August 10, 2016

Enigma

Alexander Sparrow is Enigma a white American male of questionable sexuality here to teach you how to pick up women.

There are homoerotic undertones that you'd expect from anyone wearing guy-liner, a look I thought would work well for him but the beanie and steampunk goggles somehow make it harder to focus on his handsome face. Let's be fair, part of the reason for attending is to see the cute guy.

His comments on NZ politics were sound - we may not like John Key but at least he isn't Trump. You've gotta admit in comparison John Key is an awesome leader of this country contrasted to what hell Donald Trump will lead America into if he ever gets elected.

I've seen many of Alexanders shows, I think that Enigma is probably his least offensive character yet, which might be why it just wasn't as funny. It lacks the shock value of De Sade though it does feel like he's trying to make a point with these two pieces that isn't there in his non-character standup. Something about relationships and how the sexes relate to each other or maybe I'm just reading into much into a comedy show.

Tickets: $20

Performances:
9 August, VK's Comedy & Blues Bar, 8.00pm;
10-12 August, Cavern Club, 8.00pm;
13 August, The BoileRoom, 8.00pm;
13 August, VK's Comedy & Blues Bar, 10.30pm

July 28, 2016

Legendary Divas

Ali Harper is a diva in her own right, she has a beautiful voice and a talent for mimicking others voices too. Her range is huge, not just in notes but also in genre. Amongst what you'd expect she manages to sneak in a little opera . The only part I didn't enjoy was her poke at Julie Andrews, who I consider a queen.

I had expected a static show, an empty stage, a woman singing. Ali has such a huge personality it doesn't feel like one person and her banter with accompanist Michael is right on key. Together they make a singing show a comedy. A normal Circa show creates an emotional reaction in me but Legendary Divas I felt in my blood. I admit to wanting to sing along and thoroughly enjoying the bits where we were encouraged to do so. Then I sang all the way home.

This was great feel good show, though there were bits that touched your heart too. I recommend this for anyone looking for a good time, I think those over 40 would appreciate it most.

Tickets: $39
Performances: 27 July – 20 Aug, 7.30pm (Tues-Sat); 4.30pm (Sun)

July 20, 2016

Young & Hungry 2016 Festival of New Theatre


The Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre on now at Bats invites you to watch three shows in one night. Not something I would recommend doing but you could. They are timed half an hour apart to allow you some breathing space but it's not enough for me, Bats shows tend to be more confronting than other theatre and I need the time to digest. Each of these shows is achingly, self consciously millennial which may make them painful for anyone over the age of 30.





Show 1: Bloody Hell Jesus (Get Your Own Friends)


This is like every 90's TV show cliche rolled into one. It starts too early so it drags. I think that it tries to make some good points but it misses them (apart from the one about religion being an excuse for people to be fucktards). Apparently seeing Jesus isn't really a big deal but having sex, which doesn't occur within the plot, is. This really has some potential but it needs paring down and a solid ending.

Trigger warnings: loud music, drug use, underage sex, swearing, religious prejudice


Show 2: Like Sex


I think this show is intended to make you uncomfortable, well it succeeds. You'll cringe as every character gets off with someone on stage. But apart from that it is pretty good. The casting and acting could do with some work but the script is solid. The flow from scene to scene with all actors playing either a Greek chorus or scenery is great up till right at the end where they weave in and out of each other and their differences "magically" are fixed. Remove that and change up the actors and this is gold.

Trigger warnings: loud music, sex, rape

Show 3: Dead Days
This was my favourite which I almost didn't stay to see because the blurb in the programme said nothing about the actual show. Of the three it was the best crafted with the most complete and cohesive storyline. And hey Zombies! or are they? This is a huge selling point and should be front and centre to get people in the door. There are only two improvements I could suggest; remove the funeral scene, it's irrelevant and; there needs to be more indicators that someone is 'on the spectrum' other than them stating they are.

Trigger warnings: death, suicide

Side note: someone needs to teach these playwrights about trigger warnings


Performances: 15-30 July; 6:30 Bloody Hell Jesus (Get Your Own Friends); 8pm Like Sex; 9.30pm Dead Days
Tickets: $18 per show

July 8, 2016

Zombies on the Horizon

The title of this exhibition refers to a quote from Douglas Lilburn about the introduction of electronic music. Sadly I'd expected a more exciting subject than experimental music in Aotearoa.

