July 20, 2013

60 Years of Royal New Zealand Ballet at The Film Archive

The New Zealand Film Archive is taking part in this weekends celebrations of 60 years of the Royal New Zealand ballet by showing a selection of their holdings relating to the company.

Last night I saw:
Our Stars of Ballet (1960)
Prismatic Variations (1960)
Petrouchka in Performance (1993)
50 Years On Their Toes (2003)

The first and the last were documentaries which I found the most enjoyable. Our Stars of Ballet is a charming production of the National Film Unit with surprisingly good quality images. 50 Years On Their Toes was about the 50th birthday of the company, their production of Romeo and Juliet and a bit about the history including fires and financial worries. The RNZB is certainly in a better place than they have been in previous years with government funding and a home in the beautiful St James Theatre which provides studio, office and performance space.

Prismatic Variations was the most difficult to watch. Not only was the film of poor quality but the choreography made the dancers movements wooden. Petrouchka was vibrant in itself and in contrast to the previous black and white films. The filming techniques made this easier to watch.

Tonight is the final show. The selection of films will be the same as last night. For more information check out the Film Archive website. If you want to see more, Giselle, the film based on the RNZB production of the same name, will be showing as part of the International Film Festival in August.

Shows: 17-20 July 7pm
Price: $8
Location: The Film Archive, Wellington

July 19, 2013

Swan Lake

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Thursday was the opening night of their 2013 production of Swan Lake and we are so lucky that they are touring the country (venues and dates below).

I always love going to the St James theatre as it has just beauty and history. It is one of the few venues that people dress to attend. As usual the staff were excellent, the food and wine over priced and the theatre itself so warm that I was happy to emerge into the winter air. Do dress up when you go but make sure you are wearing layers that can easily be removed.

Swan Lake is too well known for there to be spoilers.This is the not the first time that the Royal New Zealand Ballet has performed it, they first did excerpts in 1953. Nor is it the first time they have done so to Russell Kerr's choreography. The costuming, lighting and set help to make each time unique - it is wonderful what can be created with so little, the ripples of the lake from lights. I was amused that the pattern on the Prince's costume during the latter half of the show kept bringing to mind the Cheshire Cat.

You can't argue with Tchaikovsky's music, so beautiful and recognisable. I did find however, and I feel quite blasphemous writing this, that parts did drag. The villagers dance could be cut to one third, the court and swan dances cut each in half. I sighed audibly to the annoyance of those around me. I apologise, I feel guilty, it was so beautiful but I want storyline progression as well.

The principal ballerina was able to bend her body into almost impossible shapes with the help of her prince. Her movements as the black swan were so definitive as set apart completely from her other role. Perhaps the most overlooked character is the jester who not only dances very well but has to forget his ingrained training to move in ways that a ballet dancer has been taught not to. The loudest applause of the evening was reserved for the orchestra and then (with the added stamping of feet) the choreographer, Russell Kerr.

Other birthday celebrations include on open day tomorrow and recordings of performances at the Film Archive. And if you get in quick you can see the dancers warm up on stage tonight for just a gold coin donation.

Swan Lake (prices vary)

Wellington - St James Theatre, 18-27 July 2013
Dunedin - Regent Theatre, 30 July 2013
Christchurch - CBS Arena, 3 August 2013
Invercargill - Civic Theatre, 8 - 9 August 2013
Takapuna - Bruce Mason Centre, 17 - 18 August 2013
Auckland - The Civic, 21 - 25 August 2013
Palmerston North - Regent on Broadway, 28 August 2013
Napier - Napier Municipal Theatre, 31 August - 1 September 2013

July 14, 2013

Richter City Roller Derby All Stars vs Victorian Roller Derby Queen Bees

As of Saturday RCRD have completed their two bouts to become full WFTDA (Womens Flat Track Roller Derby Association) members. The first was against Aucklanders Pirate City Rollers in March and Saturday’s was against Melbourne’s Victorian Roller Derby Queen Bees. The two matches could not have been more different; VRDQB were victorious without completely beating RCRD.

Meat Train was the crowd favourite judging by the screams every time her name was mentioned. She played a great game and wore the most amazing anatomically correct muscle tights. Skanda Lass and Princess Slayer were the most frequent jammers, unfortunately that sometimes meant frequent visits to the penalty box too. I don’t know why Anna Pave-U’Ova isn’t in the team as she is stronger than some of the other players.

