June 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice

I wanted to start this review with "it is a truth universally acknowledged" and perhaps end it with "that a new adaptation of a good novel is always welcomed"... "that Jane Austen's popularity has not dimmed after 200 years"..."that Wellington...." I think you get the idea. Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen's most popular, and therefore also her most adapted novel. The latest adaptation is a local production by Stagecraft playing now at Gryphon Theatre.

The play highlighted the comedy of the source material which is often lost in the translation. Look out in particular for speed dating and chiming teacups. The script writers, who doubled as Miss Bingley and one of the directors, did an excellent job. Some minor details were changed to make the story more easily understandable. They did well to convey so much of the original text in only three hours (which flew by).

The show stealers were Miss Bingley who spoke volumes with her facial expressions and the cringe worthy Mr Collins who proved that an accomplished attractive actor can make themselves appear unattractive. Every actor was so dedicated to their role that when there was a crowd on stage it was difficult to focus on the main action because so much else was going on, none of them faded into the background of the "chorus". The few line fumbles were handled well as were the dropped props. There were a lot of props (and scenery) cunningly simple and adaptable.

I think the highest praise that I can give is that it remains true to the novel but manages to make it accessible to a modern audience, or maybe that I want to go see it again.

Performances: June: 26-29 8pm, 30th 3pm,
July: 2-3 6.30pm, 4-6 8pm, 7th 3pm, 9-10 6.30pm, 11-13 8pm
Tickets: $22
You can find out more about Stagecraft on their website and Facebook

June 24, 2013

Black Pearl Burlesque (New Plymouth)

After the All Blacks beat France it seemed like half of New Plymouth headed to The Mayfair for the first Black Pearl Burlesque. I was so excited that a burlesque show was opening in New Plymouth and it's great that a new show has such support from the community. I knew that the performances would be excellent as the acts are seasoned professionals.

It was unfortunate that there were so many logistical issues that I only stayed for the first two performers. I managed to catch Bonita Danger Doll and Fanciforia Foxglove. I can't say much about their acts though as I could only see Bonita from the waist up and Fanciforia from the neck up. During Bonita's act the lights kept dipping into the audience, blinding everyone, which just made matters worse. Do you start to see why I didn't stick around? The acts I missed were Miss Anthropy, Willow Noir, and The Magenta Diamond. The organisers did a great job of selecting such great acts. It is a shame that the MC didn't really fit with the show and that either he or the DJ kept commenting during the performances.

It was a scum to get into the venue where there was half an hour wait for the show and standing room only which meant it was impossible to see the stage even though I was very close to the front. Unlike concerts, with burlesque if you can't see what's going on you miss the entire experience. In the crowd I saw two confrontations and several people leave. The people who had come well lubricated continued to enjoy themselves, however.

The show will be back in six weeks and it has been confirmed that there will be both regular seating as well as tables. I also hope that doorsales will be better handled to avoid the terrible waiting and squash. That, coupled with less drunk people, will make a huge difference to the show which I sincerely hope will continue and be hugely successful.

You can find Black Pearl Burlesque on Facebook

June 16, 2013

RCRD Game 2 2013: Smash Malice vs Brutal Pageant

Last night’s Roller Derby game saw several injured players and several new faces. Brutal Pageant debuted new comers Poise N Dart, Gael Force and Bedlam Bailey as well as a transferred Dunedin player; Blocktimus Prime. This bout also signalled the return to skating of Scary Maclary, now  skating for Smash Malice instead of Comic Slams.  Half time was a speed skating competition from Comic Slams players. New security measures meant that a gear check was performed before play could begin.

For their first bout of the season, Brutal Pageant delighted the crowd with a well planned entrance, stepping out to Devo’s Whip It, complete with attempts at whip cracking from Princess Slayer and Bethwish, roses which were thrown to the audience, cheerleaders, and a fuzzy pink bee for a mascot.  The mascot was a little off base and even one of the commentator asked whether the costume had just been hanging around in someone’s house. Smash Malice’s entrance - the team holding a panther head, arms and tail paled in comparison especially after they tripped over themselves almost immediately after skating out.

During the first ten minutes of the bout, Pageant appeared to heavily feature Beatrix Skiddo as their jammer, but she was soon victim from a massive hit from Jem Molition, taking a tumble and struggling through the next couple of jams before falling to the floor by her team bench and withdrawing from the game. Jem appeared to enjoy several of the heavy hits she imparted throughout the game.

Brutal Pageant took an early lead in the first half but the score evened out quickly. At half time Smash Malice had a seven point lead. During the second half Smash Malice smashed it with continued power jams and low levels of Brutal Pageant players on track/high levels of Brutal Pageant players in the penalty box.

This game showed repeated use of a move where the jammer passes the jammer status to the pivot by removing her starred cap. I don’t recall seeing this move for several seasons, it has never been used this extensively before. It shows how much of a strategic game is now being played.

Meat Train took a well deserved MVP for Brutal Pageant; she seemed to struggle a bit with her jamming in the first half but really came into her own during the second. At the time of writing we couldn’t find who was awarded MVP for Smash Malice. Brutal Pageant spread the jamming across their team while Smash Malice focused on their most talented jammers. There was stand out jamming from old timers Tuff Bikkies and Princess Slayer.

Smash Malice won by almost one hundred points. The final score was 101 Brutal Pageant to 198 Smash Malice.

The next match is Brutal Pageant vs Comic Slams on Saturday 31 August. If you can’t wait till then you can go to the RCRD fundraising quiz night on Wednesday. The next game will be Richter City All Stars vs Victoria Roller Derby League (Melbourne) on Saturday 13 July.

June 14, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera

I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of the fastest selling show in Wellington Musical Theatre groups history; The Phantom of the Opera. I am very familiar with original cast recording but this was the first time I saw it performed live. The St James Theatre is really the only appropriate option for staging The Phantom, its old world opulence fits so well with the musical. It was a shame that the real theatre boxes weren't used for the show.

The production was extremely professional, not what you would expect from a local musical theatre group but they pride themselves on being "committed to producing large-scale professional quality blockbuster shows." The Phantom is certainly another triumph to add to their resume. As the president of the group, Conal Mckone, says it "is on the same level as an international production" but with something like The Phantom you can't really do things my halves. They are not-for-profit but I hope someone is being paid handsomely for all of their work.

WETA workshop was involved in the creation of some of the set pieces; all of them were stunning. Drop curtains were cleverly used to create different spaces, including using a curtain at the back of the stage to indicate that we were on stage with the actors, behind the main curtain. It was a traditional production, I believe The Phantom has yet to be re imagined. The staircase and rooftop sets were very similar to the Paris opera house they were based on (sadly I have only seen photos). The costuming was amazing but there were very few masks worn during Masquerade. 

The music itself was faultless. There were sections when either the microphones or the music was too loud but I’m sure that they will be ironed out. During scenes when several people were singing at once it was difficult to understand what anyone was saying, it created a wall of sound. Barbara Graham who played Christine has a very powerful voice but for some reason I thought her friend had a better look for the character.

I never realised how seductive the Phantom is during the first half before he gets really creepy. I think the whole generation of teenagers who were raised on love stories between women and monsters could be a new audience for the show, although it has not yet lost its popularity. I was surprised how much of a thriller I found it in addition to the romantic elements. I cried during the second half when Christine was at her father's grave and all her interactions with the Phantom.

The experience left me breathless. I look forward to seeing what Wellington Musical Theatre has in store next.

Tickets: $60-100
Venue: St James Theatre
Dates: 13 June-6 July, performance times vary