The Dotcom Show [by James Wenley]
There is something very fitting about Kim Dotcom being embraced by the acting community. Dotcom, who has transformed from an ‘evil’ internet tycoon to a kiwi folk hero , has been the great story of political theatre that keeps on giving. With a flair for the dramatic himself, and a brilliant media strategy (come over and swim in my pool!), we have been transfixed by the man.
Little wonder The Basement dreamed of having Dotcom in their annual fundraising Christmas show (sorely missed last year); they began a clever social media campaign to get his attention. And it came down to the optic-fibre-wire; while they had named their show ‘Mega Christmas’, his likeness had appeared on the poster, and an understudy was ready to learn his lines, The Basement and their cohorts were still twitter-bombing Dotcom. Then: a follow. Then: Mega Christmas writers Nic Sampson and Barnaby Fredric handed him their script and the Franklin Rd Xmas lights. Then – a tweet: “I'm Santa in the #MegaChristmas play at The Basement. The funniest Xmas play ever. Get ur ticket now. Not for kids “. That drama was a show in itself.
This is all by way of saying that Dotcom has become the story of Mega Christmas. The show received, well, mega media attention. It’s a really brilliant decision for both parties – Dotcom gains extra kudos and positive reportage, The Basement is promoted as the place to be and the show becomes a mega commercial success (it was all but sold out by opening, and they added several late night shows).
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.
Dark and Twisted [by James Wenley]
After a string of collaborations and monologue directing, Thomas Sainsbury returns to The Basement with The Family Wilder, setting his style to the dark camp of the thriller genre’s twist and turns.
Harry McNaughton plays the softly-spoken writer Clive, who is tasked with writing the biography of Wilder Family patriarch and ruthless businessman Bill. Bill, played by Bruce Phillips, is Alasdair Thompson’s kind of bloke. Generally denigrating to anyone but himself and full of pithy put downs, especially towards his no-hoper children Art (Todd Emerson) and Elizabeth (Fern Sutherland). His son may be useless, but he would never stand for his daughter to take over the business. The loathsome Art and Elizabeth, despite being siblings, have something of a Macbeth/Lady Macbeth relationship, and are plotting to kill their father. Hapless Clive might just be the person they need to help them get away with it…
Yvette Parsons, always a treat onstage, rounds out the cast as the staunchly Christian housekeeper/personal assistant Hodge, fiercely loyal to her employer, and can carry a good song.