Taking the Risk [by James Wenley]
“…It was this lack of “weight” (a not too easily defined term which an actor, if not a member of the audience, would understand) that Mr George Henare needs to work on if he wishes to pursue the acting profession. His is a good, powerful voice, he has strong features… yet a lot of these advantages are dissipated by his unsureness in terms of movement, distribution of body-emphasis, and… style.” - Review of Awatea
It would be a brave reviewer indeed who would dare to write such sacrilegious words about Mr George Henare today. That was George Webby, in 1968, in an across-the-board withering attack on the original stage production of Bruce Mason’s Awatea. For Auckland Theatre Company’s 2012 revival, Sharu Delikan called Henare’s acting “flawless” and “truly inspired”, with Henare coming full circle to play blind patriarch Werihe Paku, whose son Matt Henare performed as in 1968. 2012 was a year that in many ways belonged to Henare, with headline performances in Awatea, Peach Theatre Company’s Death of a Salesman, and Educating Rita for the new Newmarket Theatre Company. Henare stocked up on the actor carbs to deliver three weighty performances indeed, along with a lightness of touch and twinkle in the eye, it was breathtaking to see Henare at work.
As I embarked this year on a Masters project looking at forgotten ‘landmark’ New Zealand plays from the 40-70s, Awatea defined my year. I went ‘behind enemy lines’ to see a little of that production come together. 2012 was a year I had one foot in the past, and one in the present. What would 2012 look like, in several decades time?
You want us to do what? [by James Wenley]
Show Pony asks you to get naked. Providence asks for a pash. And Wake Less asks you to dinner… among other things.
Three shows where the normal ‘rules’ don’t apply. Three shows where the audience is an important part of the performance. Three shows that made up for one intense, beguiling, perplexing, invigorating, weird and wonderful night at The New Performance Festival.
I’m writing about all three of together as there were some interesting conversations going on between them. All three were two-handers, in the sense that there were mostly two performers onstage, whose interaction and relationships were important. But these relationships are complicated by the role of the audience within the performance. Our normal theatre contract – we watch, they perform – is waived. In these shows, spectators become participants. Wake Less warns: “As an audience member at a Binge Culture performance, you can expect to be included. You might be questioned, teased, looked in the eye or invited to save a pod of whales.” Are you brave enough?
Vague vs Vivid [by Sharu Delilkan]
As we walked into the Wintergarden we were greeted by one of the three actors Leo Gene Peters, who handed us notecards with pens.
“What is this for?” we asked. Please list down 5 things that you are afraid you won’t achieve before you die, he said. To which I answered, “Is that the opposite of a bucket list?” Leo nodded and smiled.
I really liked the fact that every audience member was able to interact with the three cast members, even before the show started. Almost like we were being made to feel comfortable while being asked to do something uncomfortable – almost like bearing one’s soul.
It took me a while before I started writing. “What if what I write isn’t good enough?” I thought. I turned to my husband seated next to me and said “Is this going to be anonymous? Because if it is I could take a whole different tone.”
Testosterone Overload [by James Wenley]
The roof of the Aotea Centre has to be one of the coolest places in Auckland to do a show. Overlooked by the large old Council building, imbued with the colour of street lights, and soundtracked with street noise, sirens and the odd sound of a seagull, it has the type of atmosphere that you just can’t replicate.
Dance like a Butterfly Dream Boy is a pretty cool show to be performed up there too. Don’t let the reference to the butterfly fool you – this isn’t some tender beautiful thing - but a full on, testosterone filled, macho show where a cast of mad men push their bodies to the extremes and battle to be the alpha male.
Testosterone heavy? Yes. Indulgent? Yes. Sick? Sometimes. Fun? Absolutey!
Stories from the Source [by James Wenley]
New Zealand, famously, is a land of immigrants. Waves of migration over the country’s history have created a rich fabric of cultures, as well as perhaps an uncertain ‘kiwi’ cultural identity. What is it about New Zealand that makes it unique, and what is this discovery like for new arrivals? How do they become part of the ‘culture’? Do they want to? We can learn a lot about ourselves – good and bad – for those on the outside looking in / fitting in.
