[by James Wenley]
Dear Theatre Scenes Readers,
They say that those who can’t, review.
I like to come to it from the other end: those that want to, review.
I love reviewing – which is not to say I take pleasure in knocking down other people’s work. I love having a platform to articulate my response to a work. I think theatre (and stories) helps keep us human, helps us appreciate a multiplicity of viewpoints on the world. For this reason, when I see a really, really good show, it is exciting to share it with you. And when I see one that doesn’t work out, I like to try and work out why.
I hope you have found my reviews (and indeed those of my colleagues) of value to both practitioner and audience, respectful, informed, and above all, a good lively read.
One day though (and not yet!) I know I’ll have to give up reviewing. I’d like to work full time in the industry, and you have to watch those conflicts of interests.
Geeks' Eye for the Straight Guy [by Sharu Delilkan]
If you’re not fans of The Big Bang Theory or Paul, the sci-fi geek film from Simon Pegg then you are bound to love Square Eye Pair precisely because it is the same.
Let me explain. It’s not the same. It’s use of geekiness cleverly allows us access to three characters that light-sabre through the awkwardness and pain of growing up and learning love, as well as loss and friendship.
Eli Mathewson (Max) and Hamish Parkinson (Richard) have written a fabulous show that engages the audience from the outset, with comfortingly familiar scenes of student/loser flat debris and an addiction to television and video games.
Siggy Tardust! [by Sharu Delilkan]
When Kip Chapman saw Black Confetti at Auckland Theatre Company’s The Next Stage programme last year, he knew instantly he had to be involved.
“I approached Philippa [Campbell] as soon as the reading was over because I thought it was an amazing script that reminded me of Odysseus going into the underworld. I was even more impressed that it was written by the young playwright Eli Kent, because it was such a grand idea. I also thought it was incredibly funny with great depth,” he says.
Written by the award-winning writer Kent, Black Confetti is packed full of big ideas and a squillion little surprises. The show about surviving the earthquakes in our lives, which include poetry, mysteries and full-on theatricality.
Besides Chapman the other Black Confetti’s actors include Edwin Wright (Ray), Adam Gardiner (The Dean/Louis/Coroner), Nic Sampson (Elvis), Virginia Frankovich (Katie), Julia Croft (Flo) and Keith Adams (Baron Saturday).
As the main character Siggy, Chapman is a Generation Y casualty. He has maxed out his student loan; university is ejecting him; his uncle is behaving strangely; and his father, a famous seismologist, has disappeared off the face of the earth.
Bromance and Television [by James Wenley]
During last year’s Auckland Fringe I stuffed myself with as much theatre as I could. But I was kicking myself when Square Eye Pair won the Fringe’s Best Comedy award… and I had not seen it!
Luckily for me, and for you, Square Eye Pair is returning for at Auckland’s The Basement at the end of June. But that’s not even the most exciting news. The ‘bromance’ comedy between two TV-obsessed friends (Hamish Parkinson and Eli Mathewson, with Elise Whitson) has been picked up by Rhys Darby’s Awesomeness comedy, and travelling to a little something called the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!
Hamish Parkinson, one half of the Square Eye Pair, briefly put down his remote to answer my questions about the show that is very much going places…
You wrote Square Eye Pair with Eli Mathewson. What was your initial inspiration for the show?
Eli and I wanted to do a show together for a while and we both wanted to do a fringe show. We had a few ideas that we played with but this is the one that stuck as it rings truer for both of us and this time in our life. I guess it's about what we are afraid we could become if we didn't have enough drive, or awareness. I'm pretty glad we chose this one because our other two concepts involved cults, awkward group sex and a giant eyeball.
Encountering Explicit Emotions [by Sharu Delilkan]
Having seen Andrew Ford in action on stage for the past three or four years, producer Roberto Nascimento knew that he would be ideal to play Tim as soon as he read the script for Some Explicit Polaroids.
“Andrew is a very talented guy and I admire what he does. So when the opportunity to cast his role came up, Andrew came to mind,” says Nascimento, who is also acting alongside Ford as a Russian go-go dancer.
Some Explicit Polaroids is Mark Ravenhill’s most accomplished play, populated with the familiar gallery of criminals, junkies, sex-workers and psychotics who are Ravenhill's heroes. It delves into the zeitgeist and finds an era where political and personal clash in a slow motion car crash involving AIDS, lap dancing and high ambition.
With a stellar mix of accomplished and emerging actors, Andrew Ford, Roberto Nascimento, Edward Newborn, Lucy McCammon, Rashmi Pilapitiya and Robert Tripe, Some Explicit Polaroids is directed by New Zealander Phillip C. Gordon.
Ford’s character Tim is a twenty-something year-old spoilt rich kid who is dying of AIDS in 1999. To distract himself from his inevitable plight, Tim decides to lead a carefree hedonistic lifestyle, which includes buying a sex slave from Russia, played by Nascimento.
No Shortcuts here [by James Wenley]
I attended A Shortcut to Happiness on Saturday night, the same night as the All Black/ Ireland test.
