July 28, 2014

Richter City Home Season Game Two - Brutal Pageant vs Comic Slams

The second game of the Richter City Home Season introduced the crowd to several new players including crowd favourite InvisiGirl formerly of WRDL. She was very well matched against Burn Witch Burn! both of whom we thought warranted mention for outstanding play. Meat Train played an excellent game and was awarded Most Valuable Player for her efforts. Gael Force was Comic Slams MVP of the match and newbie Lethally Blonde received an honorable mention.

The Kilbirnie Rec Centre was not as packed as at the last game possibly because people expected to be squashed again. Sponsors Hells Pizza were doing a great trade and the candy floss (fresh on a stick!) was making many hands sticky.

Brutal Pageant slaughtered Comic Slams early in the game. Things got worse in the second half as Comic Slams were down two players (InvisiGirl and Sweaty Pig) due to fouls. Ma Whero Mischief was slated to play but bench managed further limiting numbers. The final score was 285 to 119 to Brutal Pageant.

Next game: Comic Slams Vs Smash Malice, 2 August 

July 14, 2014

La traviata

On it's final leg of a trans-Tasman collaboration between New Zealand Opera, Opera Queensland and the State Opera of South Australia, Verdi's La traviata has made it's way to Wellington after spending May in Adelaide, and June in Auckland.

As the curtain rose for Act I, I heard gasps in the audience around me for the beauty of the stage setting foreshadowing what was to come.  A large fallen chandelier next to a waifish Violetta crumpled on the ground.  The chandelier rises looking not unlike a jellyfish as it does so, while the fallen Violetta also rises to look through the windows that make up the walls of the cutaway cuboid room housing her past self in the final stages of preparing for the party at which she will meet her soon to be love, Alfredo.  A quick spin of the room brings the party into the presence, and the story to a start.

Australians Lorina Gore and Samuel Sakker are our leads, Violetta and Alfredo, who come together at the end of Act I after a good long drinking song and a bit of reluctance from Violetta.  During the party scene I found my eye drawn away from the leads by the movements one of the chorus women, despite the chorus being all in black and Violetta in a smartly contrasting but almost harsh red dress.  At the end of the party, I wasn't yet convinced of our leads, but the goofy grin Sakker gave as he exited the stage after Alfredo received the blessing to visit Violetta the next day, began to warm him to me.

The little chemistry I felt between Violetta and Alfredo in the first act while he was trying to convince her that to be loved wasn't a bad thing, was more than I was going to get for most of Act II.  The cube that previously was the centre of the party, was now a countryside sun room of sorts, with vases of flowers seeming placed haphazardly over the floor, around a stunning fainting couch I want for my own.  The six metre high backdrop now featured a camellia motif, in a continuous length of 30 metres, which together with the lighting accentuated the moods of the scene as they passed. 

It is during Act II we meet the third lead, Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont, played by Scottish-born David Stephenson.  Stephenson, no stranger to Verdi, La traviata or indeed the role of Germont, showed his ease on the stage compared to the younger two leads, and seemed to provoke Gore to inject some emotion in to the acting part of her role.  After Germont convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo for the sake of Alfredo's sister and her upcoming nuptials, everyone runs separately back to the city for another party, this time with gossip, gypsies, gambling and some humiliation thrown in for good measure.  With emotions running high, this party is easily the most exciting part of the opera.

Act III, after the excitement of the party, was almost a bore for me. I spent almost as much time paying attention to the tricks and treats the choreographed lighting played on the glass box (or as it almost seemed in this Act, the 'prism prison') as I did to the dying Violetta, her maid and the doctor.  Alfredo returned just as it seemed to be too late, and the audience got to play "will she wont she" as Violetta's strength ebbed and bounced back almost in the same breath.
Gore is more than vocally capable to carry the huge role of Violetta, but I felt the rest of the performance that I saw for the most part was a bit wooden.  Sakker brought a bit of life and a lot of facial expression to Alfredo, nailing the role all round.  The orchestra for the most part were spot on, the same of the chorus. Christina Smith and Matt Scott as set and costume design and lighting design respectively helped make this a collection possibly the most stunning stage settings I've seen at St James.  Much respect to them and the rest behind the scenes who get to polish the jewel box and untangle the beads every day.

