Charge!!! – National Theatre's War Horse coming to Auckland in 2013 [by James Wenley]
UPDATE 7 May 2013: Poor Joey! War Horse is no longer coming to Auckland on its Australasian tour. Producers have blamed the cancellation of the August Season on " high costs, a competitive market, sluggish ticket sales and even a long summer." The citing of a "competitive market" suggests that War Horse is an early casualty of the mega Musical Wicked, which opens in Auckland in what was to be the last week of War Horse. This news is not good for the viability of attracting future substantial shows to Auckland. If War Horse isn't viable for our market, what is? See the NZ Herald (which suggests that Auckland's theatrical calendar is made up entirely of international shows!).
Original story below, which was written when War Horse was first announced:
War Horse, adapted from the book by Michael Morpurgo, has been a mega-smash for The National Theatre of Great Britain since its debut in 2007. The story explores the universal suffering of World War One as seen through the eyes of Joey, one of the millions of horses who were taken on the battlefield. Up to a million horses perished during the conflict.
Currently playing in the West End, Broadway, Toronto, and a US Tour, War Horse comes to Auckland (after an Australian season) from August 20th for 4 weeks at the ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre.
Forget what you know about the film – a beautifully shot if schmaltzy affair from Spielberg – War Horse on stage is the real deal. I saw the play at the Lincoln Centre in New York last year, and it rates as one of my top theatre experiences. I am so thrilled I’ll get the opportunity to see the show once again.
The talking point is the breathtaking puppets from South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. The play’s main character is very much Joey – a stunning life size horse shell manipulated by three puppeteers that can not only plough, charge, and jump, but firmly wins the hearts and minds of an audience. In total, the show has 18 puppets including horses Joey and Topthorn and a cheekey goose.
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I walked into the newly renovated ASB Theatre at the Aotea Centre it was impossible not to notice that the carpets had been replaced by the bright parquet flooring and new seats.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.
You want us to do what? [by James Wenley]
Show Pony asks you to get naked. Providence asks for a pash. And Wake Less asks you to dinner… among other things.
Three shows where the normal ‘rules’ don’t apply. Three shows where the audience is an important part of the performance. Three shows that made up for one intense, beguiling, perplexing, invigorating, weird and wonderful night at The New Performance Festival.
I’m writing about all three of together as there were some interesting conversations going on between them. All three were two-handers, in the sense that there were mostly two performers onstage, whose interaction and relationships were important. But these relationships are complicated by the role of the audience within the performance. Our normal theatre contract – we watch, they perform – is waived. In these shows, spectators become participants. Wake Less warns: “As an audience member at a Binge Culture performance, you can expect to be included. You might be questioned, teased, looked in the eye or invited to save a pod of whales.” Are you brave enough?
Testosterone Overload [by James Wenley]
The roof of the Aotea Centre has to be one of the coolest places in Auckland to do a show. Overlooked by the large old Council building, imbued with the colour of street lights, and soundtracked with street noise, sirens and the odd sound of a seagull, it has the type of atmosphere that you just can’t replicate.
Dance like a Butterfly Dream Boy is a pretty cool show to be performed up there too. Don’t let the reference to the butterfly fool you – this isn’t some tender beautiful thing - but a full on, testosterone filled, macho show where a cast of mad men push their bodies to the extremes and battle to be the alpha male.
Testosterone heavy? Yes. Indulgent? Yes. Sick? Sometimes. Fun? Absolutey!
Stories from the Source [by James Wenley]
New Zealand, famously, is a land of immigrants. Waves of migration over the country’s history have created a rich fabric of cultures, as well as perhaps an uncertain ‘kiwi’ cultural identity. What is it about New Zealand that makes it unique, and what is this discovery like for new arrivals? How do they become part of the ‘culture’? Do they want to? We can learn a lot about ourselves – good and bad – for those on the outside looking in / fitting in.
