Bringing back the cultural cringe [by James Wenley]
Like many kiwis, I joined the yearly summer exodus from the cities, and went camping over New Years. The miserable rain-drenched ‘summer’ of 2012 had little to write home about of course, but it did provide me with one memorable experience: the family holiday train-wreck. Not my own, thank goodness. Evidently, the family at a camp site across from me had been asked to leave thanks to the bad behavior of one of the young men the night before. As the mother tried to keep it together, stoically and systematically packing up, the younger sister went all-out psycho at her brother with many a ‘how could you?’ and ‘I’m never speaking to you again’. As I sat in my fold out chair, only a few metres away from the scene, and watched this fascinating family implosion, I thought; this sure is good material for a play.
Dave Armstrong for one was able to recognise the dramatic potential of the camping holiday – take a family out of their normal environment, and watch all hell break lose. Working off a story by Danny Mulheron, his play The Motor Camp, presented by Auckland Theatre Company, is a clever dissection of our yearly ritual and our confused kiwi identities.
The proximity of camp sites provokes good drama between two archetypal families who have to share the space – Armstrong sees camping grounds as “great levellers”. The Redmonds - upper middle class Auckland intellectuals, and the working class Hyslop/Tairoas. The Motor Camp is run by a “Dutch Fascist” who repeatedly makes announcements over a booming intercom (a great running gag, voiced by Director Roy Ward). Andrew Foster’s set, coupled with Brad Gledhill’s summer lighting makes for an attractive, bright and green environment, consisting of two working motor home trailers (purchased of Trade Me) and an elegant cyclorama of native bush. What we don’t see (or smell) are the meat works the campers have to pass to get to the beach. Naturally, the stress comes early on arrival at the motor camp, as the Redmond’s struggle to get the awning up, and Jude is unhappy to see Frank bringing out the laptop so early.
A Yellow Brick Road worth following [by James Wenley]
We're off to the see the Wizard. I’ll get you my pretties. Dorothy. Scarecrow. Lion. Tin Man. Toto.
The songs, images, lines and characters from The Wizard of Oz are burned in technicolour into the memories of generations of people for over 70 years. While deviating wildly from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 original book (turning the whole thing into a dream for one), the 1939 movie musical is arguably perfect cinema, and it is this interpretation that has taken hold of popular culture.
Still timeless, the memorable characters light up the screen in technicolour, and the story rewards both the young and the young at heart. Who hasn’t, like Dorothy, longed for a place where the “dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”.
And the Western world has continued to be fascinated by it. Andrew Lloyd Webber has put his own spin on the musical, Wicked revealed that the Wicked Witch of the West was actually rather nice, and there’s a new ‘prequel’ movie coming out starring James Franco as the Wizard.
But nothing has surpassed the film. Mess with this property at your peril.
When Mike met Virginia [by Sharu Delilkan]
Everyone knows When Harry Met Sally so when the show opens using the movie as an example of a romantic comedy (or a romcom) it sets the stage perfectly for what’s to come.
Mike & Virginia is written by veteran screenwriters Kathryn Burnett & Nick Ward, who are making their debut into the world of theatre.
Memorable lines include ‘I’m as dry as a vulture’s arsehole’ and ‘being a best friend is about accepting her lumps and all’.
Mike and Virginia want to fall in love and they are supposed to at the end but in my mind they never quite get there - it’s difficult to appreciate what lovably laid-back Mike (Will Hall) sees in constantly uptight Virginia (Lisa Chappell), who rarely seems to soften or let her guard down.
The show has all the elements – great script, amazing backdrop scenery but the diluted chemistry between the lead characters left me needing more.
Back on the radar [by Sharu Delilkan]
Most people know Te Radar as an award winning satirist, documentary maker, writer, failed gardener, and amateur historian.
And more recently he’s been in our living rooms starring in TVNZ’s Radar’s Patch, Off the Radar, and Homegrown.
But you’d be forgiven if you didn’t think of him as a stage director, especially since he’s been off the theatre radar for a good seven years. The revered Kiwi comedian’s last live theatre gig was directing Those Indian Guys in Indian Invaders at the 2004 International Comedy Festival.
Radar admits he knew he had to direct Mike & Virgina as soon as he saw the read through at Auckland Theatre Company’s Read Raw series.
Mike & Virginia is a unabashed romp of a play about love and who you think you shouldn’t fall in love with, that subverts every romcom convention in the book to create a bitingly funny and surprisingly tender Kiwi love story.