The Gift of the gab [by Sharu Delilkan]
“Wow!” was all we could say when we saw the striking set as we walked into the Maidment Theatre.
A Rubiks-like upholstered grid with minimal cube props for tables and seats is the genius creation of set designer Rachael Walker. This style is repeated behind as a backdrop with the whole set raked at odd angles, which set the scene for the quirky story that follows.
I particularly liked the versatility of the shapes, which reminded me of Lego pieces, allowing them to make any configuration they required.
The story opens with an aside to the audience by Sadie (Sarah Peirse), setting the stage perfectly, while inducing laughter from the audience from the get-go.
We are very cleverly introduced to the four main characters – a wealthy middle-aged childless couple Sadie (Sarah Peirse) and her politically incorrect husband Ed (Marshall Napier) who meet bohemian conceptual artist Martin (Simon London) and his journalist wife Chloë (Laura Hill). What transpires after this chance meeting at a holiday resort is nothing short of intriguing and alarming.
Awatea Shines Brightly [by Sharu Delilkan]
You knew the writing was on the wall the minute you walked into the theatre. I’m of course referring to the beautifully chalked letters that 'panoramically' filled the backdrop of the entire stage. So dramatic, intriguing and utterly effective was this device that you could not help reading some of the letters while the show was going on.
But on to the show.
Having produced both The Pohutukawa Tree and The End Of The Golden Weather, Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Awatea completes Bruce Mason's classic trilogy of powerful New Zealand dramas. And it is everything it promises to be – thrilling, heart-wrenching, morally tough - a fiercely realistic study of betrayal and disillusionment.
Awatea, based in and around Ngati Porou country, is the story about a remote township of Omoana that revolves around their ‘hero’ Dr Matt Paku (Te Kohe Tuhaka) who left the East Coast and now owns a successful practice in Auckland. Proudest of all is his old, blind father Werihe (George Henare), who basks in this success via his son's letters, read to him by the no-nonsense local postmistress Emma Gilhooly (Geraldine Brophy). Every New Year's Eve, Matt comes home and the whole community celebrates. But things are different this year: Gilhooly has devastating news which she must keep from old Werihe at all costs.
Fancy a Puck? [by James Wenley]
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, hobgoblin Puck famously excuses all that has gone before as a “weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream”. If so, it was a fantastic and crazy dream that the audience collectively dreamed in the theatre. While Puck undersells the thematic depths of the play, Auckland Theatre’s Company’s fast and furious streamlined show (no interval!) emphasises the fun and farce of love gone very, very wrong.
Midsummer Night’s Dream, though taking inspiration from several sources, is credited as being Shakespeare’s only original plot. It’s one of his most popular too – a comic plot that sees a love quadrangle of miss-matched Athenian youths Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius enter the woods, which also contains a group of amateur actors rehearsing a play for the wedding of Duke Theseus (Peter Daube) to his exotic bride Hippolyta (Goretti Chadwick), as well as being the home of mischievous fairies, reigned over by feuding lovers King Oberon (Xavier Horan) and Queen Titania (Alison Bruce).
I wish my own dreams looked like this. An almost unbearably bright red raked stage looks out at us, a fittingly unbalanced playing space which at various times the actors climb, slide and leap off. No subtly here then – the red of fervent passion and desire dominates. The gloriously styled black and white fashions of the four lovers – including Brooke Williams’ Hermia school girl burlesque chic topped with an upside-down cupcake tutu, and Josh McKenzie’s wrapped in a foppishly large bow tie and ankle high socks, take a bow designer Nic Smillie – gets considerably skimpier the longer the play goes on. Goretti Chadwick’s Hippolyta, going against received interpretation, is rather into her Theseus. And there are enough bare-chested men to rival the wolf pack of the Twilight films.
Jack the Ripper finally comes to Auckland, and he’s got a knife… [by James Wenley]
When I met Anders Falstie-Jensen during his lunch break from rehearsals at the Basement, he was beaming and full of enthusiasm for his latest project. The play he is directing, Yours Truly sounds like a ripper. Jack the Ripper to be precise. Written by Albert Belz, the play promises to be one of the scariest and darkest thrillers from a New Zealand playwright.
But other than the subject matter, there is something else for Anders to be excited about – the play marks a significant milestone for Anders and his theatre company The Rebel Alliance (whose Fringe offering Standstill I really enjoyed). For the first time, thanks to a grant from Creative New Zealand, Anders can go to paid full time work, 9-5, as a theatre director…
Yours Truly has been a long time coming to the Auckland stage. It debuted at BATS Wellington in 2006 and won Best New Zealand Play at the Chapman Tripp awards, but save for a production in Whangarei it all but disappeared. Playmarket had first alerted Producer/Director Anders Faltsie-Jensen to the play in 2008, but due to busyness it lay unread on his desk for three months. “When I finally got around to reading it – as soon as I finished it”, Anders says, “I biked down to the office and said I really want to do this show.” Unfortunately, Anders was told that the rights were no longer available.
Surely kicking himself for not reading it sooner, Anders was presented with another opportunity when the rights went back up, but with a catch. A guy called Sam was also interested in the play...
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.
Edward Peni on playing French, and the trials of making it as an Actor [by Sharu Delilkan]
It was all about being at the right place at the right time for Edward Peni.
He admits that he hadn’t considered auditioning for Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Mary Stuart until he bumped into Artistic Director Colin McColl.
“I had actually called the company to see if I could borrow some boxes for a production I was doing. While I was in the office Colin happened to walk by and asked me whether I would be interested in being part of their new production of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart. Naturally I jumped at the chance,” he says.
Mary Stuart is the thrilling account of the extraordinary relationship between England's Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth's rival to the throne.
Despite having done a number of smaller roles in the professional arena for the past seven years, Peni considers himself a very young actor. More so in the company of what he terms “luminaries of New Zealand theatre” – acting on the same stage with the likes of Stuart Devenie, Elizabeth Hawthorne, George Henare and Robyn Malcolm.