VRDQBs almost exclusively featured IVYKNIVEY and Tam-ba-lam SLAM as jammers. They were excellent jammers but seemed to tire easily, especially trying to get through the pack. There were a series of high scoring jams throughout the bout, including several power jams which kept Melbourne on top from early into the match. Richter City had the opportunity to learn a lot of strategy during this match, I hope they were paying attention.

I was impressed that Richter City continued to fight even when it was obvious they weren’t going to win. They put on an excellent game for the fans. The very last jam started with a timeout from RCRD to ensure the clock didn’t run out. The final score was VRDQB 255 to 182 RCRD.

The next RCRD game will be on Saturday 31 August – Brutal Pageant vs. Comic Slams

July 4, 2013

The Witches of Eastwick

Porirua Little Theatre's home is currently condemned so their performance of The Witches of Eastwick is in their pop-up home. I have never been to their usual home but if it's saved I hope to visit, the talent of their cast and production has convinced me.

I tired to read The Witches of Eastwick but a man writing about the experience of being a women didn't feel genuine to me. The stage production is a much less intimate portrait and funny too! I was pleasantly surprised that it was a musical and even more pleasant was the excellent singing (with the exception of one of the males who was occasionally flat). I got distracted thinking that some of those people should be on Broadway or actually injecting talent into one of those awful talent shows, easy to do when a couple of the songs were on the long side.

I found it difficult at first to accept Janelle Pollock as a woman in her 30's as the last role I saw her play a teenager! Katie Evans, her co-star from the same show, I only recognised from her photo in the programme as the costume and accent made her unrecognisable. I hope to see more from the other main actors; Eryn Street and David Bramwell-Cooke who respectively oozed innocence and sexuality. Look out for Tanisha Wardle who shines as busybody Felicia Gabriel, she fights it out with Janelle's sexy dance for best scene (you'll know which scenes I mean when you see them).

The scenery, including a projecting screen through which the audience could glimpse the musicians, created a New England town. I was impressed at the complexity. There were almost as many musicians as there were actors, they worked equally hard and well. The costumes were a time warp and included several ridiculous wigs, sadly they all stayed in situ during the dance numbers.

Director Stuart James (of Speakeasy Theatre) has bought the show together well, showing off the talents of his cast, crew and musicians all for the greater good of saving Porirua Little Theatre.

Performances: 19 June-13 July, 7.30pm (no shows Sunday-Tuesday)
Tickets: $24-26.50
You can visit Porirua Little Theatre on their website and Facebook.
Check out the Facebook support page Save Porirua Little Theatre

The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap was a bold choice for Hutt Repertory after the international show visited Wellington last year. It's an unfair comparison, of course the professional show was more polished but the Hutt Repetory's offering is very watchable and at a third the price. It has proved so popular that several of the performances are already close to full, get in quick if you want to see it!

Hutt Repertory regulars were in evidence; Graham Dack (Bloody Murder) was slightly too old for the part of Detective Trotter, Cherie McKay as Miss Casewell (Bloody Murder) and, Steve Falloon (An Ideal Husband) spoke in a very carrying voice while bouncing on his toes in his customary way as Major Metcalf. Mrs Boyle was played excellently by ex-Sacred Heart drama teacher Jean Maher. The accents employed were initially irritating. It is a shame that Chris Ingram (Christopher Wren), who looked nothing more than homeless, didn't attempt one. His portrayal of Chris was of a nervous person rather than the hyperactive / ADHD interpretation of the international show, I think it was a much better take on the character. He also had the ability to maintain his character, fidgeting in the corner, while he wasn't part of the scene something the other actors lacked. My final compliment to him is that he had such chemistry with Lian Potter (Molly Rolston) that it overshone the relationship between the married couple and made me want them to flirt.

It was a very traditional performance, there was no attempt to put their mark on the production by doing something different. Perhaps this is because Agatha Christie, and the play itself, are so well known that they are almost revered and treated as something not to be meddled with by lesser minds.

Quite a complicated set is called for; six exits including a window, an old English home with fire and radio, and space for eight characters to share the stage, the crew did an admirable job. The 'snow' outside the window had come unattached and flapped distractingly - unfortunately the cast forgot to be cold each time the window was open. The set layout is so specific that it was almost identical to the international show on a much smaller scale.

The Mousetrap is a theatric stalwart so if you love theatre and you haven't seen it yet get along to Theatre 108 by Epuni station, you won't be disappointed.

Tickets: $20
Performances: 3-13 July 8pm; 6, 7, 13 3pm