Be | Longing, directed by Hillary Halba and Stuart Young from the University of Otago Theatre Studies programme, is a verbatim play, using interviews from immigrants (new and old) to the country. As explained at the beginning of the show, using dialogue from real interviews between interviewer and subject, the cast listen to MP3s of the interviews which they speak in real time, capturing all of their inflections, pauses and idiosyncrasies. The interviews were also filmed - the actors studying them in detail to portray the real body language on the stage. The interviewee, as communicated through the actress, was slightly dubious at the idea – “people sitting like us... just talking?” What sort of theatre show is that?
New Performance, New Dimensions [by James Wenley]
Well the New Performance Festival has sprung up within the little-seen bowels of the Aotea Centre. A pop-up (and very cool) festival club is the gateway to a host of shows that, at the very least, will leave you plenty to talk about after.
And it was 2 Dimensional Life of Her that was chosen to open and set the tone of the Festival on Friday. Originating from Australia, the work has been travelling for the last three years. But what this work is, I’m not quite sure. The creator herself, Fleur Elise Noble, says of the show “I still find it almost impossible to describe”. So I'll do my very best...
Visually, it’s a beautiful amalgam of simple retro technology – pen on paper, and clever use of newer film, animation, and projection technologies. Narratively, you can make of it what you will, but the premise is of an artist losing control of her creations. It reminded me of the type of creatively ‘out-there’ works that you might encounter as an installation in a funky contemporary art gallery space, but in a theatre context it makes more demands.
A Ghost in the Machine [by Sharu Delilkan]
True to form Sean Curham's work at the New Performance Festival, Ghosting Part 2 – Cabaret, is nothing short of unexpected.
The minute we walked down into the bowels of Aotea Centre we are greeted by Curham’s set, which felt more like we’d walked in on someone in rehearsal. And as people gathered it was evident that there was an air of anticipation, or was it trepidation?
It was a few minutes before Sean said hello and encouraged the audience to move around the set, which helped everyone settle in as there didn’t seem a clear place for the audience to place themselves, bar the few chairs on wheels randomly placed in the space.
1,000 Reasons to see 1,000 Hills
[by Sharu Delilkan]
It is always a privilege and an honour to witness the premier of an original piece of theatre. But to be among the first to experience the personal sharing of a true story is even more significant. Naturally the foyer of the Herald Theatre was buzzing with eager anticipation when I arrived.
However given the subject matter I must admit I had the sinking feeling, in the back of my mind, that the work may be morbid, depressing and shocking in the spirit of the film Hotel Rwanda.
But those apprehensions were very soon cast aside as we were greeted by the pulsating sound of African drums when we entered the theatre. The music literally reverberated through our bodies and set the ambience for the evening. As others made their way to their seats I looked around me and noticed a number of regular theatregoers, who would ordinarily appear rather formal in their seats, moving to hypnotic beat of the drums. There was no denying the infectious music, both lively and joyous, had a definite impact on the audience – and was a sign of what was ahead.
The acoustics are being fixed! The acoustics are being fixed!
My face greeted me in The Aucklander yesterday, sitting on the steps of the Aotea Centre. Joanna Davies asked me my thoughts as a regular theatre-goer about a budgetted do-up of the ASB Theatre, that until now hasn't recieved much media attention (and I previously didn't know about!).
Auckland Council plans an $11.9 million refurbishment, which will include new seats, carpets and acoustic surfaces.
Heating, air conditioning and ventilation will also be upgraded and energy-efficient theatre lights will be installed.
The funding was written into budgets in the former Auckland City Council's long-term community plan, which carries over to the new council budgets.
And here's a little bit of what I had to say:
"I think the acoustics have put people off using the venue in the past, but it has the advantage of being a huge space with great sight lines. New seating and carpet will definitely help but, if they can fix the acoustics, it will become a really great venue."
The upgrade is scheduled to start in November 2011 through March 2012, with a little bit more in Christmas 2012.
The venue really is in dire need of a do-up, and those acoustics HAVE to be fixed, so this is welcome. Although as this post explored, there are a lot of venues looking for money! I wonder though how The EDGE's proposed convention centre bid might impact things, which proposed to turn the ASB Theatre into the main convention space, and transfer ballet and Opera etc into a refurbished Saint James.