"Music" plays through the small space of the hidden gallery. Who would expect music in a library? The tracks play in a round but there is no indication of the length of any individual piece let alone the whole collection.

There is some range of sound from the dreamy Urban Taniwha to the purely irritating Touché . I'll be honest; more were irritating than weren't. Crackling on Live at Om the Space is identifiable as a bass guitar. Spirit Catcher is spoken word but Orchestra of Spheres sounds like actual music and Live at Off The Deep End sounds like a jazz jam.

It explores new ways of creating, performing and, notating  music. A bit like modern art it can be made with found objects, pretty much "anything capable of making a noise". I freely admit to not being a fan of modern art and I'm not fan of this either. The arty, high brow content may miss the target market and certainly anyone who is attracted by the promise of zombies.


Turnbull Gallery, National Library
23 May - 19 August

July 6, 2016

Richter City home season 2016: #2 Comic Slams vs Brutal Pageant

Game two of the intraleague season for Richter city this year coincided with something called rugby at the cake tin, so crowds weren't the greatest, with suicide seats looking remarkably empty 10 minutes before skate out, but quickly filled out come the announcers Tino TurnHer and Greta Growler introduction of "the team that always wins".

Brutal Pageant skated out first, entering to a 90s hit from Aqua, but were shown up by Comic Slams also entering to an Aqua hit (Cartoon Heroes, of course!), complete with unnerving blue eyebrows, and in the case of benchie Professor Scrape, a strangely enticing sparkly silvery beard, their twirling entrance perhaps indicative of the night to come.  The video clip seen last bout did not make an appearance this time, instead a revisit of the live demonstration which made me giggle, with the ref team looking reminiscent of flight attendants during pre-flight safety debrief, showing us the penalty calls in near complete unison.

The smaller crowd made it seem quieter, with Tino struggling to get vocal support for each of the teams when asked, blaming our reluctance to cheer on the cold. We soon warmed up though.

Slams started as they meant to carry on it seemed, soon after the first whistle, Moose Hoof got in a 29 point jam. It felt like an age since last seeing J'Knee Dodgem skate, it was good to see she hasn't lost her touch at jamming. Looking at the Comic Slams roster, it seemed quite jammer heavy, but so it was good to see some blocker action from traditional point scorers such as Princess Slayer.  On the other team, strong and formidable Pageant blocker Cher Trouble had two jams in the game which had Tino and me, if not others in the venue, positively excited the times she donned the star panty, each time outscoring her blue opponent.

Much like last time, there were a lot of star stashes, with occasional sneaky passes (usually involving Suffer Jet), several quick moving packs, and again it seemed there were a lot of jammer penalties, at one point during the first half Vicious Vegie was on for three jams in a row due to finishing in the box. It was beautiful to see Slayer appearing to check Vegie was okay at the end of the third of those jams after a particularly big hit and looking a bit ragged after the effort.

Of course, it's not always about the jammers. Gnome Diggity was doing some glorious blocking, so often being in the right place at the right time, and at one point Slayer single handedly managed to move an entire Pageant wall just enough for Moose Hoof to squeeze past her without going out of bounds and barely noticed. There were also demonstrations of solid walls keeping jammers from breaking out for nearly a minute.

Half time scores were 130 to 79, in Comic Slams favour.  While initially Brutal Pageant came out of the half time break strong and meaning business, Slams also showed this, in a distorted echo of the first half, Slayer soon scored a 29 point jam. Pageant, already down a jammer with Tarenosaurus Wrex managing the bench, lost Vegie to her 7th penalty partway through the half, couldn't keep up with the Slams jammers, and wasn't helped with an injury to Cher Trouble. This was quickly followed by all on track taking a knee for a second injury, this time for Moose Hoof. Here's hoping these two aren't kept off skates for too long.

Final score was in favour of Comic Slams, 263 to Pageant's 149.  Next bout will see Smash Malice face up against the victor, on Saturday 3rd September, a double header also seeing the All Stars taking on Auckland Roller Derby League as part of the pool play for top 10 champs. Keep checking RCRD's Facebook for details of this bout closer to the time.

