September 21, 2017

The Wholehearted

Wholehearted will start conversations, honest conversations. Told through what I can only call interpretive dance it's the story of all people, yet there is no storyline.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the cast where doing, what the boxes represented, what they were trying to catch (their heart? love? memories?). It's almost a stream of consciousness across several people.

It is beautifully choreographed, each member participating in another's story so seamlessly. Sheer curtains create windows to interesting tableaux, all perfectly staged.

What is it about? It's about the human experience, how we open ourselves to others and it's lovely to watch.

Tickets: $30
Performances: (Wellington) 20-23 September, 7pm
Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival (27 September)
Christchurch - Papa Hou (3 – 7 October)
Dunedin - Fortune Theatre (10 to 13 October)

https://www.massivecompany.co.nz/thewholehearted

A Doris Day Special

Ali Harper is a delight. Though this show doesn't have the breadth of Legendry Divas there's still plenty to enjoy.

Ali is Doris Day as she tells us about her life in a television special. There's video and audio accompaniment with a gorgeous rack of clothes. Doris had a tragic life but somehow managed to keep a smile on her face. Her positive outlook took her through several husbands and the loss of her best friend, her son. She was an early animal activist, still working in that area into her 90's.

The script is great, integrating costume changes with pre-recorded pieces and, of course, live singing. In case you didn't know, Ali is very talented.

The audience was a little older but the show is enjoyable for all ages.

Tickets: $46
Performances: 16 September - 14 October (times vary)

September 15, 2017

Anahera

Anahera means angel and she looks like one standing in white. Is this what I'm meant to see or am I reading too much into this?

What lies beneath the surface of a seemingly perfect family is appalling. It left me gaping in horror more than once. But somehow you feel for these awful characters, possibly because you feel for them before their awfulness is revealed - to the audience or to themselves.

The programme has only two lines about the show itself; following the annoying trend of having notes from the writer and director instead of pertinent information. The poster doesn't show Anahera but instead the actress who plays Liz - weirdly with ferns behind her which made me think it had something to do with the jungle.

You'll recognise the three main actors from TV and past Circa productions. Neenah Dekkers-Reihana as the title character is so different from what I've seen her portray before; she is innocent and righteous. Her wide eyes at the very opening making you realise how young and nervous the character is.

Anahera was harrowing, so much so that it stuck with me afterwards. I'd remember and almost shudder at the thought. I felt like the story lacked a resolution or maybe it's meant to show that they don't exist in real life. I'm left feeling unsettled.


Performances: 9 September – 7 October (times vary)
Tickets: $52

September 14, 2017

Me and My Sister Tell Each Other Everything

As a sister and a person with a mental illness I can speak to the truth of this production. Or at least my truth. When I saw the trigger warning I wanted to run away, when they mentioned it again at the start of the show I wanted to leave. But I didn't. And I'm glad I didn't.

Freya and Maria were great. They were honest. It felt like they were sisters or they were improvising the script as they went - but in a good way. I thought about my sister, who I hate sometimes and love others...though now I think about it, maybe I've grown out of hating her now.

This isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea but it deals with important topics and fosters important conversations. It's political too - there's a tea towel that states there's no depression in New Zealand, like so many things it's never mentioned but it's there, and at the end the actors reminded us to vote.

There's singing, not what you'd expect from this sort of thing, it's funny and beautiful.  Overall, I laughed more than I cried. I left uplifted, secure. And I know that no matter what, my sister loves me.

Please note: This work contains extended and detailed discussion and portrayal of suicide including techniques and ideation. It also contains coarse language.

Performances14-23 September, 8pm
Tickets: $22

August 6, 2017

A Doll's House

A Doll's House is an enjoyable, but I wouldn't say pleasant, play. Nora is a relatable character,  I know many versions of her. The acting for her felt forced at the beginning but considering how she developed it fit, though my companion didn't agree that it was necessary. Many women will recognise Nora's struggle to be everything to everyone and losing herself in the process.


The set was interesting but also distracting. Something simpler could have served better.


Because there is no interval I was very aware of every minute of the 1 hour and 40 minutes of this production. I'm not convinced they needed children for anything other than cuteness factor which seemed a stretch to keep them out of bed so late.


Performances: 5 August-2 September (times vary)
Tickets: $52

July 16, 2017

Young & Hungry Festival of New Theatre 2017

The Young and Hungry Festival is a long night of theatre. Last years seemed even longer as the best piece was at the end. This year they reversed things and had the best piece at the start. One of the patrons is Dame Kate Harcourt who, despite being 90, is very active in theatre currently appearing at Circa in Destination Beehive. The other patron is Taika Waititi. Two big names supporting emerging talent. It was a shame neither of them appeared on opening night but Bats Theatre was packed anyway, there may not have been room for them.

On offer this season are One Night Only, Fallen Angels and Attila the Hun. If you're only going to make it to one I recommend One Night Only. There was not one thing about that production that I did not love; the acting, the dancing, the singing, the script, the use of props, they even managed slip ups well. It was funny, inventive and unexpected.

As a side note it would be great if the programmes said more about the production itself. There's a lot about the festival, a cast list, as well as notes from both the script writer and director leaving no room for details about the play. This year there were warnings for shows but these only appeared at the box office, not online, when booking or in the programmes. I might be a bit pedantic but some of the content was disturbing and theatre goers need to make informed choices.


Performances: 14-29 July; 6:30/8/9pm
Tickets: $20 each or $51 for all three

July 12, 2017

Destination Beehive: 2017

The state of world politics is frankly laughable. A reality TV star with more bankruptcies than sense is the president of the United States of America. America chose to hire someone completely inexperienced over a very experienced, but unfortunately female, candidate. If you didn't laugh, you'd cry. Well do I have a show for you.


