got my start in reviewing, sending me off to review a comedy show. I'm really pleased to see her wrting about theatre again, so keep an eye out for her perspective on the blog!
You want us to do what? [by James Wenley]
Show Pony asks you to get naked. Providence asks for a pash. And Wake Less asks you to dinner… among other things.
Three shows where the normal ‘rules’ don’t apply. Three shows where the audience is an important part of the performance. Three shows that made up for one intense, beguiling, perplexing, invigorating, weird and wonderful night at The New Performance Festival.
I’m writing about all three of together as there were some interesting conversations going on between them. All three were two-handers, in the sense that there were mostly two performers onstage, whose interaction and relationships were important. But these relationships are complicated by the role of the audience within the performance. Our normal theatre contract – we watch, they perform – is waived. In these shows, spectators become participants. Wake Less warns: “As an audience member at a Binge Culture performance, you can expect to be included. You might be questioned, teased, looked in the eye or invited to save a pod of whales.” Are you brave enough?
Vague vs Vivid [by Sharu Delilkan]
As we walked into the Wintergarden we were greeted by one of the three actors Leo Gene Peters, who handed us notecards with pens.
“What is this for?” we asked. Please list down 5 things that you are afraid you won’t achieve before you die, he said. To which I answered, “Is that the opposite of a bucket list?” Leo nodded and smiled.
I really liked the fact that every audience member was able to interact with the three cast members, even before the show started. Almost like we were being made to feel comfortable while being asked to do something uncomfortable – almost like bearing one’s soul.
It took me a while before I started writing. “What if what I write isn’t good enough?” I thought. I turned to my husband seated next to me and said “Is this going to be anonymous? Because if it is I could take a whole different tone.”
Testosterone Overload [by James Wenley]
The roof of the Aotea Centre has to be one of the coolest places in Auckland to do a show. Overlooked by the large old Council building, imbued with the colour of street lights, and soundtracked with street noise, sirens and the odd sound of a seagull, it has the type of atmosphere that you just can’t replicate.
Dance like a Butterfly Dream Boy is a pretty cool show to be performed up there too. Don’t let the reference to the butterfly fool you – this isn’t some tender beautiful thing - but a full on, testosterone filled, macho show where a cast of mad men push their bodies to the extremes and battle to be the alpha male.
Testosterone heavy? Yes. Indulgent? Yes. Sick? Sometimes. Fun? Absolutey!
Stories from the Source [by James Wenley]
New Zealand, famously, is a land of immigrants. Waves of migration over the country’s history have created a rich fabric of cultures, as well as perhaps an uncertain ‘kiwi’ cultural identity. What is it about New Zealand that makes it unique, and what is this discovery like for new arrivals? How do they become part of the ‘culture’? Do they want to? We can learn a lot about ourselves – good and bad – for those on the outside looking in / fitting in.
Be | Longing, directed by Hillary Halba and Stuart Young from the University of Otago Theatre Studies programme, is a verbatim play, using interviews from immigrants (new and old) to the country. As explained at the beginning of the show, using dialogue from real interviews between interviewer and subject, the cast listen to MP3s of the interviews which they speak in real time, capturing all of their inflections, pauses and idiosyncrasies. The interviews were also filmed - the actors studying them in detail to portray the real body language on the stage. The interviewee, as communicated through the actress, was slightly dubious at the idea – “people sitting like us... just talking?” What sort of theatre show is that?
Indivisible Atom – Invisible Man [by Sharu Delilkan]
His name is Atom as in the bomb, not Adam as in Eve, something Anthony Black pointed out right from the start.
He stood on a black platform, which looked a bit like a pedestal and was a great metaphor for a man at his apex.
What does it mean to be someone in the world nowadays? With much explained by science, has too much been explained for us to have a place in the world?
Have Einstein, Asimov, Feynman, Darwin, Wenley, Delilkan and Smith explained everything? Have Oppenheimer, Da Vinci, Dyson, Descartes, Booth and Galileo theorised so deeply into who, what and why we are that there is an infinitesimal feeling of individual contribution?
Do we matter? Do our ethics matter?
Should we just blind ourselves to the very truths revealed by science and life vicariously through money, marriage, material and multiplication?
Is ignorance bliss? How important do we need to feel within our lives to function and survive with purpose? Do we really matter?
Pick up the Phone [by James Wenley]
The best advice I can give those who are going to Call Cutta in a Box is this: Go with your defences down, an inquisitive mind, and an open heart.
The consensus does seem to be that the less you know going into Call Cutta the better. So for those don’t want to be spoiled, read this review after you’ve seen it. But for those who can’t get to it, or just can’t help themselves, here is my experience.
At the New Performance Festival Box Office I’m given a map to an office building on Queen St. I go to Level 5 as directed and find myself in a law firm. A woman at the desk asks for my name then tells me to wait, then taps away on her computer ignoring me. It feels awfully authentic, however I recognise her as an Edge staff member, another man that comes past as an actor, another person a techie. But for someone unaware of this conciet, I’d imagine they’d find it a bit disconcerting. I’m told they’re ready for me, and I enter a small room containing a desk, computer, pot plant, and couch.
A phone rings. I pick it up. A voice says “Kiora”. The play begins…
New Performance, New Dimensions [by James Wenley]
Well the New Performance Festival has sprung up within the little-seen bowels of the Aotea Centre. A pop-up (and very cool) festival club is the gateway to a host of shows that, at the very least, will leave you plenty to talk about after.
And it was 2 Dimensional Life of Her that was chosen to open and set the tone of the Festival on Friday. Originating from Australia, the work has been travelling for the last three years. But what this work is, I’m not quite sure. The creator herself, Fleur Elise Noble, says of the show “I still find it almost impossible to describe”. So I'll do my very best...
Visually, it’s a beautiful amalgam of simple retro technology – pen on paper, and clever use of newer film, animation, and projection technologies. Narratively, you can make of it what you will, but the premise is of an artist losing control of her creations. It reminded me of the type of creatively ‘out-there’ works that you might encounter as an installation in a funky contemporary art gallery space, but in a theatre context it makes more demands.
A Ghost in the Machine [by Sharu Delilkan]
True to form Sean Curham's work at the New Performance Festival, Ghosting Part 2 – Cabaret, is nothing short of unexpected.
The minute we walked down into the bowels of Aotea Centre we are greeted by Curham’s set, which felt more like we’d walked in on someone in rehearsal. And as people gathered it was evident that there was an air of anticipation, or was it trepidation?
It was a few minutes before Sean said hello and encouraged the audience to move around the set, which helped everyone settle in as there didn’t seem a clear place for the audience to place themselves, bar the few chairs on wheels randomly placed in the space.