ATC, Silo and More! [by James Wenley]
Part One looked at what has caught my eye in the Fringe and Auckland Arts Festival (not too long to wait Festival lovers!). Now we cast our gaze on the rest of the 2013 theatre calendar. By all means stuff yourself silly during the Fests, but keep yourself some room, there is a lot more to come.
Living in the Future
There is a curious juxtaposition between the messaging of Auckland’s two highest-profile theatre companies. In their 21st year, Auckland Theatre Company have chosen to look forward (towards that Waterfront Theatre most likely). The word for this year is “futurity”; the byline: “The future. Our hopes and dreams for it”. Silo is in the moment. In their season brochure Artistic Director Shane Bosher says: “The world hasn’t ended. And possibility still exists. This is about now.” But Silo also seem to have gone back to their past to inform their present.
After incursions to the Maidment, Q’s Rangatira main stage, and the Concert Chamber, Silo have returned to the intimate, smaller-theatre ethos of the Herald Theatre and for the first time Q Loft. That Silo’s season has been downsized to four productions suggests this may be a financial as well as artistic concern. This state of affairs is a pity for admirers of Silo’s work, who have made some bold choices in the last few years (I’m a fan of their bombastic Threepenny Opera and Assassins cash-guzzling extravaganzas), but the plays as programmed this year suit their small surroundings. Hui, produced for Auckland Festival, is the only one to play in Q’s larger theatre.
Silo’s heritage was built on Toa Fraser’s Bare and No.2, but productions of New Zealand plays have been few and the company has received ongoing criticism for its focus on international darlings over homegrown work (though the internationals are often presented with a kiwi flavour). Protection by Victor Rodger (My name is Gary Cooper), which “detonates the foundations of the modern family”, was commissioned by Silo. A New Zealand play in Silo’s latter-day explosive contemporary style is a tantalising prospect, and I can’t wait to see what this collaboration delivers.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a bit of a mystery. 29-year-old Iranian Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour is forbidden to leave his country, but his play is “navigating the world in a way that he himself cannot”. Written as a solo, actors like Mia Blake, Oliver Diriver, Rima Te Wiata and Jeniffer Ward-Lealand perform it each night, but the catch is they haven’t read the play before, and both they, and their audience, have no idea what is going to happen. The play needs no set, and no director. This either be a complete disaster, or a brilliantly moving night at the theatre. The Guardian has a good backgrounder.
Finally Midsummer is one of those ‘plays with songs’. It’s for “people who don’t like Musicals”. I happen to like musicals, so I don’t know if I’ll like it. But I’m in for Madeleine Sami.
ATC open once again with a Dave Armstrong satire, Kings of the Gym (about a school PE gym, not Les Mills), which looks to be a thematic sequel to Armstrong’s The Tutor and is receiving good notices from its debut in Wellington. Armstrong’s earlier collaboration with Oscar Knightely, Niu Sila, which ATC first produced in 2005, is also revived for a production at the Mangare Arts Centre.
Its taken a long time for playwright Dean Parker to be produced by Auckland Theatre Company, its Midnight in Moscow that finally sees his due. Its premiere famously interrupted by the Christchurch Earthquake, Moscow is a “part spy thriller, part comedy of manners, part political debate” with a top shelf cast including Robyn Malcom and Michael Hurst. Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie gets a revival from a guest American director Jeff Hall-Flavin, of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival (so he knows his Williams). Jennifer Ward-Lealand headlines as a climate-sceptic in The Heritic by Richard Bean (of One Man Two Guvnors fame).
But the three I’m most looking forward to? Anna Julienne has to watch her neck as Anne Boleyn (a new play first produced in 2010) and it looks to be the sexy costume drama of the year. Colin McColl calls this one their 21st birthday treat, and they’ve lined up one of the most impressive list of actors in quite some time: George Henare, Simon Prast, Raymond Hawthorne, Paul Minifie (back to the stage after retiring from running the Maidment), Andrew Grainger, Stephen Lovatt and Ken Blackburn. Any one of those names would be reason enough to go.
The wild descent into savagery of the children of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies made a big impression when I studied the 1954 novel in high-school, as I’m sure it did many, and ATC are producing a stage adaption by Nigel Williams. Piggy! The Beast! And a tribe of school children. Just how are they going to achieve this story in the theatre? I’m eager to find out.
Michael Hurst’s dark Cabaret in the Spiegeltent in 2010 for ATC was a Musical highlight. Hurst, and his Musical muse Amanda Billing return for Kander and Ebb’s brilliantly catch Chicago. Come on babe, why don’t we paint the town…?
Not too many productions have been announced this far out, but here’s what else I’m looking forward to:
- Auckland University Emeritus Professor Michael Neill has one of those professor voices. Deep, commanding, measured, gravitas in abundance. In my third year of Uni I began a paper on post-colonial literature he was convening, but soon realised that with my huge workload this was one paper I wouldn’t be able to complete. But I kept going to class just to hear his wisdom, and the voice. For the 50th Anniversary of Auckland University’s Summer Shakespeare in March, Neill plays one of the most demanding roles of the stage: King Lear. His younger brother, Sam (yes, that Sam), is executive producer. Other names involved include Director Lisa Harrow (formerly of the Royal Shakespeare Company), Michael Hurst as the Fool, composer Gareth Farr, Oscar-winning costume designer Ngila Dickson, sculptor Michael Parakowha, with hopefully some room left for the odd Auckland University student. Lear is notoriously difficult, and they don’t make it any easier by playing it outdoors per Summer Shakespeare tradition.
- Last year Auckland-based ensemble Outfit Theatre Company bought in some new faces and delivered a strong season, but now seem to be at a crossroads in their development. They’ve announced they’re taking the first six months off this year to “plan, organise and solidify our future”, before returning with some new shows. I look forward to seeing where the company goes next.
- What is the big Musical at The Civic going to be in 2013? With no announcements yet it is unlikely we will see anything till towards the end of the year. There are many rumours going round as to what might visit, and some Musicals sound particularly… wicked. Otherwise Annie is apparently a possibility, and Legally Blonde could make a stop after touring Oz. Watch this space. In the meantime, we have West End and Broadway hit War Horse to look forward to in August.
- The Basement’s new risk share policy, and what this will mean for what shows can get staged at their two theatre spaces.