Some things you can’t learn in school [by Matt Baker]
Composer, lyricist, and musical director Vicki Millar has a Masters Degree in Musical Theatre (specialising in Writing), so I am surprised that I Wish I Learned came across as such a primary level production. The story is devoid of plot and is instead driven by the characters, who, by themselves, are simply not interesting enough to carry a show. Until a specific series of consequential events are kneaded into the script as opposed to characters switching their thought track to fulfill the sound track, and until the dialogue is (heavily) edited, the story, and consequentially the show itself, remains incomplete.
The show’s narrative is structured via the musical scale and the songs’ titles are not without their charm. There is always freedom in structure, and there is something incredibly satisfying, especially for those who are musically inclined, about the song-list and the slightly kitsch way in which it is presented in the programme, but more work is needed to authentically translate this spectacle element to the stage.
Strength in numbers [by Matt Baker]
Two people meet at a particular place at a particular time, and things are irreversibly changed. This is, arguably, a primary necessity for dramatic action, and it is the premise of Lab Theatre’s production of One by One.
Director Pedro Ilgenfritz has clearly attained a wealth of knowledge regarding theatre during his 20-year career. A practitioner and lecturer who practices what he preaches, his biography concisely illustrates his approach to the work:
“[He] became specialized in a style that might be termed the laughter of the body – aconsistent series of de-anxietising physical exercises, improvisations, mask-driven experiments, philosophical study and dramaturgical research that stayed close to the popular roots of theatre in comedy.Out of this intensive development emerged not only a road-tested theatrical methodology, but a specific kind of poetic consciousness of the laws of social logic that has became the foundation of his work..”
A matter of pride [by Sharu Delilkan]
A heterosexual woman at the helm of a thrilling contemporary narrative predominantly focussed on the gay issues could have been a point of concern. But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Sophie Roberts' role as director for The Pride.
Her history of working on productions with gay themes has made her role in The Pride a natural progression in her career.
“I have done quite a few gay-oriented plays so I am quite comfortable dealing with those issues. I also like working with or highlighting the perspective of people on the fringes of society. I find such work more interesting and enjoy working in that territory. I strongly believe that theatre has a social and political function, which is why I seek out work that talks about these issues. And the fact that the gay marriage bill coming up in parliament gives the content of the play a lot more weight and relevance,” she says.
Politically Aware and Intelligent Humour, now with Bonus FlyBuy Points! [by Rosabel Tan]
These are tough times. There’s the global financial crisis. Climate change. John Key. And Richard Meros, once a leading academic specialising in Helen Clark’s specific niche – can no longer earn a living. And so he turns to the world for a solution, and finds it in that lone figure staring across the plains: the Southern Man.
As with On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, Meros, played by Arthur Meek, uses a gorgeously rendered PowerPoint presentation to convince us of his thesis in inspired and imaginative ways. Drawing on visual jokes, live-action shadow puppetry and a short-lived bout of pyrotechnics, Meros explains in bullet-point form his search for the Southern Man, the figure he believes will be our modern-day hero.
Idiots or Savants? [by Sharu Delilkan]
Entering the Herald Theatre greeted by four slightly dodgy war film characters it was great to see that the British obsession with the World Wars, (2-0), was still alive and kicking.
This of course soon descended into the chaos and confusion that we expect from a show like Idiots for Ants.
Having already been to another show earlier in the evening our funny bones had been tickled so we were ready to be tickled pink. And tickle us pink they did.
For fans of British humour the four guys on stage, Andrew, Benjamin, Elliott and Jimmy, delivered their multi-sketch format aka The Fast Show or ‘Python-esque’ with a baffling variety of ridiculous characters and situations.
The ‘idiots’ had clearly arrived in NZ to have fun which was infectious with as much warm humour and ‘piss-taking’ occurring between the four comedians as directed at the audience.
A show to fall in, and out of love.. [by James Wenley]
In the middle of Musical The Last Five Years, Jamie and Cathy pledge their loves and their lives in the song The Next Ten Minutes, which features both a tender proposal (“Will you share your life with me / For the next ten minutes? / .... And if we make it till then can I ask you again for another ten?”, and the wedding vows (“Will you share your life with me / Forever / For the next ten lifetimes?”). It’s a love song full of dreams and beautiful sentiment in its lyrics, but melodically it’s slow, heavy, with a hint of the sinister. With a real sense of musical foreboding, not the soaring love song the lyrics suggest – this love, and its platitudes, are doomed.
