Festival Year! [by James Wenley]
Theatre always goes to ground in January. The stages may be bare, but Auckland’s theatre community are busy strutting and fretting behind-the-scenes. There’s a lot to do: Auckland Fringe 2013 is now less than a month away, and Auckland Arts Festival is right on its tail. I’ve enjoyed the break, but if, like me, you are itching to take in some theatre, very soon we’ll be spoiled for choice. 2013 is going to be packed.
Here’s part 1 of what’s on my thea-dar this year: The Festivals!
2013 marks the third year of the Auckland Fringe (15 Feb – 10 March). If 2009 was the enthusiastic underdog, 2011 the consolidating sequel, 2013 should be the pay-off: artists and audiences who know the drill, so can be adventurous enough to go further. This year the open-access festival has 115 events across 40 venues over 24 days. With low ticket prices, and several Fringe ‘hubs’ across the city, you can pack in a number of shows each evening. Plan ahead, or see where the night takes you.
The program is worth a look – find it in print on the street, or check out the website. It was a fraught task narrowing it down, but here are my top 5 picks:
Q opens in triumph, Fringe overshadows Festival, Outfit Rise, Rugby, Rugby, Rugby, and the Death of the Theatre. [by James Wenley]
Attending the recent Hackman Theatre awards, Auckland Theatre circa 2011 would appear to be in rude health. Rude being the word, hosts Nic Sampson and Joseph Moore proudly observing it was a record year of nudity on stage, from the very brave Mr. Sam Seddon in The Only Child to the Dame bosoms of the Calendar Girls. It was certainly year that didn’t leave much to the imagination, containing everything from dildos to knitted phalluses, bath tubs to swimming pools.
The Hackmans were a big communal pat on the back for the industry, a brash and bold celebration of a huge year in theatre. As Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Robyn Malcom closed the awards night performing in a Thomas Sainsbury play that he had written under duress that very night, there was a sense that anything and everything was possible.
As a critic moving from Craccum to my own Theatre Scenes blog this year, I’ve welcomed the end-of-year theatre break. Throughout the year, I could often be heard to exclaim: ‘Auckland Theatre: There is too much of you!’. It’s been exhausting going to opening to opening night after night. And immensely rewarding. While containing some duds for sure, my impression of the year is one of great strength and eclectic activity. There was no shortage of things to write about at least. There was always something on. Between fellow blogger Sharu Delilkan and me, we reviewed or previewed 96 different shows, and even that barely scratched the surface.
More than just 'Invincible' [by James Wenley]
At the age of 19, George Nepia earned himself a place in Rugby history. As fullback on the All Black squad during the tour of Europe in 1924/25, he played in all 30 matches, and the All Blacks won them all. The team would be hailed as the ‘Invincibles’ and Nepia as the best full back of all time.
That’s the legend. What I, George Nepia gives us is the man. Nepia, as interpreted by playwright Hone Kouka, director Jason Te Kare and actor Jarod Rawiri, is worlds away from the hype. Rugby was never his dream and he’s humble and self-effacing about his on field achievements – so much fuss about a ball made out of ‘cow-hide’. His greatest achievement: Fatherhood, what else?
Kouka uses the framing of Nepia in the afterlife (at a Rugby stadium no less) hoping and waiting to meet his deceased son. Here, he reflects on his life, the story told from both the older, wiser perspective as well as the in-the-moment wide eyed and young Nepia.
On the boat to England we meet a Nepia entirely at odds with his portrayal as legend. He has all too human fears – not being good enough, and not fitting in with his team. The return to the ‘motherland’ that drives other team mates is lost on him, he finds himself a Maori in a strange land, the story becoming a deeply personal odyssey where he must travel away to find himself (a foundation New Zealand rite of passage if ever there was one!).