December 7, 2023

IDIOM 2023

 After last year I didn't think IDIOM could surprise me, after the hellscape that is parking in Wellington I was not primed to enjoy myself, I'd already decided to go home to bed at intermission (8pm is late for a show to start). It's almost embarrassing how quickly this show changed my mind.

Once again there was a mix of acts; an opera singer, a wrestler, circus performers, a drag king. Not to mention a successful world record breaking attempt and a repeat game of Pictionary. But it's the unique brilliance of Laser Kiwi which throws the acts together, mixing and matching for unexpected performances.

Every night is slightly different, not only due to improv and the vagaries of audience interaction but also the challenging live nature of each number. The adaptability and cohesiveness of this seemingly disparate group of performers shines through.

Once again they are performing all December and I'm excited to see what they bring to the stage next year. 

Tickets: $56.60

Shows: 8pm, 1-23 December (no shows M/T)

September 7, 2023

I Want To Be Happy

I Want To Be Happy is more disturbing than happy and perhaps not suited to anyone mentally fragile.

Despite the premise being communication between a guinea pig and scientist there is very little interactive dialogue, it takes phenomenal acting to carry a scene without a partner to bounce lines off or even face. Jennifer Ludlam as Blinka and Joel Tobeck as Paul manage to bring a seriousness to an often amusing situation, though both are effectively talking to themselves.

Unfortunately the 70 minute show seemed to drag, perhaps due to the many scene changes or the dark content. Differences in space and size are handled very well, a human sized animal on a part of the stage and a mechanical rodent sized one on another. The underlying message may be about the plight of animals used in experimentation or that simply we're all animals when it comes down to it.

Tickets: $55

Performances: 6-30 September (times vary)

June 21, 2023

The Emperor’s New Clothes

In recent years Circa has expanded from their base of traditional theatre to include the more experimental which previously was relegated to Bats theatre; The Emperor's New Clothes is an example of why this was a great direction.

We're greeted by a woman in sensible black heels, white pants and a black blazer who thanks us for making this investment. On the walls hang many more pairs of white pants and black blazers. Will she don these throughout the performance? Something about her demeaner as she hails new comers makes me fear this might be one of those very rich spiritual gurus.

She addresses the audience with a salesperson patter and I'm confused, isn't this supposed to be a dance show? The unexpected continues and within the first five minutes she's naked. We are taken on a spoken (occasionally sung) and danced journey through the value of our being, each system, organ and sense precisely calculated. This is a confronting kind of economics, figuring out exactly what you're worth.

The timing is perfect, each move accompanied by live violin, keyboard and spoken monetary values. A body is a just a body, naked or clothed. Bare you see sweat form, muscles and tendons stretch. But not all things are easily accounted for and the show seems to lose focus towards the end, perhaps trying to do too many things at once. There is no grand end, just lights out and the audience pauses, uncertain if it's over.

Performances: 21 June–1 July (times vary)

Tickets: $38

CONTENT ADVISORY: nudity, strong language, sexual violence, economics.

May 18, 2023

Skyduck: A Chinese Spy Comedy

We stumbled out of the theatre wondering what we'd just witnessed - genius or a drug induced hallucination? Skyduck is hyperconscious of its own ridiculousness, leaning into it to squeeze every last drop on to the stage.

Sam Wang convincingly portrays five distinct characters by infinitesimal changes in costume paired with larger changes in posture, facials and voice. He is the full 70 minute show despite his props, apparatus, surtitles and accompanying video. Aside from acting in two languages there's also dancing, other choreography and some variable singing.

The show is cohesive despite the mix of elements. Everything works in harmony from the lighting to the video, all prompted by the actors movements. The storyline doesn't make a whole lot of sense but then when has an action movie ever? Pop culture references add to the fun, light ride.

This immensely complex show highlights Sam Wang's potential as a writer and performer, here's hoping his next show adds an emotional punch too.

Performances: 18-27 May

Tickets: $55

April 29, 2023

The Coven on Grey Street

 There's a tradition in theatre that Macbeth dare not be named for fear of the curse (Blackadder does an amusing sketch on this) set by witches. What then of depictions of Shakespeare's witches from the play? Is The Coven on Grey Street doomed? For its focus is those very witches.

