REVIEW: 48 Nights on Hope Street (Auckland Theatre Company)

Review by Irene Corbett

Credit: Sacha Stejko

[Hope abounds, the theatre is alive]

48 Nights on Hope Street is a triumphant addition to an anthological tradition.  Drawing on Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, Auckland Theatre Company has brought together the works of five talented young writers, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Leki Jackson-Bourke, Nathan Joe, Ana Scotney, and Cian Elyse White. 

Set during the Black Death epidemic, the Decameron is a story cycle about a group of young people who trade stories to pass the time as they wait out the plague  – an oddly familiar set of circumstances which are driven home by the strict and responsible measures of the ASB Theatre staff who require signing in before entry and offer masks to all.

A flier page informs us that the writers were each given a day from the Decameron’s cycle as a starting point. Within the cycle, each day of storytelling was structured around classic themes such as tales about women tricking men, or love stories that end badly. These age-old archetypes, among others, form backdrops for the writers’ finer brushstrokes and more nuanced considerations of human experience. The show includes songs and bawdy tales, silly priests, cuckoldry, lost love, and an envious king, alongside a coming out story, an exploration of mediocrity and the desire to be respected, and a powerful witnessing to racism in New Zealand. 

This show offers much needed imagination, comedy, and escapism, but this is not empty entertainment to replace your Love Island binging. The stories told in 48 Nights on Hope Street possess all the strengths of theatre: to transform, to warn, to entertain, and to challenge. The stories are placed in the capable hands of the five brilliant actors [Carrie Green, Trae Te Wiki, Ravi Gurunathan, Jess Hong, and Patrick Tafa] and are wielded with equal parts control and self-aware levity. Particular highlights include everything Patrick Tafa does and everything Nathan Joe wrote, with Ravi Gurunathan delivering Nathan’s blistering line ‘…if you live in Auckland in 2020 and all your friends are white that’s a choice.’

While the Covid-19 measures may seem awkward and alien at first (all seats are socially distanced), we are quickly swept away from smell of sanitizer into worlds as diverse as the contemporary North Shore and historical Burgundy. Director Jane Yonge’s staging, the musical skills of Kenji Iwamitsu-Holdaway, and Kevin Greene’s lighting design combine to create a very warm and intimate environment making exciting and unusual use of the space.  

48 Nights on Hope Street is at once a mark of our times and an incredibly comforting reminder that human nature has not changed very much. We continue to laugh at the same jokes and we will survive this pandemic just as we have before.

48 Nights on Hope Street plays as part of Auckland Theatre Company’s Back on the Boards festival presented by Dentons Kensington Swan

Cast – Carrie Green, Trae Te Wiki, Ravi Gurunathan, Jess Hong, and Patrick Tafa.
Musician – Kenji Iwamitsu-Holdaway.
Writers – Freya Daly Sadgrove, Leki Jackson-Bourke, Nathan Joe, Ana Scotney, and Cian Elyse White.
Director– Jane Yonge.
Lighting Design – Kevin Greene.
Costume Design – Alison Reid.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by James Littlewood

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