Destination Beehive: 2017 is an irreverent look at politics in New Zealand though it also touches on the international political scene. Once you get past the cheese factor, and an overly long opening song, you'll laugh your way through the evening.


Diversity in this production is on point. There are student actors as well as a nonagenarian, more women than men and a little bit of colour. All of them sing, all of them dance (some with the aid of a mobility scooter) and all of them do great impressions.


No politician is safe. Not even Winston Peters "the drinking woman's George Clooney" who was kind enough to make an appearance (via video, but still - what a good sport!). Lorae Parry's Helen Clark had to be there, it would be a waste of such a good mimic if she weren't. There are rapping candidates and a serenade to one ministers hair.


The script is so fresh it even referenced that afternoon's slip in the Ngauranga gorge. Every night is likely to be a little different.


The best I can say is just go. I hate politics and I loved it.

Performances
: 8 July-5 August (times vary)
Tickets: $52

June 15, 2017

Larger Than Life

If you grew up in New Zealand in the 1980's you are going to love this show. It visits all our cultural icons (though Dalvanius and the Patea Maori club are sadly missing) with a healthy slice of irreverence.

The show is somewhere between a comedy routine and a musical. It's a piece of my childhood, even the songs I didn't know sounded familiar. There are a lot of homosexual jokes but, though they claim to be trying to push the envelope, it's not offensive.

There was a surprise appearance by Georgina Byers herself. I managed to control myself from approaching her after to tell her how awesome I think she is, an opinion it's clear the actors share.

MVP goes to Brady Peeti for his killer voice but Shadrack and Chris are right behind.

Performances: 14-17 June, 7:30pm
Tickets: $25

From Te RÄ“hia Theatre Company, the people who brought us solOthello

May 30, 2017

RCRD Double Header: All Stars vs VRA and Convicts vs River City Rollers

Walking into the roller derby double-header last weekend (20th May), the first home games of the season for Richter City, I had a feeling both bouts were heading for a whitewash. Opening the handout, that feeling took further root in my brain once I saw the team lists. I shook my head and thought of how much the lesser experienced skaters were to get out of the night and sat hoping they took it all on board. As usual it was cold in Kilbirnie Centre but the gloom was soon brightened away by all the new Convicts hoodies (in vibrant orange) being worn by those running about helping keep the night on task. It did seem however that every volunteer dropped what they were doing when Grumpy Wendy Doughnuts turned up, but who blames them really!

First bout of the night saw the Richter City All Stars up against Vagine Regime Aotearoa (VRA). It was very much a Lower North island VRA team, with players pulled from the likes of Hutt Valley Vanguard, Whenua Fatales and Bay City Rollers, so a different dynamic than when the team gets to pull on the strong RCRD and ARDL skaters. They still brought enough to the track to not completely write the team off immediately, helped along by veterans E Venger (BCR), Missbhaven (Pirates) and Meat Train (HVV). The HVV skaters have worked hard since I last saw them skate, kudos to them and their coaching team as well. Richter didn’t pull back on the reigns at all, determined to give their opponents a run for their money, taking lead jammer most jams, forcing VRA to carry out a lot of star passing. Renegade Rita had some stunning jams as pivot and or jammer, but it was Meat Train who scored the first VRA points towards the end of the first half. Half time score was 239 All Stars to 16 VRA. The second half went much like the first, though with some extra loud cheering for Volcanic Ash in response to the news this is her last bout for a while. The final score showed both teams continued to rack up the points at almost the same ratio, ending the bout at 448 to 29 with All Stars the victors.

Game two was River City Rollers (RCR) from Wanganui facing up against Richter City Convicts, who I don’t believe I’d ever seen River City as a team of skaters in Wellington before. I recall fondly the first time I ever saw them skate, and I recognised at least one name from way back then along with a fair few of the ring ins from other teams so was still excited to see how this team would fare against the Vix. The home B team was largely unchanged from last year, with a couple out on injury or otherwise, a transfer from Pirates (Boo Hu) and a new addition from the ranks of Redrum. Tu High was the only skater to skate for both the All Stars and the Convicts, and she didn’t get much of a rest. It was soon clear that the home team again had the large advantage, but that didn’t stop the visitors fighting; unfortunately one skater (who, perhaps tellingly, goes by the name of Short Temper) was expelled from the game shortly into the first half for shoving. We saw a couple of invalid star passes from RCR, where the jammer tried passing after a penalty call, and quite a few jammer penalties were served. Half time score was 236 to 8 in the favour of Convicts, and after a locker room pep talk, RCR came out to score on a better ratio than the first, but just could not keep up with the Vix scoring rate. The full time result was 427 to 41.

With three injuries over the two games, we hope those effected are well on the way to mending what ails them.

May 29, 2017

Three Days in the Country

Full of familiar faces Three Days in the Country teems with talented actors. The strong acting of lead Bronwyn Turei dominates the piece as much as her character dominates the household. If you've ever seen her in Go Girls you'll have trouble believing she's the same woman. Natalya is a complex character, easy to get wrong. But from her tiniest facial expression to her screaming collapse Bronwyn is exquisite.

The set design is a little weird but the costuming is to die for. The structure must make them uncomfortable but the actors move as though they were modern clothing, the layers would be very inconvenient in the scripted summer.

The storyline is hilarious and tragic. Everyone is in love but all of it is unrequited. Everyone is chasing each other across the property. Everyone is walking in on everyone else and getting the wrong idea.

It has a great life lesson that I wish I'd known when I was younger:

"Never love or be loved and you'll be fine."

Performances: 27 May - 24 June (times vary)
Tickets: $52