If you can't wait till September, the Convicts take on Bay City Rollers and Swamp City Roller Rats in a double header in Palmerston North on 30 July, for their pool play in the champs. Keep an eye on SCRR's Facebook for further information.

July 4, 2016

Stage Kiss

I had expected Stage Kiss to be a romance but was surprised to find it a comedy. If there was romance I somehow managed to miss it.

All the characters were irritating but I assumed that was intentional. They were caricatures rather than representations of real people, appropriate for a play where most of the actors play, well, actors.

It got very meta - a play within a play which mimicked aspects of "life" within the play. Actors questioning why an audience would view a play and comparing sex on screen and on stage to masturbation caused scattered self conscious laughter.

I found the play enjoyable, though I laughed often it wasn't uncontrollable nor was I was in stitches. The second half dragged unnecessarily, it could have been halved with no loss to the story.

It's good fun but not raucous. Although the play raises interesting questions about relationships, including those of the audience to the actor, it lacks any real depth.


Performances: 2-30 July (check for times)
Tickets: $46

June 16, 2016

solOthello

solOthello is a one man show (solo-Othello, see what they did there?) based on Shakespeare's Othello. Don't like Shakespeare? That's ok! Neither did the guy who wrote it! (Regan Taylor - he stars in it too)

Othello is a tragedy and it did get pretty deep at the end. But don't be turned off, three quarters of the show is very funny. Regan isn't shy about adapting his show to his audience, asking late comers where they'd come from (overseas it turned it, I assume it was the difficulty finding a park due to the Noodle Markets), and telling one patron to answer their phone when it rang. Weirdly, another phone rang later in the performance - have people forgotten their manners?

The most amount of laughs came when Regan forgot a line and improvised with "a rhyming couplet I don't remember". When one member of the audience congratulated him on this he said he could try to remember. It should be noted that the lights were up on the audience for the whole performance, this made it feel like a dialogue between us rather than a show.

Regan is an amazing actor. With the aid of three masks (and his own handsome face) he plays three characters. Othello; Desdemona who never actually speaks; the scheming Iago and; Roderigo as a fool providing great comedy. Even the way he moves changes.

I will admit to sitting down with a sense of dread. Who really wants to watch a tragedy? (You could cross the foyer to the other theatre and watch King Lear) I was pleasantly surprised, this wasn't high brow; it was funny and accessible. Yes, there were the obligatory dead bodies but they never littered the stage, another bonus of the actor having to stand up to play the next part.

Tickets: $25
Performances: 15-18 June, 7:30pm

June 15, 2016

de Sade

3rd June 2016, Cavern Club, Wellington 

Alexander Sparrow dresses up as the Marquis de Sade and sits in his dungeon of whips and graffiti, addressing the audience, who are a touring party in the insane asylum that confines him. Last time I was here in the Cavern Club I was at a Shepherds of Cassini post-prog rock gig; this time I’m in Charenton. Last time I was in Charenton I was watching Geoffrey Rush try to corrupt the good Kate Winslet in Quills, which was more about the consequences of censorship than sadism itself.

‘Dresses up’ is a misnomer here, as the Marquis begins the show en déshabillé, but he does don his roguish costume shortly after, as if we have woken him from a fitful night’s prison slumber. He swigs from a bottle of wine, tells his story, rips off a hunk of bread, chokes on it, and educates us in sexual freedom. By the end of the show, members of the audience will have been asked to pose or imagine posing in a variety of expected and unexpected BDSM set-ups with one another. This is audience participation heaven (or hell), and the randy transgender perched on a bar stool makes the very most of it. Other members seem to play out their own bits of behavioural gender stereotype (at least until encouraged to branch out) too. One girl strikes cautiously; a conventional-looking dude whacks the Marquis extra hard – acting out the identity-preserving I’m a man, hur hur thing. But the Marquis can deliver as hard as he gets – well, Monsieur, that wasn’t what you were expecting tonight was it?