But you don’t have to wait to the end of the show to find this out, nor even this middle. Right at the beginning, Cathy (Cherie Moore) tells it blunt: “Jamie is over and Jamie is gone / Jamie's decided it's time to move on… And I'm still hurting”. Her story starts at the end, and moves backwards, from this moment of finality through to the first faltering beats of her heart. Jamie’s (Tyran Parke) story meanwhile goes from start to finish – from puppy dog eyes to the jaded brow. It’s a gimmicky device (See also, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal), but knowing at least the start and end of one of the stories makes us focus on all that goes on in between, trying to fit together the pieces of why and how.
Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, the musical has achieved cult success, premiering in Chicago in 2001 and playing off-Broadway the following year. Brown drew from his own failed marriage in writing the material, which led to threats of a legal challenge from his ex-wife which saw Brown rewrite one of the songs to less overtly mirror his own life. Whether the creation of the show was therapy or otherwise, and there certainly seems to be a hint of introspection, the end product is an articulate look at relationship stages, dynamics, and mutual destruction.
These shows won't last, buy your ticket today! [by James Wenley]
Turns out Xmas is a lot like the Rugby World Cup, whether you’re into it or not, you simply can’t avoid it – its everywhere. Xmas trees and tinsels have sprouted up everywhere. All I want for Christmas is you is on repeat. A GIANT Xmas Tree bauble has landed in Aotea Square, narrowly missing the Occupy Auckland protestors.
And now even our theatres aren’t safe. A recent tradition in Auckland has been the annual Xmas show at The Basement (The Reindeer Monologues, Christ Almighty!, Toys), where a conveyer belt of different ‘weren’t-you-on-the-tele-once’ actors perform each night.
While there’s no end-of-year Basement show this time round, others have arrived with sleigh bells on to take its place.
This week, two alliterated xmas shows have been going antler to antler. At the Herald Theatre is Outfit Theatre Company’s wicked farce A Criminal Christmas, and Upstairs at the Basement is Thomas Sainsbury’s series of Xmas shorts, A Krazy Kristmas.
A CRIMINAL CHRISTMAS
Outfit Theatre Company have topped off a cracker of a year (which included The Sex Show, Boys' Life and Love After Dark) with A Criminal Christmas, in partnership with STAMP at The EDGE. While The EDGE affords the company with the Herald Theatre and their best production values so far, what wins the season is the edgy and reckless ensemble feel that makes their work unique.
A/S/L? [by James Wenley]
One of the oldest forms of human communication meets one of its newest in I love you bro. And they aren’t much different at all.
Silo Theatre’s current offering launches its 'Second Cousin’ brand where they can “muck around with conventions to create work which is decidedly new and unlike anything you’ll see in our mainbill repertoire”. Rising stars Tim Carlsen (actor) and Sophie Roberts (Director), last paired together for ‘One Day Moko’ at the Basement Theatre, get given the keys to the Silo Theatre and go wild. What they and their creative team make together with Australian Adam J.A. Cass’s play is just as good as any mainbill season, and I think theatre more relevant, more urgent, more today.
Even Sweeter... [by James Wenley]
The second week of Short+Sweet lives life firmly on the theatrical side.
After noting that I hoped for a more diverse program of plays in my review of Week One, it was certainly delivered this week. These plays on the whole were not only different thematically to each other, many were also ballsy, thrilling, seat-wettingly hilarious and really played and experimented with what is possible to achieve on stage in 10 minutes. At the end of the show, when you look down at your voting papers to choose your favorite play, I found it an agonisingly tough decision. It was a night of a great many favourites.
Sweetness in Shortness [by James Wenley]
I reckon the art of a good 10-minute play is a decidedly tricky one. Whether it leaves you laughing or with something more to think about, within those 600 seconds it generally has to traverse the entire three act structure from inciting incident to satisfying conclusion.
The Short+Sweet festival, compromising of very strictly determined 10-minute plays (run over time to your peril) started in Australia and has been expanding internationally ever since. Last year it debuted in Auckland to something of a theatre vacuum in January, introducing many new theatre faces. Its sophomore year sees it return to the Herald Theatre, now in the middle of the year, with a potent mix of both established and new thespians looking to make magic in 10 minutes or less. This year has a larger focus on homegrown work, though Australian and American plays represent the international part of the festival.
Auckland audiences have been treated to the first ten plays of the festival this week. The evening moves swiftly, a well-oiled stage crew handling the many set changes with speed.