Category Archives: performing arts

been | Electric Kiwi Billy T Jams

Last Friday night reigned in a showcase of epic comedic proportions.  From a pool of 19 hopefuls, 5 successful up-and-coming comics were chosen to take part in N.Z’s answer to the best in show awards – The Billy T Jams (sponsored by Electric Kiwi).

Previous year’s winner Kura Forrester, hosted this year’s parade. With a warm Maori welcome and loud booming presence, she shared antidotes from her humble roots from Tokomaru Bay to Lower Hutt …

First up on the nights’ bill we had Josh Davies, a diminutive bespectacled Weezer frontman lookalike, who supposedly cursed by a gypsy woman, regaled us with tales from his afflicted childhood, amusing experiences at a blind kids school camp, and running ‘Spy Kids’ film gags.

Following in quick succession, Ray O’Leary had us all in an uproar, with his customary deadpan delivery of sharp and quirky one-liners and dry sarcastic wit.  His monotonous internal dialog was refreshing and distinct to his personality. From bravery on being on stage, to the uncanny presence of wheelchairs in supermarket, Ray was great at creating visual scenarios that were perfectly pitched and hilarious to his audience.

Next act of the evening was Brynley Stent – who opens her set with a quiz show format, that of popular daytime program, ‘The Chase’.  Energetic and innovative, she begins with a ‘Shoot, Shag or Marry’ scenario, which quickly flips to an absurd question of ‘What would you like for dinner’?  Brynley performance is highly entertaining and engaging, with the use of popular music (‘Hungry Eyes’ as an example) and reenactments of everyday mundane situations; eg:Modern advancement in technology presently in supermarket checkouts, Brynley takes it to the next level; sexualising even the inane act of card insertion, albeit in an unique, quirky and fabulously funny way.

~  Back from the break in eager anticipation of a belter of a second half;  James Mustapic leads the way with childhood memoirs and moments of self-deprecation; jokes stemming from his openly gay lifestyle, regular use of public transport and white culture, his set resonates with those with shared experiences, being non-straight or binary and sometimes confused …

Last on the bill we have … Lana Walters.  Newly in relationship, blissfully happy and accepting of current weight issues.  She imparts fondly, her experiences with shower heads, water conservation and cop-dating with hilarity and zeal!

A surprise guest in the form of past fellow Billy T nominee – Tom Sainsbury, rounds off the evenings’ festivities.  Rolling off with correspondence from a local council newsprint; conversation shared among it’s wildly creative and interesting town folk -It is both absurd and amusing.  A highly suspect ‘Top Ten of things to Do In …’ had us all questioning our next endeavour to Tauranga  🙂

All comedians have their shows playing in full format at the upcoming NZ International Comedy Fest 2020. Be sure to catch them in all their glory and see what all the fuss is about!

 

*** Billy T Jams was showing at the Q Theatre 28th February.  NZ International Comedy Fest kicks off 30th April and runs to 24th May

 

 

 

been | Winding Up

The Auckland Theatre Company presents the Giltrap Audi season of ‘Winding Up’  – a sentimental and comedic play about love, family and the inevitable questions about life after death.  It is written by the renowned playwright Sir Roger Hall – a seasoned theatre legend both in N.Z and abroad, and writer behind such shows as Glide TimeMiddle-Age Spread and Four Flat Whites in Italy.

Colin McColl is the acclaimed creative director, and alongside the combined talents of stalwart actors both of stage and on-screen; Mark Hadlow and Alison Quigan, an engaging and bittersweet story is told …

The play, is a follow-up to Sir Roger’s chronicle series Conjugal Rites, which first introduced us to married couple Barry and Genevieve 30 years ago.   They are now, well into their seventies, empty yet comfortable nesters, facing the looming issues that come with age and experience: funerals of close friends, uncommunicative offspring, modern technology and debates about crosswords.

The setting and premise was simple, yet effective.  Classic middle-class white folk, downsizing in a modern yet practical apartment block, with the muted colour palette of soft greys and blues.  The tranquil and aesthetic backdrop of Rangitoto Island yawning through their living room window.

Of course there were the obvious jokes regarding retirement, the debate of travel insurance weighing heavy on their actual potential to travel.  Incessant proclamations of ‘Yes Dear’ and frequent ribbing back and forth between husband to wife, were endearing and instantly relatable, for anyone privy to the trivial banter of any long-married couple.