Stuart Devenie, always a class act, made a pithy reference to the night’s other big event, as his character enters an empty dance studio, save for fretting instructor Natasha (Laura Hill) – Saturday nights are no good for dance, especially when the All Blacks are playing Ireland!
Roger Hall needn’t worry though. As I look around the close to full Sky City Theatre it confirms that any day is a good day for a Roger Hall play, even after over four decades of play writing. Sure, there’s a healthy group of audience members who stand forlornly like puppies outside the Nation’s Clubrooms round the corner from the theatre, to check the score, but they all return for the second half.
The theatre is just one of the many leisure options of the senior set. Forget idle teenagers, it’s the idle seniors, proudly clutching their gold cards, which you have to watch out for. It’s a life of an endless assortment of activities – Golf, bridge, and dancing. And be wary of positively prowling widowed or divorced women on the look out for a man…
For Roger Hall, the play was inspired by author Vicki Baum’s quote “There are a few shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them”, and an international folk dancing class that Hall joined and realised the beginnings of a play might be in the works.
Now how to express my experience? [by James Wenley]
Tribes comes to Auckland’s stage with a babble of hype and expectation. Only playwright Nina Raine’s second play (after Rabbit which Silo performed in 2008 ), it’s something of an international critical darling after its debut at London’s Royal Court in 2010. Just last week it won New York Drama Desk’s Outstanding play award. So no question it would be good then, but just how much. Answer? Very good indeed.
One of the titular tribes in the play are a family (unencumbered by surname) an internally-warring yet deeply self-protective family made up of Dad Christopher (Michael Hurst), Mother Beth (Catherine Wilken), boomerang twenty-something kids Daniel (Emmett Skilton) and Ruth (Fern Sutherland), and youngest Billy (Leon Wadham) who, while being careful not define him as such, is deaf. The family have proudly bought him up in a ‘speaking’ environment, getting by with hearing aids and lip reading (a painfully slow learning process, credit to Mum).
This family’s default mode of communication, summed up by Christopher is: “Join in, have an argument”. Tribes launches us into a noisy family dinner; everyone speaking over the top of each other, getting their two cents in. It’s a revealing mixture of affection, annoyance and mocking that close familiarity breeds, and a very recognisable family dynamic indeed. But everyone? Billy, watching, processing, becomes my figure of attention, for the family are all but ignoring him. He says little, save for an odd “What are you talking about?”.
Decadence, drama and death [by Sharu Delilkan]
As I walked into the newly renovated ASB Theatre at the Aotea Centre it was impossible not to notice that the carpets had been replaced by the bright parquet flooring and new seats. The light and airy feel gave the theatre the added bit of cheer, which was much needed on an otherwise dull and dreary Auckland evening.
But of course the most dramatic and notable change was the installation of acoustic panels, which proved to be a massive improvement and embellished the opera’s brilliance. And the theatricality of the entire production of NBR NZ Opera’s Rigoletto also complemented the newly fitted theatre, in keeping with their interpretation of the classic opera set in modern day Italy.
Italian romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi’s timeless heart-breaking tale of love and deception that premièred in 1851 translates perfectly to the era of Silvio Berlusconi, supporting NBR New Zealand Opera’s policy of bringing old war horses to life again.
Rejoining the tribe [by Sharu Delilkan]
Although it has been almost four years since her Silo debut, Fern Sutherland still remembers the experience as if it were yesterday.
"It was my first gig out of [UNITEC] drama school and I was extremely nervous when I met Shane [Bosher]. I felt very insecure and was desperate to make a good impression," she admits.
That's when she played an old woman in Life is a Dream working with Bosher, who's directing Silo's latest show Tribes.
However in Tribes, playing Ruth the middle child of a bohemian, intellectual upper-middle-class British family, the 24-year-old Sutherland says she feels slightly more at ease and able to enjoy the process.
Physics, History, and the Atomic Bomb [by Rosabel Tan]
Sometimes a play will continue to work on you long after you’ve left the theatre. I don’t mean that the memory lingers, though this happens too, but that the experience continues to grow and transform, the seed of what was planted onstage blossoming over time.
A digression: Adaptation is one of my favourite films, but I hated it the first time I saw it. It irritated me, I didn’t understand the end, and what a fool I was. A week later I found myself still thinking about it, so I watched it again and realised that Kaufman was a genius and the film was a masterpiece. Copenhagen, for me, lies in the same realm.
German Physicist Werner Heisenberg (Simon Kane) is remembered for two things, or so he tells us: The uncertainty principle, and a brief visit he made to the home of his half-Jewish mentor Neils Bohr (Bruce Phillips) in Copenhagen in 1941. The nature of this argument remains a subject of controversy, and the play shows Heisenberg, Bohr and Bohr’s wife Margrethe (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) revisiting the event in a kind of afterlife where they try to figure out precisely what happened and why it led to the dissolution of Bohr and Heisenberg’s friendship.