Fa’afafine = fabulous and fine [by Sharu Delilkan]
I have to admit that when A Frigate Bird Sings premiered at the 1996 New Zealand International Arts Festival I didn’t get the chance to see it, for the simple reason that it was before I migrated to Aotearoa.
So I was keen to see what all the fuss was about with quotes like "A Frigate Bird Sings is a landmark in New Zealand theatre. You want to see pride in action, go see this," from The Listener. And knowing that the script had been written by well-known personalities like Dave Fane, Oscar Kightley and Nathaniel Lees also helped pique my interest.
A Frigate Bird Sings is exactly what it was billed – funny, moving and a celebration of difference.
The insight into the trials and tribulations of being a fa'afafine really resonated with me. The treatment of the third gender’s often difficult social experiences was both subtle and heart-breaking – shedding light on a part of the Samoan culture that is often the butt of jokes in many Pacific Island plays.
The playwrights’ ability to give the fa'afafine such a strong and poignant voice definitely warrants commendation and makes A Frigate Bird Sings a show that should be seen by one and all. And although fa'afafine’s are one of the essential elements in most Pacific Island shows we’ve seen at the Mangere Arts Centre, this one was different because it tackled the third gender’s identity – something that is rarely delved into.
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.
Nasty delights in an upside-down world [by James Wenley]
Roald Dahl has a lot to answer for. His childrens stories, among them Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Fantastic Mr Fox are gruesome and subversive tales, in George’s Marvellous Medicine for example, 8 year old George is responsible for the death of his Grandmother (causing her to shrink into nothing). The adults in Dahl’s stories, like Boggis, Bunce and Bean in Mr Fox or Principal Trunchball in Matilda, are a mean and reprehensible lot.
And with these wicked and whimsical stories, Dahl has been a champion for generations of children. His books were a constant presence during my childhood. Never talking down to or underestimating his readership, his works speak to the mind of a child growing up in a confusing world. Adults, as all children know, don’t always know best.
In The Twits, Dahl introduced us to two of his most loathsome characters – Mr and Mrs Twit. Mr Twit eats weeks old food caught in his beard. We’re told Mrs Twit used to be beautiful, but after thinking years of “ugly thoughts”, her face turned ugly too (great message there). The couple are always trying to play tricks on each other – their mutual hatred of each other seemingly the only thing keeping them together. Add to this villainy Mr Twit’s slavery and abuse of a family of monkeys who he plans to train to perform in an upside-down circus, and the Twit’s desire to trap a flock of birds and cook them in a pie, and you have two outright despicable people!
For their final year show, and first Children’s show in a number of year, Auckland Theatre Company brings repulsive life to The Twits in the forms of Te Radar and David Fane (for who else would make an uglier woman?). Their disgusting habits and tricks – including a glass eye cocktail, and serving worms on spaghetti - earn big wicked laughs from the children in attendance. Like big kids themselves, the Twits tricks appeals to a child’s naughty side.
And as it turned out, this production appealed to the naughty side of a lot of adults too…
Tastefully titillating theatre [by Sharu Delilkan]
Leaving home yesterday evening on the way to the city to watch Auckland Theatre Company’s stage production of the infamous Calendar Girls brought its own set of surprises.
I innocently said to my mate who was giving me a ride to the city “I’m going to Calendar Girls today”. To which I got this euphoric response “Woo-hoo – I want to come too.” It took me a split second to realise that she was not talking about Tim Firth’s play but was instead referring to the new establishment on K’Rd which is Auckland’s latest ‘gentlemen’s club’, billed as the city’s first five-star establishment of that genre.
I soon cleared up the miscommunication between chuckles and made my way to The Civic.
Being opening night I was greeted by a sea of familiar faces. Admittedly, having loved the movie of the same name, I was filled with anticipation as I entered the electric-charged theatre.