La traviata has three more shows in Wellington at St James, Tuesday 15th, Thursday 17th, and Saturday 19th July.  Tickets available from Ticketek.

July 13, 2014

Richter City Home Season Opener - Brutal Pageant vs Smash Malice

The Richter City Roller Derby 2014 season has well and truly begun. After hosting WRDL and the triple header with Pirate City and Paradise City earlier in the year, it was time for some home team action.  The new year has not only brought us the new venue of Kilbirnie Recreation Centre, but new sponsors have been found in the guise of Hell Pizza, who were also selling their snack pizzas to compliment the sausage sizzle, candy floss and bar. 

Being a smaller venue, the seats filled quick.  We arrived barely 15 minutes after the doors opened and almost struggled to find a suitable seat on the grandstand. The suicide seats area seemed busier this time, and there also appeared to be more people standing around the outside of the rink.  The "Hell Pizza Penalty Box" has found it's way to the middle of the track due to lack of space in the usual spot between the team benches, which lead to many collisions between refs, officials and skaters on their way to or from the box.

After two years of Comic Slams seeming to have unfair advantage during the home season competition, and what seems to be a fair amount of player attrition thankfully matched with plenty of graduates from fresh and tender meat, the two teams we saw on Saturday of Brutal Pageant and Smash Malice were teams not seen before.  Long time Malice skaters Tuff Bikkies and Jem Molition now don the red and pink of Pageant, Suffer Jet and Anna Pave-U'Ova who have been core Slams members the last two years are now in black skating for Smash Malice, Jet as captain. Ella Kazam has too left Comic Slams, and now captains Brutal Pageant.  Both teams had three or four new skaters in their ranks to compliment the switch-up of our old favourites.

A strong start was made by Brutal Pageant, winning a few points first jam and getting a power jam shortly after.  New skater Burn Witch Burn featured heavily as jammer for Pageant, helped along by Meat Train, Tuff Bikkies and Ella Kazam in racking up points in the first half.  Malice fought back, clawing the lead several times in the first half thanks to jammers Anna Pave-U'Ova, Skanda Lass, Bubble O'Kill and the relatively new Dolly Diddit.  Both teams featured some intense walls of blockers, sometimes causing those seasoned jammers a lot of hard work trying to get through.  The half time score was 142 to 91 in favour of Brutal Pageant.

A lack of half-time show was almost refreshing when remembering some of last years efforts, it was merely a thankful break from the hard seats and a chance to go for a refreshment run.

Smash Malice appeared to have received a good talking to in the changing rooms at half time while the relaxed Pageant girls were gossiping out front with their friends, family and fans.  A couple of good strong jams from Malice and trips to the penalty box for Pageant, helped close up the gap in the points differential, with about ten minutes to go there was less than 8 points in it.  As the last ten minutes progressed, it seemed more spectators slid closer to the edge of their seats and more time outs called by the teams and officials.  An official time out with less than a minute on the clock led to Bubble O'Kill being ejected from the game for maximum penalties, announced to us by the head referee (as he did with the reason and result after each official time out - a change in process I at least appreciated).  The last jam may have gone differently for Smash Malice had they not lost this strong skater at crunch time, with a win still easily in their grasp.  Unfortunately for Malice, Brutal Pageant ended the night with a power jam skated by Meat Train resulting in a final score of 168 to 197.

Skaters who really stood out to us in this bout were Burn Witch Burn and Dolly Diddit, both had some outstanding escapes and runs as jammers, while Poise N Dart (Pageant) and Lolo Morales (Malice) cemented our ongoing respect for their blocking skills.  Richter City chose Skanda Lass and Cher Trouble as MVPs for Smash Malice and Brutal Pageant respectively, and an honorable mention to Dolly Diddit.

Tickets are already on sale for the next home season bout, Brutal Pageant vs Comic Slams on Saturday July 26th.  Check the Facebook event page for hints closer to the time such as reminders to bring cushions and change for the raffles and pizza etc.  The third home season bout is on Saturday August 2nd, see Facebook for further details and Eventfinder for tickets.