May 23, 2017

Olive Copperbottom

Dickens can be a little dreary but despite the source material Penny Ashton has created an excellent comedy with Olive Copperbottom. It's more polished and professional than you tend to expect with a one person show; it's, well, just what you'd expect from a professional show. If this were Vegas Penny could have her own running show, she's that good (she's wasted in New Zealand).

Not only did she write the thing, she plays more characters than I could count, each easily distinguishable from the next and she sings. Oh, does she sing. It's worth seeing just for the singing. The music is all recognisable tunes, but none I could name. There are several things I'd say it's worth seeing it for; the jokes (see below), the singing (as mentioned), her breasts (I spent the first half hour worrying they were going to fall out of her dress, which I believe was the intention), her motorboating a member of the audience (or is it being motorboated?) and then her giving another audience member what amounted to a very brief lap dance. All in a hideous, yet still somehow fabulous, three floral print dress with corset.

Top to bottom (and there is a little talk about bottoms...front bottoms...penises, there I said it, there are penis jokes) it's a great show and though I didn't find it offensive it might not be one to take your grandmother to. No prior knowledge of Dickens is necessary to truly enjoy...shame she didn't make a dick joke about him. I mean, it's right there.

It's on till the 27th of May so get your ticket now.

May 18, 2017

Daughters of Heaven

The Parker-Hulme murder is something every New Zealander is familiar with. My mother remembers when it happened and those that weren't born then learnt from Heavenly Creatures. The horror, the fascination comes from it being achingly familiar. The intense friendships of adolescence we all had, though I imagine most didn't include sex, plots of murder or a new religion.

I read Daughters of Heaven many years ago and, although the subject matter struck me, the play itself didn't. But then plays are meant to be performed. A good performance can elevate a bad script or vice versa.

As always Stagecraft does not disappoint. They subtly played up the humour in the script so the audience laughed even in the midst of such a serious play. I know I wasn't the only one that cried, which I did, more than once. The accents were on point, the costumes effective, and the acting excellent. This could have been disturbing but it was made enjoyable, a great experience.

Performances: 17-27 May (days and times vary)
Tickets: $15-25

May 17, 2017

Sokhom Syndrome

Molly Sokhom seems like she'd be a lot of fun to hang out with, funny on an individual level. Unfortunately her show was only mildly amusing and could have worked better as a one-woman-non-comedy-show. Her story is interesting but the way she tries to tell it takes away from the story itself. It's almost too personal, too real, to be funny and too important to be made part of a joke cultural beauty pageant. But who am I to tell someone how to express their story? It is after all Molly's story, not mine.


Performances: 16-20 May 8:30pm
Tickets: $15-18

March 14, 2017

Escaped Alone

Escaped Alone won Best Play at the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards but I couldn't tell you why. Four excellent actresses play women of a certain age sitting in a garden talking about life and quietly revealing their inner selves.

The setting was excellent. It took a little while for the actresses to warm into their roles so their lines landed on top of each other like they were meant to. There were flashes of interest and a couple of laughs but overall it was confusing and boring. The program doesn't enlighten on the storyline which makes sense as there doesn't appear to be one. I understand a play can exist with out a specific point but it should still be entertaining, this was merely frustrating.

As I walked through the foyer I was pleased to hear other audience members were equally confused. A woman said "well it wasn't to my taste." I couldn't agree more.

March 1, 2017

Gender Spanner

Gryphon Theatre
Monday 20th February 2017

Jessica McKerlie will croon of the heartbreak of parting from her beautiful transgender lover overseas, then have you in fits of laughter as you gasp at how she can have 3 dinner plates spinning on top of fake sunflower stalks, spraying a hazardous stream of real live gravy all over the stage!  If you think that is messy, try a popping out a plush uterus dripping with blood and having a sing-a-long with that too!  All at the expense of the both ridiculous and hard-won labels we collect throughout our social and biological lives.

The performer’s run-away-and-join-the-circus roots shine through in every theatrical number, interspersed with heartfelt reflection on what it is to love, and be loved, and have a body that you did not choose, but through which you can experience and express these states.  A high degree of music and dance experience makes this a stand-out Fringe selection – right down to the percussive effect of heels on the floorboards as savs on toothpicks are offered to the audience in a parody of housewifeyness.  But let’s not spoil all the surprises!  Every costume is a creative marvel, and the transitions often take place centre-stage, in allusion to cabaret, but with much more distinctiveness.  This is a wondrous journey into which everyone is welcomed!

If you miss that Portishead song you used to play all day, or haven’t heard a good cover of Bad Blood in a while, then let the Gender Spanner crank up your night in an Australasian town near you! 

