A variety meal [by Matt Baker]
From the Chinese lanterns that adorn the Basement Studio stairwell to the Beckoning Cat and incense in the hallway, Chop/Stick, presented by Chairman Meow Productions, immediately sets the tone for an overall theatrical experience. What makes it noteworthy is that it does not only set an ethnic specific tone, but generates an atmosphere that resonates through the play as a whole. With a fear of being limited by her ethnicity Michelle Ang has teamed up with first time full-time playwright Jo Holsted and actor/director Sophie Roberts to create a one-woman show that celebrates her niche as an actress, which, ironically yet no doubt purposefully, highlights her range.
While Ang’s performance is slightly inflated at times, specifically when inhabiting skins that are further from her age or sex, it works cohesively with the style of the play as a whole and makes for great clarity between characters. Ang also finds a nice array of idiosyncrasies in both her vocal work (accents and cadences are spot on) and cultural demeanor between all 13 of them. Though somewhat mechanical in her initial delivery of the dialogue, she quickly warmed to the audience (and vice versa), and found a nice rhythm and rapport. This ability to engage and play with an audience organically cannot be understated. Add to this her seamless coping with the odd opening night nerve-induced line fluff and mechanical problem, and one can only conclude that Ang is a consummate professional.
Challenge Accepted [by James Wenley]
I got a sneak preview of 13 when I went to the shows at the upstairs Basement Studio the night before. A cacophony of shouts and screams impossible to ignore rose from the floorboards below. Whatever was happening downstairs, it sounded explosive.
13 is an audacious choice of play for The Actors' Program graduation showcase: the first public performance from the first year of actors from a program that has arrived to radically shake up acting training in New Zealand. Much rests on the fortunes of these 14 actors to demonstrate the program’s success. No pressure then.
A matter of pride [by Sharu Delilkan]
A heterosexual woman at the helm of a thrilling contemporary narrative predominantly focussed on the gay issues could have been a point of concern. But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Sophie Roberts' role as director for The Pride.
Her history of working on productions with gay themes has made her role in The Pride a natural progression in her career.
“I have done quite a few gay-oriented plays so I am quite comfortable dealing with those issues. I also like working with or highlighting the perspective of people on the fringes of society. I find such work more interesting and enjoy working in that territory. I strongly believe that theatre has a social and political function, which is why I seek out work that talks about these issues. And the fact that the gay marriage bill coming up in parliament gives the content of the play a lot more weight and relevance,” she says.
Milk and Honey Dreams [by James Wenley]
The End of the Golden Weather has got to be one of the great New Zealand stories. As a play, it’s endured far beyond its intended lifespan. Playwright Bruce Mason wrote it partly as a platform for himself, performing the work solo across NZ in the decades for a staggering 986 performances, until his death in 1982.
But the Golden Weather was to continue. The play not only continued its solo tradition with a select few actors being entrusted with the play, but has been adapted for many actors – Raymond Hawthorne did a company version in the 80s, and Ian Mune directed the film in 1991.
Auckland Theatre Company’s production, part of the Real NZ Festival and just in time for the Rugby World Cup influx, is an ensemble version for 9 actors, which has its roots in similar productions Murray Lynch directed in 1987 and 1990. Interestingly, both Lynch and ATC’s artist director Colin McColl stage-managed the play for Bruce Mason himself early in their careers. This play looms large in our theatre history.
A/S/L? [by James Wenley]
One of the oldest forms of human communication meets one of its newest in I love you bro. And they aren’t much different at all.
Silo Theatre’s current offering launches its 'Second Cousin’ brand where they can “muck around with conventions to create work which is decidedly new and unlike anything you’ll see in our mainbill repertoire”. Rising stars Tim Carlsen (actor) and Sophie Roberts (Director), last paired together for ‘One Day Moko’ at the Basement Theatre, get given the keys to the Silo Theatre and go wild. What they and their creative team make together with Australian Adam J.A. Cass’s play is just as good as any mainbill season, and I think theatre more relevant, more urgent, more today.
Remember this name [by James Wenley]
You might not know who Tim Carlsen is yet, but by the end of the year Auckland Theatregoers will certainly be able to put a face to the name.
The second half of the year is a big one for the 2009 Toi Whakaari Acting graduate, as he not only brings his solo theatre creation ‘One Day Moko’ to the Basement on June 28th, but will be seen in roles in Silo Theatre’s ‘I Love You Bro’ and ‘Tartuffe’, and Auckland Theatre Company’s ‘End of the Golden Weather’. That’s a big achievement for someone not long out of Drama School.
Tim recognises that it “its either going to be feast or famine when it comes to this sort of work”. Of this current feast he says “It’s great, I’m going to relish it all. It’s fantastic.” Up first is a personal labour of love for Tim, his solo show One Day Moko which follows the day in a life of a homeless person: “We follow him around Auckland city and see what he gets up to and who he meets along the way.”
It’s been a long journey to bring Moko to Auckland, having begun working on the play while still at Drama School. Tim’s first inspiration for the piece was in New York, where he worked with the Wooster Group, whose members and alumni include names like Steve Buscemi and Willem Defoe. Working with the Wooster Group “was a big part of finding the form of the show in terms of using technology, particularly film and video, and incorporating that into the show.”