Sadism is using someone else’s pain to bring about your own satisfaction. Somehow – despite the hilariousness bubbling up from his show as air slowly turned up through an aquarium – Alexander manages to seriously convince you of the obvious merits of sadism in the same was as, say, after a particularly fascinating appointment you wonder at how you missed your calling as a dentist, or you regret not becoming an engineer after talking to a driver on a train journey. A true professional is always able to make it seem as if their discipline is the zenith of exciting and reasonable things to do in the world. Then you make your way back to your own real life, bruised and bemused.

Limited though it may seem, the Marquis opens his world up, the injustices that befell him chapter by chapter, to such an extent that it eventually seems we have barely examined something we thought could be thoroughly covered in the session. Hints at further stories are left hanging (for the sequel?) as Alexander’s ever-so-slightly too hushed voice trails off into further fantasy. But the only thing that really grates in the both joyful and depressed outpourings of the Marquis is when his lists of accomplishments include the non-consensual, which, while being realistic for the character, didn’t fit with the application of these lessons in liberation on our modern lives. Otherwise, sadism begins to seem like a cult you could join to increase personal fulfilment, like yoga or going Paleo, but less pseudo-primal and culturally appropriative, and maybe less publically appropriate.

He shows us ourselves convincingly (so brilliant), and lets us be them, and says we should do so without shame. Some people – most people! – need to hear this from time to time. I just want people to be honest with one another (this is correct English because ‘each other’ is used in situations where there are only two!). Aside from the shock-value, the Marquis does make a very good point, particularly for the shy people and the teenagers who were probably not in attendance at the R18 show: if you fancy someone, you should step up and talk to them – the worst that happens is they walk away flattered (hopefully). Another emphasised point is that masturbation is a game of diminishing returns and you end up doing a lot of it in jail, as evidenced by the tally marks covering his pale skin.

This isn’t just entertainment, it was Interesting historical details, such as the fact the guillotine of the French Revolution was known as Le Rasoir National. Then we feel all knowledgeable, but find ourselves falling off our seats with laughter to hear fashionable multilinguality poked fun at with he said ‘oui’, which means yes, or slipping in a Simpson’s style meta-reference to this room full of people in his cell, and, inexplicably, seventy chairs. I get the feeling the jokes would vary every night if he would only bring us a season of this show. Also, I am 80% sure this strange woman also known as my mother really was her in the audience. This is bravery. This guy could have simply been an ordinary successful comedian, but what we are receiving is bespoke, artisan comedy.

After this most edifying one-off show, we approached the young actor and told him we were having a party, would he like to come? But the Marquis was expecting a guest.

Do let this libertine detain you next time he’s in town.


We did a previous review of this show in 2014

May 29, 2016

Richter City Home season 2016: #1 Smash Malice vs Brutal Pageant

The first bout of the intraleague season for Richter City saw the two original home teams, Smash Malice and Brutal Pageant (Last year's winning team) face up against each other. A handful of new look uniforms, a bunch of new skaters, and an overhaul of the programme coupled with a short video clip as a basic introduction to Roller Derby among the changes since last year's home team season, along with the recent return of Ghetto Anger as MC. Whilst I wasn't a huge fan of the Ghetto Anger/Bullet Surprise MC combo of years past, having Ghetto Anger tag teaming with an experienced skater (Tuff Bikkies) hit the spot. Ghetto Anger's return wasn't the only throwback to the past experienced by long time fans of Richter City. 

Saturday's crowd felt the largest experienced in a long time at Kilbirnie Rec Centre, it never ceases to intrigue me that the home team season draws larger crowds than when we have visitors! The larger crowd meant the video clip was almost drowned in the hubbub, especially with no warning from the MCs that it was about to play and that if you were a new to derby to pay attention, and not helped by the lighting near the screen still being on at that point.  With the possible alternate location for the screen next time, and knowledge to turn the nearby lights out hopefully will make the video much clearer to watch next time.  Injuries saw Skanda Lass and Invader Sin on the Malice bench with Frodo, but Ella Kazam’s thumb dislocation at practise this week couldn’t keep her away, though I did spot a brace on underneath the wrist guard.  