February 25, 2017

Dódeka

No one could be quite as excited as two classics geeks to see a dance show about the Olympian Gods unless it's the young dancers supporters who screamed and hollered whenever someone they recognised came on stage [distracting but encouraged by the organisers].

A mix of hip-hip, contemporary and music you can feel in your bones is used to depict each God (a few mythological monsters are thrown in for good measure). There was reasonable diversity of age in the dancers though the boys were well outnumbered, others having not yet come to the conclusion that girls like a boy who can dance. Across the board there was impressive skill and energy shown by all the dancers.

Watching each dance was a little like greeting old friends. I'd say the Gods were pleased.

February 23, 2017

Hangry Americans

What should you eat when you're in a hotel room at 2am? What should you eat when you've been rejected and drunk dialled all your exes (and none of them want to come over)? Neil Thornton and Molly Sokhom will enlighten you.

This show is two stand up sessions plus two bonus "cooking" segments which include both comedians. Opening night was a hit, in fact it was over sold - more than ten people hovered at the back of the room rather than in the provided seating.

There was a little bit of food humour woven into the comedy, questions about what New Zealand cuisine consists of, and some thanks for not being in America. The comedy was really good but it didn't focus heavily on food, anger (hangry = hungry + angry), or even being American.

February 21, 2017

Summer Shakespeare: All's Well That Ends Well

After several cancelled performances due to the wonderfully unpredictable Wellington weather Sundays performance was blisteringly hot. The audience fanned themselves with programs and several produced umbrellas. The cast had a harder time in suits, leather boots and stockings (not all at once) as they raced up and down the tiered seating.

I admit, it was hard to focus in the heat. The venue, Civic Square, is much more accessible than previous ones. Including to outsiders; it was quite amusing to watch people stop or wander towards the lift always (such interruptions were always well managed by cast).

All's Well That Ends Well focusses on Helena and her love for the son of her foster mother the Countess of Rousillon. Instead of enlisting the help of the Countess she hatches a scheme to make the Count marry her. He, of course, objects to this and the rest of the play is dedicated to bringing them together. There are subplots about the servants but they were hard to follow, not helped by the fact that at least two of them appeared to be jesters. I'm not sure if the fault of this lies with Shakespeare or the production. Though the ending is happy it's not entirely satisfactory, it feels a little ridiculous and rushed.

My favourite parts of this production were the crying bride, excellently played in the background; the use of the lift and balcony and; the Harley-Davidson - I'll leave you to guess what that was about.

February 17, 2017

Dark Matter

A hazy spotlight shows a woman on the floor. Lights illuminate fog. The woman disappears. The audience leans forward in their chairs. Is she still there? The woman reappears, a figure behind her. The fog reruns to obscure them both.

Dark Matter is a set of seven pieces, 'haiku', a mixture of light, sound and hidden figures. It's in the depths of the Te Whaea performing arts center.

One thing I love about Fringe is the opportunity to see things I never otherwise would have even heard of. They tend to fall into two camps - amazing or terrible. This show was somehow neither.

The light deprivation was unsettling, making this not a show for the light hearted. The three central pieces were emotive - at one point I was sure they were going to kill us. Surely it's normal to think or murder in a darkened theatre? But I left uncertain what some of the pieces were trying to get me to think.

February 15, 2017

Feeling Groovy

All Saints, Hataitai, 15th February 2017, 7:45pm session

Melbourne contemporary dancer Jacob Edmonds really put his heart into this one and it is a shame more people won't get a chance to see it in the Fringe.  There was something surreal about the whole experience.  Outside, a soft evening light was lingering.  Inside, as you go into the naturally-lit space you can dish yourself up a teal plastic cup of popcorn or a lime cup of Fanta before the show.  It was an easy, welcoming.  From comfy chairs and rainbow beanbags, the audience watched the unpredictable performance of a predictable journey of questioning and experimenting with the notion of being exposed on a stage and 'performing' dance theatre with a touch of mime.  But it was the end that everyone will remember:  it felt as if all of the theory was just a vehicle to arrive at a glorious, stylised, and uplifting solo to Simon & Garfunkel's Feeling Groovy a.k.a. The 59th Street Bridge Song.  This dancer looked like how children's TV presenters would if they truly believed in the joy of the message they are imparting to the kids.  The earnestness was refreshing and exquisite, and would do well to be available on replay to anyone who needs an cheering-up escape into a world of multicoloured stage lights and his fine repertoire of movement on all axes (thanks NZ School of Dance), the most effective one being his captivating grinning and winking stage face, whilst a peachy neon sun set outside in the Wellington evening.