In Aotearoa beneath the shade of a Pohutukawa, a beautiful and effective set, the weird sisters reunite for the first time in a decade on the occasion of one sister's wedding. The sibling dynamics are relatable, each sister reprising their familiar roles despite the passage of time. There are many call backs to Shakespeare in the script, you could tell who in the audience knew the original well.

It felt as though the production was geared more towards thespians than witches. Some of the seriousness was lost in theatricalness though it also has comedic touches. Only once is real emotion evoked, showing that it is possible. Two plot twists were signposted too clearly leaving no surprise. It's an enjoyable show for witches or Shakespeare buffs but it doesn't live up to its potential unfortunately lacking depth in plot and characterisation.

This review is brought to you by the many versions of Season of the Witch listened to during writing

Performances: 29 April - 27 May (times vary)

Tickets: $55

Audience Care: ‘The Coven on Grey Street’ features mild swearing, fake blood, descriptions of suicidal thoughts, misogynistic language and supernatural violence. 

April 8, 2023

Land of the Long Long Drive

This school holidays head to Circa to see Land of the Long Long Drive. There is singing, dancing, gorgeous costumes, and set to tell a story about friendship, journey and conservation set right here in Aotearoa. The cast is diverse and delightfully talented; let's make piercings, tattoos, all genders and ethnicities the norm on stage. You may recognise Jthan Morgan from Cringeworthy also running at Crica, or previous pantomimes, she lights up a stage and it's a credit to her cast mates that they manage to shine just as brightly as she does.

The adults outnumbered the kids in the audience and they enjoyed it as much, if not more. We have more experience of road trips, could clap along and got more of the jokes. Personally I enjoyed the casual use of te reo. There was a moment that (I won't spoil but) everyone gasped, enchanted.

My young companion had a simple review "I liked it too much."

Performances: 8-22 April (times vary)

Tickets: $15 

April 4, 2023

Cringeworthy - Swinging in the '60s!

 Cringeworthy shows are consistently a good time. Creator Andrea Sanders always beats out her younger counterparts for sheer joyous energy on stage. This time around they're tackling the 60's, as with the other shows expect dancing, singing and jokes about the period with the addition of go-go dancers! 

The wig game was strong, as were the costumes and a very groovy set. The only thing lacking was the energy coming from the audience, it took till the last quarter for the (noticeably older) guests to give a fraction of the vibe coming from the performers. 

Circa's prices have gone up (alongside everything else these days) but Cringeworthy includes a choose your price evening as well as one to meet the cast and an audio described performance.

Fingers crossed the 90's Cringeworthy is in the works!

Performances: 1-29 April (times vary)

Tickets: $55

March 7, 2023

Watch Out Gay Panda

Watch Out Gay Panda is a one man show that is partially improvised. It doesn't have the high energy or quick pace you'd expect from improv. It's really a coming out story set to improvised music, Dennis (the performer/panda) creates tracks and lays them on top of each other to create an echoing harmony. 

The improvisation may be partly in response to audience feedback and partly him still crafting his show. The blurb for the show mentioned it would cover saving the species but that may have been an earlier draft. What you do get is discussion on sexuality/homophobia and culture/racism through the lens of a panda trying to live a human life. But as the panda aptly says "why should I stand on my hind legs like a human?"

Tickets: $22

Performances: 7-11 March, 630pm

March 2, 2023

A Lovely Day to be Online

A Lovely Day to be Online is a rock concert about the internet for millennials - I say millennials because I'm one and I related. We're young enough to be obsessed with the internet but old enough to know it's not healthy. Through clever lyrics the good and the bad of the internet, mostly social media, are explored.

At its heart it's about the singer, Connor (who also plays keyboard, guitar and electric guitar while backed up by band members on bass and drums) and his journey through a very relatable experience. It was surprisingly emotional as well as funny and a little thought provoking.

My companion compared him to Tim Minchin except he's younger, wears shoes and can sing better. It's a reasonable comparison, they both mix comedy with music and commentary with a message. There is also the undeniable fact that they are both Australian males with long hair.

Tomorrow if the final night so get your ticket now!