The bout started with a good looking rainbow formation from Brutal Pageant that kept back Tu High long enough for Vicious Vegie to make lead, which was helped along by Tu High getting the first penalty of the game for a back block. Pageant made a quick start on the points with scoring each of the first four jams leaving Malice trailing behind on zero, until Tu High won the first Smash Malice lead of the bout in the fifth jam and putting a few points on the board, soon helped by a power jam by Volcanic Ash.  Very strong walls from both teams lead to more than a few jams resulting in it taking over a minute for a lead jammer to be declared, and a relatively neck and neck first quarter. The few nods to times past in the first half had not just Pageant's captain Ella Kazam jamming a couple of times, but saw a jam from fellow beauty queen Suffer Jet to end the half, it was good to see her with the star again, and with the pink jam ref pointing her as lead jammer, helping take the half time scores to 90 to 69, Pageant lead. Interestingly, it was a relatively clean half penalty wise, but it seems the majority of the penalties awarded were to jammers.

Ash was very much on fire with her jamming this bout, despite being caught in the box a few times, together with Tu High (though much steadier on her feet this year, managed to fit in 3 trips to the box in one jam) I wager they racked up most of the Malice points, with occasional help from Berocca Bomba, May Maim and captain Tino Turnher. A very fast jam partway through the second half had me impressed by and commiserating with Bailey's Comet as she boosted her already fast speed just on coming to pack with the Brutal Pageant jammer relatively close on her heels, but it took the refs nearly quarter of a lap to notice her calling the jam, likely enabling Pageant to earn some points that otherwise wouldn't have been awarded. Ash frequently stashed the jammer panty through the night, seemingly a strategy to get through the initial pass with as little interference from opposing blockers, in order to get scoring quicker, a move also adopted by Brutal Pageant a few times. The frequent panty stashes were coupled with strategically timed panty passes, and great adaptation to opposing team's strategies, showing a lot of cohesion within both teams so early in the season, even with some of the freshies a mere month or two post graduation. Melpractice and Helen of Destroy appear to have melded into the Malice blockers with such ease, with Deb Auchery occasionally filling in Pageant's jammer rotation of Tarenosaurus Wrex, Vicious Vegie, and Gael Force and previously mentioned Zam and Jet.

Through no lack of trying from Smash Malice, the bout ended with Brutal Pageant taking the win with a score of 168 to 130.

A sad announcement was made during the bout, former Richter skater Lethally Blonde is very ill at the moment, and throughout the venue were collection boxes for get well wishes and spare change to help assist Blondie's family with costs related to her hospitalisation. If you know Blondie or just wish to contribute, I'm sure the league would be happy to receive more messages and donations to forward to her family. Contact them direct through Facebook or Twitter to arrange.


Next bout is Brutal Pageant against Comic Slams on 2nd July. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for more information and tickets. In the meantime, Richter City are gearing up for another Freshmeat intake, and are hosting a Freshmeat and Greet this Wednesday 1st June at Hashigo Zake. Further details are here.  The Convicts are soon off to Adelaide, and I believe the tournament organisers are planning to streaming some of the tournament on YouTube, hopefully we can see some Convicts (or Whakatane!) bouts on there, see the TGSS website for the tournament schedule and don't forget to convert from Adelaide time!

May 19, 2016

Pedal and Castles

Castles is an award winning show and Pedal is it's prequel. Like with most things, the original is better.

It's not what I expect from a dance performance. You can see why this new genre is award worthy. This one woman show exhibits a triple threat - she can sing, dance and act. Perhaps that should be upgraded to quadruple as she's written, arranged and choreographed each show herself (or am I up to six levels of skill?).

The little music there is mostly comes from the performers mouth, there is an unexpected talent, and even more impressive that she continues while dancing or contorted in strange shapes. I don't recognise the lyrics, has she written them herself? The other text is like spoken word poetry. The dancing, less than I would have expected, is melded with the words.

My companion described Castles as 'an exorcism of popular culture.' Compared to Pedal it's comic, energetic and more accessible. There is less blank space. In a cold theatre, with a production that was difficult to follow, I found my mind wandering from Pedal.

Props to the costume-prop designer. Those creations were ever surprising.


Pedal
Performances: 17 - 21 May 7pm*
Tickets: $20**


Castles
Performances: 18 - 21 May 7pm & 8pm*
Tickets: $20**

*I admit these seem confusing, check the Bats site for specific performance times and dates
**Special pricing for attending both shows