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.
Nasty delights in an upside-down world [by James Wenley]
Roald Dahl has a lot to answer for. His childrens stories, among them Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Fantastic Mr Fox are gruesome and subversive tales, in George’s Marvellous Medicine for example, 8 year old George is responsible for the death of his Grandmother (causing her to shrink into nothing). The adults in Dahl’s stories, like Boggis, Bunce and Bean in Mr Fox or Principal Trunchball in Matilda, are a mean and reprehensible lot.
And with these wicked and whimsical stories, Dahl has been a champion for generations of children. His books were a constant presence during my childhood. Never talking down to or underestimating his readership, his works speak to the mind of a child growing up in a confusing world. Adults, as all children know, don’t always know best.
In The Twits, Dahl introduced us to two of his most loathsome characters – Mr and Mrs Twit. Mr Twit eats weeks old food caught in his beard. We’re told Mrs Twit used to be beautiful, but after thinking years of “ugly thoughts”, her face turned ugly too (great message there). The couple are always trying to play tricks on each other – their mutual hatred of each other seemingly the only thing keeping them together. Add to this villainy Mr Twit’s slavery and abuse of a family of monkeys who he plans to train to perform in an upside-down circus, and the Twit’s desire to trap a flock of birds and cook them in a pie, and you have two outright despicable people!
For their final year show, and first Children’s show in a number of year, Auckland Theatre Company brings repulsive life to The Twits in the forms of Te Radar and David Fane (for who else would make an uglier woman?). Their disgusting habits and tricks – including a glass eye cocktail, and serving worms on spaghetti - earn big wicked laughs from the children in attendance. Like big kids themselves, the Twits tricks appeals to a child’s naughty side.
And as it turned out, this production appealed to the naughty side of a lot of adults too…
Blokes behaving badly [by Sharu Delilkan]
If you’re looking to see a show with balls Boys’ Life is definitely it.
The play follows the drunken, nihilistic excesses of three American youths through their quest to embrace responsibility, seek partnership and come to a realisation of their place in the world.
Boys’ Life reminds the audience of their journey from adolescent confused flirtation to ultimate attempts to dignify a life.
It’s about the relationship of three urban guys who essentially refuse to grow up.
The Outfit Theatre Company production, based on Howard Korder’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, portrays the sexual politics and attitudes of 1980s America.