Triffically Entertaining [by Matt Baker]
Anyone who has an appreciation of ‘60s doo-wop or classic musical theatre will be entertained by ATC’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, because it is the musical talent that not only carries this show, but gives it some emotional depth and journey. While the entire creative team jointly recognises and illustrates their influences and intentions both in the programme and on stage, the clearest, strongest, and most unique creative voice comes from musical director Jason Te Mete. As always, simplicity proves to be the key with Te Mete containing the orchestration to a 4-piece band consisting of himself (piano), Tyson Smith (guitar), Robert Drage (bass), and Andrew Rooney (drums).
Sandra Rasmussen’s choreography acknowledges that this show does not require triple-threat talent, but nevertheless gives the actors some range to tell the story within the space provided. Director Simon Coleman evidently has an overall vision for the show, and while everyone involved clearly understands it, and the totality of the production is overwhelmingly extravagant not to mention entertaining, there is a lack of subtlety in some of the story’s simpler moments.
You Can Be a Successful Woman, Too! (Terms and Conditions Apply) [by Rosabel Tan]
When people talk about women having careers, there’s a trade-off implied: You can’t have a career and a family – one will suffer if you try, and if you pursue the former, you’re defeminised: there’s something wrong with you or, at the very least, your womb.
Society has come far to ensure that this is a trade-off we can make, but it’s clear we have a long way to go and it’s this position that Silo explores in Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls. Divided into three acts, the play opens with Marlene (Danielle Cormack) celebrating her recent promotion to managing director with an eclectic and incredible bunch of women from history: There’s Isabella Bird (Bronwyn Bradley) a nineteenth century explorer and writer, Lady Nijo (Nancy Brunning), a thirteenth century concubine to the Japanese emperor, Dull Gret (Sophie Hambleton), the painted figure who led an army of women to Hell, Patient Griselda (Rachel Forman), whose obedience was the centre of many a fourteenth century tale, and Pope Joan (Rima Te Wiata), who rose to her seat by masquerading as a man.
Tartuffe for the 3D Generation [by James Wenley]
If nothing else, Tartuffe is an experience.
‘This is not museum theatre’, warns/promises Silo Theatre in their bus shelter ads around town.
I’m curious about what their definition is, because I certainly don’t feel like Auckland is ‘afflicted’ by productions of this type. Professional Shakespeare’s in period dress for example are the rare exception, not the norm. Museum theatre suggests old, creaky, irrelevant (and I’m sure modern Museums themselves would have something to say against this!).
Silo’s Tartuffe does everything it can to show that its production of the 17th Century play is still edgy, fresh and up-to-the-minute with contemporary Auckland’s high society. Within the first minute we are treated to a real assault on our senses: funky music, garish neon flashing lighting, not to mention the sight of Cameron Rhodes in drag (nice legs). Sophie Henderson is ‘eaten out’, and a turd ends up in the Swimming pool. Yes, a turd. Museum Theatre? Couldn’t be more fresh.
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.
Two Queens, two kingdoms [by Sharu Delilkan]
With the recent revelry to mark the British Royals tying their nuptials I wasn’t surprised that The Maidment Theatre’s foyer was packed to the gunnels when we arrived.
But I soon realised it was because there were two sets of audiences in the house – those gearing up for the NZ International Comedy Festival show at The Musgrove Theatre and the rest who were anticipating the historic journey with Mary Stuart.
As we filed into the theatre we heard people whispering with excitement about the Outrageous Fortune’s stars – Elizabeth Hawthorne & Robyn Malcolm — about to grace the stage.
All the elements – the costume, direction, lighting, music and set – combine seamlessly to set the mood, the era and complement the actors on stage.
The story is replete with contrasts, freedom vs confinement, wanton living against regal duty, displacement and homeland, privilege and struggle, beauty and ugliness, …the list goes on.
John Parker’s set is both simple and impressive and has the versatility to represent the diverse situations of the two queens with ease. The choreography of the wrought iron partitions’ movement is royally executed while their see-through quality enables characters to lurk in the background as persuasive, jealous, ever on the minds and influencing the scheming decisions of the two queens.