Tickets: $30

Performances: 7pm 2-3 March

February 21, 2023

Sexy Golf Boy

Sexy Golf Boy is Fringe at its best; weird and wonderful. Saying too much may spoil the experience though each performance is partly improvised, the performer is highly attuned to the audience. If you take your eyes off them for a moment, you may miss out - they're suddenly doing something completely different.

The venue (a bar above Sweet Axe Throwing) is gorgeous and well worth a look, several fainting couches (chaise lounge) are calling for someone to drape themselves across them. The performance area is intimate, there is no way to escape being seen though you can decline the audience participation (don't though, I am terrified by it ordinarily but here everyone is in the same boat).

The show is unexpected, awkward (more for the audience) yet somehow also charming. It's best to go in having no idea what to expect. There was meant to be a message buried in there but it flew over my head, I had a good time regardless. This is something you won't see every day. 

Sometimes Fringe knocks it out of the park, this is one of those times.

Tickets: $20

Performances: 7pm 21-25 Feb

February 17, 2023

Nailed It - A builder play

 Nailed it! is not the delightfully screaming Nicole Byer of your badly baked dreams. It was promoted as "supporting women in the trades" but instead comes across as a warning to stay far away. This second offering from the appropriately named Awkward Company feels like students doing it for credit.

A building crew loses a member who is replaced with a *gasp* female apprentice while they are undergoing a Health and Safety review (due to the death being on site). A huge opportunity is missed, a female crew with perhaps a token male or a female crew acting like blokes would have been much funnier than this misogynistic childish bunch. They all needed to be called on their shit rather than the solitary female caving to be accepted.

The set was fine, as were the costumes, obviously someone has an "in" at BCITO. The safety gear fashion show was the one highlight. The actor playing bumbling Brick was believable and had such beautiful cheek bones he should really try drag. The others overacted, (yelling is not acting) with the exception of Donald who could have camped things up more. The script was made worse with bad timing. Perhaps they were attempting slapstick but none of the necessary elements were there for it to work.

Even builders wouldn't find this funny, they'd be embarrassed to learn this juvenile humour is how they are viewed. It was disappointing this show didn't deliver on its premise, on the other hand, at least it's mercifully short.

Tickets: $20

Performances: 17-19 Feb

February 11, 2023

Summer Shakespeare: The Tempest

Summer Shakespeare has been a Wellington tradition for 40 years, often performed outside despite our somewhat tempestuous weather (see what I did there?). This year's offering is The Tempest at their most popular location, the Dell in the Botanical Gardens.

This is one of Shakespeare's uncategorised plays, not really tragedy (no pile of dead bodies at curtain close) nor comedy (though a jester and drunken butler both make an appearance). Weird magical creatures appear who are somehow enslaved to a mere man, yet the plot makes more sense than Timon of Athens (a previous Summer Shakespeare choice). A man was usurped by his brother and plots revenge, causing a tempest to land his brother, amongst other nobles, on his island of exile. For Shakespeare the ending is soft - a title is regained but the brother walks free.

There's something fitting about watching a play set on an island in the outdoors. There may not be allocated seating but the audience is guided to appropriate locations ensuring everyone can see and aisles are maintained. Sound was variable, some performers were miked while others relied on the stage mics (which occasionally picked up movement). The water elements were handled well but it's a shame they show more colour than most of the costumes, a differentiation in colour or cut may have highlighted rank and made characters unique.

The production has swapped some genders and included a non-binary character (played by excellent non-binary performer Susan Williams who I've seen elsewhere carry an entire show) on a rotating cast list. (Other) Noteworthy performances include Anna Secker as the believably innocent Miranda and Charlie Potter who sang beautifully as Ariel. The alternate cast flit in the background of scenes, presumably presenting floaty nymphs, being more of a distraction than anything else. The ecological theme is only evident when shipwreck survivors are offered plastics that float in the sea and somehow misses that natures powerful spirits are subjugated to a man with a book and a grudge.

Tips: bring layers to wrap up as it gets chilly, bring a chair if your body no longer feels like it did when you were 20 (limited chairs are provided), you can picnic before and during the performance, give yourself plenty of time to find a park and walk to the Dell (it's behind the rose gardens).

Performances: 11-25 February (times vary)

Tickets: $29