I am incredibly excited to announce that Rosabel Tan has joined the team at Theatre Scenes as a reviewer. I've long admired Rosabel's writing and reviews, previously having reviewed for The Lumiere Reader and Craccum magazine, where she was Theatre Editor from 2007-2008.
Treating degrees like Pokémon, Rosabel has a BA/BCom majoring in English, psychology and marketing, a Master’s in psychology and, most recently, a Master’s in Creative Writing.
Rosabel says: "Of all storytelling modes, theatre feels to me the most powerful, and it's because of this power to affect and transform that I'm continually drawn, inspired and changed by it."
Rosabel was my predecessor as Craccum Theatre Editor, and it was actually thanks to her that I got my start in reviewing, sending me off to review a comedy show. I'm really pleased to see her wrting about theatre again, so keep an eye out for her perspective on the blog!
Spectacle and Saigon [by James Wenley, Musical Geek]
An interesting development over the past few years has been the welcome take-over of the mighty Civic Theatre by ‘amateur’ theatre societies (Harlequin Theatre – Cats, Auckland Music Theatre – Rent, 42nd Street), whilst the big budget overseas touring musical spectaculars have all but dried up… blame the economic times. Indeed, excepting the recent Andrew Lloyd Webber concert, Auckland hasn’t had any spectacle on their stages at all this year.
Until now. North Shore Music Theatre, have brashly and confidently crossed the bridge (we are all one super city now of course) to present Schönberg & Boublil’s grand Miss Saigon.
Inspired by Puccini’s Opera Madame Butterfly, the show opens on the eve of the Fall of Saigon in April 1976 and tells the story of the doomed love affair between American GI Chris and Vietnamese bar girl Kim.
It’s from the same composer/lyricist partnership that created the smash hit Les Miserables. Miss Saigon debuted at the West End and ran on Broadway for 10years from 1991-2001, and is the 10th longest running Broadway show.
While a massive success, it’s not held with as much universal affection as Les Mis, possibly because the Vietnam war backdrop was a little too close to home for some American public. The show is perhaps most famous for a spectacular set piece involving a deafeningly noisy helicopter landing on the embassy roof to evacuate the American troops.
Two Queens, two kingdoms [by Sharu Delilkan]
With the recent revelry to mark the British Royals tying their nuptials I wasn’t surprised that The Maidment Theatre’s foyer was packed to the gunnels when we arrived.
But I soon realised it was because there were two sets of audiences in the house – those gearing up for the NZ International Comedy Festival show at The Musgrove Theatre and the rest who were anticipating the historic journey with Mary Stuart.
As we filed into the theatre we heard people whispering with excitement about the Outrageous Fortune’s stars – Elizabeth Hawthorne & Robyn Malcolm — about to grace the stage.
All the elements – the costume, direction, lighting, music and set – combine seamlessly to set the mood, the era and complement the actors on stage.
The story is replete with contrasts, freedom vs confinement, wanton living against regal duty, displacement and homeland, privilege and struggle, beauty and ugliness, …the list goes on.
John Parker’s set is both simple and impressive and has the versatility to represent the diverse situations of the two queens with ease. The choreography of the wrought iron partitions’ movement is royally executed while their see-through quality enables characters to lurk in the background as persuasive, jealous, ever on the minds and influencing the scheming decisions of the two queens.
There’s something happening in Auckland right now, and it’s hilarious. [by James Wenley]
And I’m not talking about the Comedy Festival proper. We Aucklanders have known this is hilarious for a number of years now. Auckland’s stand-up comic fraternity (anyone who has ever appeared on 7 Days, ever) have been on a renaissance roll for a while.
No, I’m talking about comedy in the theatre. Something very hilarious, and very exciting, is happening on our stages.
Over the last few years, the creation of the funny play has been taken up by three main creative groupings in Auckland.
The Thomas Sainsbury juggernaut has been impossible to miss, the playwright churning out play after play (Talk, Dance Troupe Supreme, The Mall, Loser etc etc etc) and often directing his own work in small venues around town.
Nic Sampson and his cohorts have newly emerged with a series of broad blokey comedies (Tim and Andy, The Burn, Idiots I & II, Feel Felt Found, No Tree Hill)
And after graduating from Toi Whakaari, writer-performer pair Dan Musgrove and Natalie Medlock lit up the Auckland scene with A song for the Ugly Kids, The Giant Face, and Basement revolving cast Xmas shows Christ Almighty! and Toys.
All share similarities, so much so that a distinctive ‘comedy’ theatre style is happening right now in Auckland. It is silly, outrageous, naughty, absurd, and anything but PC. The storylines are often ridiculous. Although sometimes gagging on popular culture, the heart of the comedy is squarely in the characters and their relationships. The plays are populated by larger-than-life characters (with actors as a rule playing multiple characters within a night) who underneath are deeply flawed and have a ‘truth’ that exposes our own human foibles. This, is what makes them work, and is something I have long admired in Sainsbury’s work especially.
This week at the Basement, all three comedy-making groups converge.
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.
Why Vodka? [by James Wenley]
Vodka, according to the pinnacle of human thought – Wikipedia - is “one of the world's most popular liquors. It is composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made from fermented substances like grain.” Ho-Hum. According to the Did I believe it? Team, Vodka is drunk by alcoholics, was the original name of the Beatles, and Americans have invented a bacon flavoured version of Vodka. Yum Yum.
Silo Theatre have taken over the classy downtown bar 1885 Britomart for their first production of 2011 Did I Believe it? created by director Oliver Driver, writer Jodie Molloy and company. The premise is that for the last 42 years (the show is sponsored by 42 Below Vodka, don’t-you-know?) Did I Believe it? has been New Zealand’s top rating science edutainment show, or any sort of show for that matter. Each week they present all you could want to know on a particular topic… this week it is ‘Vodka’, and presented for the first time in front of a live studio audience. That’s us.
Turning the tables [by Sharu Delilkan]
Of all this year’s festival shows The Show Must Go On has to be the most memorable. Not for acting, lighting, staging, music, writing, dialogue (there is none) or dance, but the real and raw effect it has on the audience.
Descriptions such as ‘challenging’, ‘groundbreaking’, ‘brave’ and ‘provocative’ come to mind but I’ll try to refrain and just say that my mind was whirring at a million kms an hour trying to comprehend what I had just experienced, standing on the steps outside the Mercury Theatre after the show.
If you expect to sit back and have the actors on stage do all the work for you, The Show Must Go On is bound to surprise.
But if you’re there to be tested, something which the cult figure in the international dance world Jerome Bel is notorious for, you’re in for a treat if you get into the spirit of things.
Beckett on Love [by Sharu Delilkan]
We were greeted by instrumental music that immediately made me reminisce with fondness about my first love.
The stark stage with two different sized benches and the cold blue lighting contrasted the emotive background music.
It’s not long before Conor Lovett enters stage right dressed in a chequered suit, hoodie and worn reddish-brown leather shoes. He loses no time telling us about his life which includes details of his separation and listlessness toward family.
Originally written in French in 1946 and translated into English by Samuel Beckett, First Love is a fabulous play on words that keeps the audience both mesmerised and in stitches throughout the 70-minute production.The language is dense and superb expressing depression and neglect with a razor sharp wit that creeps up on the audience almost as subtlety as the “love affair” he describes.
All is revealed [by James Wenley]
With the Auckland Fringe over, it is safe to talk about Standstill. The latest from The Rebel Alliance, Standstill featured a unique and risky promotional campaign. Their image said “Don’t read this” and the promotional blurb told us nothing about what the show was about, or who was in it. We were asked to take a chance on a show that we knew nothing about.
And it seems to have worked. I must confess, I did have a sneaky look at some of the reviews that came out after the show’s first night. With Sunday being the last night of the Fringe, I had to make a difficult choice about what I would be able to see. So I took a peak. Do early reviews destroy the concept of the campaign? Perhaps. After reading them I was still intrigued, and even surer that this was a show I wanted to experience.
Think inside the square [by Sharu Delilkan]
In the bar prior to the performance someone said “Are you ready for ‘Indian Celebrity Squares’?”. And that was exactly the structure of the musicians we were greeted with onstage, with nine musicians across by four storeys high, revealing a whole grid of musicians who were eventually collectively lit.
This was the beginning of The Manganiyar Seduction experience.
The visual was a little bit puzzling although we all knew that we were there to witness something that most of us had never seen before.
So with an open mind, I decided to let the evening unfold.