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?
The title tells you all [by James Wenley]
The ‘awkward’ brand of humour is one well known to audiences. Popularised in modern times by the Ricky Gervais School of comedy, it employs cringe, painful pauses, and a whiff of nastiness to sell its humour. Thomas Sainsbury has long done his own successful spin on the genre, and is a great match working for the first time with the Outfit Theatre Company with Director Benjamin Henson for their annual Christmas show. The title is a very good clue as to whether you’ll enjoy this play. Believe me; this family Christmas is awkward indeed.
We open on a suspiciously happy couple Polly (Jacqui Nauman) and Percy (Andrew Ford): he’s reading the newspaper, she’s creaming a Pavlova, and both send adoring smiles across the John Parker designed room. It’s the one moment of relative calm the play affords us; then (this reviewer attempting to remain sensitive, which the play does not do), Polly awkwardly walks, feet inward, across the room and we realise she is a few kiwifruit short of a pav (Nauman making a late play for the ‘The GAIL COWAN MANAGEMENT Award for Best Actress/Actor Playing a Character with a Disability/Medical Condition of the Year’ Hackman Theatre Award). Percy launches into a foul rant. Whenever anyone else is around, Percy pretends to be mentally impaired for his own perverse reasons, Ford channeling his Tweedle Dum character from Alice earlier this year. Those are only the first two characters we meet.
Pink, Wet, Complicated [by Rosabel Tan]
When I tell a guy at work I’m going to The Sex Show, he laughs. “You’re not,” he says. He pauses. “You are.”
“I am.” He looks disappointed and mildly confused. “Do you want to come?”
“Not really,” he screws up his nose. “Maybe.”
It’s an interesting reaction and there are plenty more to come, because as it turns out, the type of people who attend a show offering “a snapshot of New Zealand’s sexual psyche” on a Friday night are couples, some young, many middle-aged, a few families and a scattering of older-looking men.
Devised by The Outfit Theatre Company and first staged last year, The Sex Show comprises of a series of vignettes depicting various sexual experiences: you have twenty-something couples experimenting with cyber-sex, bar-toilet sex, stick-everything-up-everywhere sex; young girls grinding frantically on the dancefloor; younger girls grinding frantically on their soft toys; sexually starved housewives and their Family Party politician husbands; couples avoiding temptation, or not; despicable men; and a chirpy band of sexual creatures taken straight from the set of a children’s show that’s gone horribly wrong – but with characters like Fellatio Fox (Ema Barton), Sex Panda (Brad Johnson), Cunnilingus Cat (Tarquinn Kennedy) and the Clitoracle (Heidi Kauta), you know you’re in good hands.
If this is a kid’s show, consider me a big one! [by James Wenley]
Outfit Theatre Company have turned their devising smarts on Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland story. I’ve never been to one of Outfit’s School Holiday shows, so was very curious to see how their upstart (and often dark) style would translate for children.
As we enter TAPAC it sounds like some unruly kids haven’t yet learnt their audience etiquette. But wait, no, that’s the Outfit ensemble, decked in school uniforms, and acting anarchic on the thrust stage. With all the busy-ness in this preshow I don’t know what the kids watching made of it, but I enjoyed the bits I could make out. The show begins with a school class prologue (each kid corresponding to a different Wonderland character, ala Wizard of Oz) where poor Alice gets bullied (“Dreamer, dreamer, you like Justin Bieber!”). The meanest bully (Ema Barton) gets her gang to steal Alice’s cat Dinah, and says she is going to eat her for dinner. She meets a talking white rabbit, who leads her down a rabbit role, and Alice finds herself in a strange Wonderland….
Teen angst on overdrive [by James Wenley]
Pity the British teenager. There’s something about the British school system that has seen it spawn more than its fair share of films, television and plays eviscerating the subject. Alan Bennett’s thoughtful The History Boys, which Punk Rock has been compared to, took a fairly noble approach to student’s studying their final exam. Punk Rock by Simon Stephens is something else entirely. While presenting as a familiar story of a group of grammar school sixth formers studying for their A levels, it explodes into a punishing indictment on the horrors of high school and the teenage wasteland.
School uniforms don’t stop Punk Rock’s characters from expressing their identities – it’s all how you wear your blazer. Opening loud to a suitably raucous punk song, a recognisable assortment of archetypes parade around the stage. There’s the tightly buttoned nerd, the suggestive hottie, the sloppily dressed bully, and the guy so cool he gets away with wearing a non-regulation jacket. Within seconds, the nerd’s pants have been pulled down and carted offstage. Ah, so that’s how it’s going to be.
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:
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.
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.
Triple Word Score [by Sharu Delilkan]
The concept of the alternate ending has always worked a treat.
Many movies, especially the infamous Sliding Doors, not only had an alternate ending but an alternate history as well.
It’s therefore not surprising that The Outfit Theatre Company’s latest romp Love After Dark is a winning combination right from the get-go – three directors, three plays and three writers. That’s nine points of view in one show – what more can you ask for?
Walking into the grungy upstairs space of The Basement Studio seems rather ordinary until we get to the doorway where it is unclear where the set ends and the audience’s seating begins. The cast and set surrounding the door with lively chatter add to the eager anticipation of opening night.
As I get settled in my seat, I can’t help but think ‘If only we could rewrite the ending to what life dishes out at us – wouldn’t the world be a happier place?”