Why Vodka? [by James Wenley]
Vodka, according to the pinnacle of human thought – Wikipedia - is “one of the world's most popular liquors. It is composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made from fermented substances like grain.” Ho-Hum. According to the Did I believe it? Team, Vodka is drunk by alcoholics, was the original name of the Beatles, and Americans have invented a bacon flavoured version of Vodka. Yum Yum.
Silo Theatre have taken over the classy downtown bar 1885 Britomart for their first production of 2011 Did I Believe it? created by director Oliver Driver, writer Jodie Molloy and company. The premise is that for the last 42 years (the show is sponsored by 42 Below Vodka, don’t-you-know?) Did I Believe it? has been New Zealand’s top rating science edutainment show, or any sort of show for that matter. Each week they present all you could want to know on a particular topic… this week it is ‘Vodka’, and presented for the first time in front of a live studio audience. That’s us.
Paper and Puppetry.
Sometimes theatre can take you to that other place. All the elements combine to transport you to the place akin to the dreamland, the subconscious, where anything can happen. I’ve had this experience before, in Red Leap Theatre’s previous work The Arrival no less. It was with high hopes that I entered the Glen Eden Playhouse for this year’s Auckland Arts Festival offering Paper Sky – A love story, and white it came tantalisingly close to a sort of transcendence, not all elements were in harmony.
It’s an obvious one, but I’ll go there: The plot of Paper Sky is paper thin. Emmet Skilton (who is seen regularly in his undies in The Almighty Johnsons) plays Henry, an author who has trapped himself in his house and fears the outside world and all its noise. He is writing a story about a world made of paper and a heroine called Lumina, bought to life as a puppet by Julia Croft. Reality and fiction blur as she and the story enter his world. Henry gets caught in the action too, becoming a puppet, and leaves his ordered everyday life to go on an imaginatively expansive and dangerous adventure. Artistic Directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan use this simple storyline to treat us to a host of amazing theatrical sights and delights.
Paper Sky is a world that is constantly moving, the set always transforming before our eyes. It is a world where giant reindeer walk, and mountains with a rickety bridge can appear out of nowhere. The design work is breathtaking. John Verytt’s folding set gets top marks, and I love the blue toned colour scheme, aided by the ever dependable Elizabeth Whiting’s expressive costumes and Jeremy Fern’s excellent lighting design. Kate Parker receives an unusual credit for ‘Imagery design’, but with the imagery being the strongest element of Paper Sky, it is well deserved. The show’s aesthetic is wonderful really, and much of what is used onstage is made out of paper (emphasising ideas of fragility). The program reveals that the paper is specially harvested and made by ‘paper artist’ Mark Lander, and Veryt’s set is constructed out of engineered recycled card. Marvelous.
The sound design (Andrew McMillan) adds so much to the show too, the score itself sounding particularly magical and fantastic. Before the show we get into a suitable mood with a soundtrack of timeless love croons.
Emmet Skilton’s uptight Henry is mute for the most of the show, and he does excellent work conveying his feelings and fears with much subtlety. He is helped by a trio of comic characters (Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce and Justin Haiu) who follow him around, pour him tea, wipe his mouth, and seem to represent different parts of his psyche (his id?). These three are wonderfully expressive and quirky, and they also do a great job of manipulating other puppets and design elements through the show. Julia Croft is mainly tasked with bringing the Lumina puppet to life, a sort of skinnier paper rag doll. The main point of articulation is a stick at the back of the puppets head which wasn’t always moved with precision; sometimes the head would drop and the puppet would ‘die’ and I’d be pulled out of the world.
My main quibble is story. I don’t feel stories always have to be complex – simple is good – but I felt that it was the imagery that drove the story, rather than the story driving the images. The play is subtitled ‘A love story’ (Julie and Kate wanted to explore the idea of ‘impossible love’.), but I felt this love story was entirely arbitrary. I didn’t get any insight as to why Henry falls in love with Lumina, other than the fact he created her, or what Henry is to Lumina. The created dangers faced in the paper world took precedence. There are themes and ideas that that could do with more teasing out.
The show works hard, but I could never get entirely swept away. There is much to love though and many moments of awe and beauty. Read Leap continues to do excellent original imaginative work, quite unlike anybody else.
Paper Sky – A Love Story plays as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. The Glen Eden Playhouse season has finished, but will play at the Mercury Theatre from the 10th-14th March.
More information at the Auckland Arts Festival website.