February 28, 2015

Timon of Athens

You may recognise the title character, Timon, as Zeb from The Almighty Johnsons played by actor Hayden Frost. But then again, you may not. I couldn’t place the oddly familiar face until it was pointed out to me. I was blown away by his acting, his dedication to the role. In the process of researching this review I found a Tumblr devoted to him where you can see some photos from the show.

Wellington Summer Shakespeare has been running for over 30 years and is always staged outdoors. This year the venue is the dell at the Botanical Gardens. The setting was picturesque but distracting. It got cold quickly, ducks wandered through the audience, planes flew overhead and my butt went to sleep. During the intermission night fell; an appropriate atmosphere for the darker material of the latter half.

The play itself is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known, I had never heard of it. Perhaps it is so little known because it wasn’t written entirely by Shakespeare, or at least that is the current scholarly argument for why it feels so disjointed. The lack of fame is a waste of such highly quotable lines as “live loathed and long, most smiling, smooth, detested parasites” (Act 3, Scene 6). I was surprised how relevant the content was; false friends, avarice and the effects they have on a truly good person.

The costume choices and strange makeup distracted from the storyline. But I may have missed the point. Masks were prominent at the start and close, perhaps the look was meant to represent the masks we all wear. The opening was strange and prolonged but the ending was a thing of beauty.

: 13-28 February; Tuesday-Saturday 7pm, Sunday 4pm
Venue: The Dell, Wellington Botanical Gardens
Tickets: $10/15

February 24, 2015

Fringe: Real Fake White Dirt

The new Bats Theatre is more beautiful than I had expected from its old bones. The downstairs theatre looks pretty much as I remember though. My first visit back there was to see Jess Holly Bates in a one woman show illustrating her particular perspective on what it means to be white in New Zealand while desperately trying to feel some connection with the land, a sense of culture and dealing with post colonial guilt. As a white girl with a sprinkling of Maori blood I related to a lot of what she was saying, I recognised characters, real kiwi situations.

The actress and writer, Jess, was phenomenal. I was struck by the poetry of her turn of phrase then it turns out that it has actually been compressed into book available for sale after each performance. It was interesting to note that the only time you saw the slightest sign of a stumble was when she was being herself. Why is such a talented woman shy? She may be white, sorry, pakeha, but she can sing a hell of a karanga.

Written and Performed by Jess Holly Bates
Tickets: $18
Performances: 8:30pm 26 February - 1 March
Venue: Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace