Standing Up for K’Rd [by Sharu Delilkan]
The standing ovation for this piece was very well deserved. Often you feel manipulated into standing up on opening night but not this time. The sheer amount of storytelling, dance, singing and humour on display tonight was very fulfilling and you could see how much thought, talent and sheer hard work had gone into the development of K’Rd Strip – A Place to Stand.
When it comes to contemporary dance talents like Tai Royal and Taane Mete are people that are very much respected and revered in the industry. So needless to say I was totally excited about watching them combine dance, theatre, music and waiata to premiere the highly anticipated show.
One thing I really liked was the fact that this production promised a journey through Karangahape Road and that it definitely delivered, and more. The themes and issues that people associate with K’Rd were covered in spades. How much did they cram in that 80-minute production? The answer – heaps and heaps although happily the the audience was not allowed to rest on their laurels. The pace was brilliant and the subject matter was dense without being too in your face – something I had feared when I had read the initial publicity material.
It would have been easy to fall into camp stereotypes of identity, abuse, ignorance and disconnection. However instead all those themes were dealt with in a blistering and bewildering array of forms, in an extremely sensitive fashion. The arc of the show, through traditional Maori to gay Maori and back again subtly highlighted cultural and isolating feelings that gay men, inevitably have to deal with in our ‘permissive’ society.
But this was not the thrust of the show – it was pure entertainment from start to finish with no themes belaboured and with an abundance of humour and grace. All the cast members had clearly put their own stamp on the show highlighting their individual talents, sensitivity and voice on each scene. But at the same time there was a great sense of collaboration and supportiveness that belied the stereotypical bitchy, backstage drag queen rivalry of the opening scene.
The clever use of a seemingly formulaic show format to illuminate the audience on themes such as loyalty, companionship, love and loss was genius and hysterically hilarious, particularly when applied to such social norms as mobile phone use, gay-consciousness and drunkenness.
So K’Rd Strip – A Place to Stand is not only a dance piece, it is a poignant piece of theatre, which incorporates a number of genres in a very slick and believable fashion. A brave move for the Okeraka Dance Company that should be applauded because it’s unlike anything they have created before. The incorporation of pole dancing, drag queens, haka, contemporary dance and dramatic scenes mingled with live vocals of an all-New Zealand music score from the likes of Pauly Fuemana, Gin Wigmore, Mi Sex, Annie Crummer and Th’Dudes, was nothing short of genius.
The smattering of solo songs were heartfelt and the accompanying harmonies were originally enthusiastic, soon turning to beautiful, adding to the kaleidoscope of different artforms on display.
These guys/gays obviously thoroughly enjoyed performing the show, making it so much more enjoyable for the audience. This sentiment as well as the hard work they put in totally shone through. They not only kept the audience spellbound but also ‘shout-out-loud’ engaged throughout the entire spectacle.
As part of Okareka’s ‘Matariki under the Stars‘ tour this piece works immensely well and it’s a great tribute both to K’Rd and the Maori tradition.
K’Rd Strip’s six cast members that include Taiaroa Royal, Taane Mete, Jamie Burgess, Adam Burell, Will Barling and Jason TeMete, work as an amazing team under the direction by Simon Coleman and with musical direction by TeMete. The linking of dance and theatrical scenes to complete this narrative journey was nothing short of vibrant and dark, exhibiting the vulnerable soul of Auckland’s most famous street.
I’ve got to say that those expecting pure contemporary dance from the Okareka Dance Company are going to get a lot more than they bargained for. As a subject K’Rd is unexpected, diverse, human, humorous, judgemental and non-judgemental, fantastical, fatal, gritty and real. And without a doubt so is K’Rd Strip – A Place to Stand.
Okareka Dance Company presents K’Rd Strip – A Place to Stand plays at Q, The Loft until 15 June. Details see Q
SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Jesse Quaid