Be | Longing, directed by Hillary Halba and Stuart Young from the University of Otago Theatre Studies programme, is a verbatim play, using interviews from immigrants (new and old) to the country. As explained at the beginning of the show, using dialogue from real interviews between interviewer and subject, the cast listen to MP3s of the interviews which they speak in real time, capturing all of their inflections, pauses and idiosyncrasies. The interviews were also filmed - the actors studying them in detail to portray the real body language on the stage. The interviewee, as communicated through the actress, was slightly dubious at the idea – “people sitting like us... just talking?” What sort of theatre show is that?
Pick up the Phone [by James Wenley]
The best advice I can give those who are going to Call Cutta in a Box is this: Go with your defences down, an inquisitive mind, and an open heart.
The consensus does seem to be that the less you know going into Call Cutta the better. So for those don’t want to be spoiled, read this review after you’ve seen it. But for those who can’t get to it, or just can’t help themselves, here is my experience.
At the New Performance Festival Box Office I’m given a map to an office building on Queen St. I go to Level 5 as directed and find myself in a law firm. A woman at the desk asks for my name then tells me to wait, then taps away on her computer ignoring me. It feels awfully authentic, however I recognise her as an Edge staff member, another man that comes past as an actor, another person a techie. But for someone unaware of this conciet, I’d imagine they’d find it a bit disconcerting. I’m told they’re ready for me, and I enter a small room containing a desk, computer, pot plant, and couch.
A phone rings. I pick it up. A voice says “Kiora”. The play begins…
New Performance, New Dimensions [by James Wenley]
Well the New Performance Festival has sprung up within the little-seen bowels of the Aotea Centre. A pop-up (and very cool) festival club is the gateway to a host of shows that, at the very least, will leave you plenty to talk about after.
And it was 2 Dimensional Life of Her that was chosen to open and set the tone of the Festival on Friday. Originating from Australia, the work has been travelling for the last three years. But what this work is, I’m not quite sure. The creator herself, Fleur Elise Noble, says of the show “I still find it almost impossible to describe”. So I'll do my very best...
Visually, it’s a beautiful amalgam of simple retro technology – pen on paper, and clever use of newer film, animation, and projection technologies. Narratively, you can make of it what you will, but the premise is of an artist losing control of her creations. It reminded me of the type of creatively ‘out-there’ works that you might encounter as an installation in a funky contemporary art gallery space, but in a theatre context it makes more demands.
A Ghost in the Machine [by Sharu Delilkan]
True to form Sean Curham's work at the New Performance Festival, Ghosting Part 2 – Cabaret, is nothing short of unexpected.
The minute we walked down into the bowels of Aotea Centre we are greeted by Curham’s set, which felt more like we’d walked in on someone in rehearsal. And as people gathered it was evident that there was an air of anticipation, or was it trepidation?
It was a few minutes before Sean said hello and encouraged the audience to move around the set, which helped everyone settle in as there didn’t seem a clear place for the audience to place themselves, bar the few chairs on wheels randomly placed in the space.
What will the 2012 Auckland Theatre Scene bring? [by James Wenley]
The Auckland Theatre Scene goes deadly quiet in January. In my last post, as I looked back on 2011, I was grateful the curtain had dropped on a particularly busy year for theatre. Now, however, I’m firmly suffering theatre withdrawal. Luckily, the hopeful promise of 2012 productions keeps me going.
Here’s what’s setting off my thea-dar as we begin the year:
2012 is looking a little unusual…
The first thing to note about 2012 is that the early months of the year promises some particularly out of the box, genre-mashing theatrical happenings. I’m always keen to experience things that are just a little bit different, and leave you with many questions (eg: Uh… What did I just see?).
Two events at The Edge have the potential to be particularly mind and body expanding. For those that think they’ve seen it all, these two platforms will provide some surprises…
Bathing with Elephants and other exotic revelries breaks the theatre drought late this month, and gets attention for a suitably imaginative and evocative name, but the shows’ description really has my mind swirling: