Awatea Shines Brightly [by Sharu Delilkan]
You knew the writing was on the wall the minute you walked into the theatre. I’m of course referring to the beautifully chalked letters that 'panoramically' filled the backdrop of the entire stage. So dramatic, intriguing and utterly effective was this device that you could not help reading some of the letters while the show was going on.
But on to the show.
Having produced both The Pohutukawa Tree and The End Of The Golden Weather, Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Awatea completes Bruce Mason's classic trilogy of powerful New Zealand dramas. And it is everything it promises to be – thrilling, heart-wrenching, morally tough - a fiercely realistic study of betrayal and disillusionment.
Awatea, based in and around Ngati Porou country, is the story about a remote township of Omoana that revolves around their ‘hero’ Dr Matt Paku (Te Kohe Tuhaka) who left the East Coast and now owns a successful practice in Auckland. Proudest of all is his old, blind father Werihe (George Henare), who basks in this success via his son's letters, read to him by the no-nonsense local postmistress Emma Gilhooly (Geraldine Brophy). Every New Year's Eve, Matt comes home and the whole community celebrates. But things are different this year: Gilhooly has devastating news which she must keep from old Werihe at all costs.
Fancy a Puck? [by James Wenley]
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, hobgoblin Puck famously excuses all that has gone before as a “weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream”. If so, it was a fantastic and crazy dream that the audience collectively dreamed in the theatre. While Puck undersells the thematic depths of the play, Auckland Theatre’s Company’s fast and furious streamlined show (no interval!) emphasises the fun and farce of love gone very, very wrong.
Midsummer Night’s Dream, though taking inspiration from several sources, is credited as being Shakespeare’s only original plot. It’s one of his most popular too – a comic plot that sees a love quadrangle of miss-matched Athenian youths Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius enter the woods, which also contains a group of amateur actors rehearsing a play for the wedding of Duke Theseus (Peter Daube) to his exotic bride Hippolyta (Goretti Chadwick), as well as being the home of mischievous fairies, reigned over by feuding lovers King Oberon (Xavier Horan) and Queen Titania (Alison Bruce).
I wish my own dreams looked like this. An almost unbearably bright red raked stage looks out at us, a fittingly unbalanced playing space which at various times the actors climb, slide and leap off. No subtly here then – the red of fervent passion and desire dominates. The gloriously styled black and white fashions of the four lovers – including Brooke Williams’ Hermia school girl burlesque chic topped with an upside-down cupcake tutu, and Josh McKenzie’s wrapped in a foppishly large bow tie and ankle high socks, take a bow designer Nic Smillie – gets considerably skimpier the longer the play goes on. Goretti Chadwick’s Hippolyta, going against received interpretation, is rather into her Theseus. And there are enough bare-chested men to rival the wolf pack of the Twilight films.