(Photo Credit – Andi Crown Photography)

The marital ‘In sickness and in health clause’ was a hysterical yet loving moment that played out between the bickering couple, followed by a somewhat overzealous tasting of the latest wine society selection, winding into an awkwardly amorous exchange on the floor, was both entertaining and amusing.

Music played and integral part in the show, through the interchanging of scenes.  Which pared with the use of lighting, (dimming and shadowing) for effect, evoked both nostalgia and the impending fate of the much-beloved Barry …

(Photo Credit – Andi Crown Photography)

The sentimentality of everyday possessions, in particular his prized book collection, particularly resonated with me.  As did the plethora of said books at the end of the show, for open collection.  A very warm and inclusive impart from the creative mind behind this production.

‘Winding Up’  is a touching tribute and send-off to a much-loved and revered character, as well as a monumental salutation for one of New Zealand’s greatest artistic contributors.

Winding Up is now playing at the ASB Theatre.

11th February ~8th March

https://www.atc.co.nz/auckland-theatre-company/2020/winding-up/#programme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pop Up Globe’s | Romeo and Juliet

So you think Shakespeare is stuffy and dated storytelling, with little relevance to the modern world???  Well you better think again!

Pop Up Globe’s production of Romeo and Juliet – directed by Miles Gregory, is rewriting the Shakespearean book so to speak.  The well-known story which combines love, comedy and tragedy; now has a sprinkling of modern-day characters and scenes which one would more expect to be exposed to in a play set in the present, about a street gang from the wrong side of town.

But fear not thee Shakespeare purists!  For thou shall not be disappointed.  The main characters, alongside the finest period dress (courtesy of the accomplished costume designer Chantelle Gerrard), Elizabethan English and storyline all remain the same, but a number of the supporting characters have been replaced with modern day equivalents, providing a superb juxtaposition between the characters from the contrasting eras.  There is definitely a “shock factor” to the way the modern characters are introduced to the traditional story, but it is so cleverly executed, that I’m sure even William S himself would be impressed!  From the point of first introduction, the characters from the different times almost interact as a foil for each other and definitely add to the comedic element that is forever prevalent throughout the play.

From the jolting, and unexpected opening scenes, the passion, joy and energy of Romeo and Juliet is brought to the stage.  The innovative and inspiring set design and the talented cast providing the perfect balance of tradition and modernity.

Darcy Kent is the leading Romeo, perfectly cast as the romantic knave full of passion, good spirit (and hormones) for his beloved Juliet (Jess Hong) a naive yet opinionated babe of not yet fourteen …

They are supported brilliantly by their respective parents: the stoic and well-bred Montagues (Greg Johnson) and the proud and affluent Lord and Lady Capulet (Stephen Lovatt & Aruna Po Ching)

Tom Wingfield is engaging as Romeo’s loyal cousin Benvolio, full of youth and zesty exuberance. Rutene Spooner as Mercutio – the cynical BFF of Romeo, adds humour and a lively fruitiness to the stage.  Theo David as Paris -also provides laughs in the form of the light-hearted puns, and portrayal of the lovelorn and somewhat simple, would-be suitor of Juliet.

Amy Usherwood as Nurse and James Mavea playing Friar Lawrence too deserve a mention for their skillful acting, combining traditional roles with off-beat comical timing, which brings welcomed sporadic relief, to the ultimately tragedic fate of the play …

The Northumberland Company’s production of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ will definitely appeal to both the classic die-hard thespian and to those yet to experience the timeless wit and brilliance of Shakespeare, whose work is still relevant some 400 years or so, from when he first put pen to paper.

This is a must-see production from the Farewell Auckland Season of the Pop Up Globe, before the lofty and familial set is all packed up, ready for ventures yonder the high seas ……

Pop Up Globe’s summer Season runs from December 13 – March 1

Tickets available here: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2019/romeo-and-juliet/auckland/ellerslie

 

 

been | Half of the Sky

Half the Sky follows the poignant, heart wrenching story of the Rose family who come together for one final birthday reunion, as they face their struggle with their eldest sister’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Lennie James’ (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Save Me) beautifully written script allows you to observe the unique melting pot of this whanau, as they deal with their ‘past, present and their future…all at once’.

Wonderfully acted, with the juxtaposition of incredible humour set against the reality of dealing with such a challenging subject matter, this story will have you laughing out loud and reaching for the tissues from one scene to the next as the ensemble cast brilliantly weaves together themes of loss, truth, betrayal and love.

A wonderful story with a fabulous cast, Half of the sky is a must-see play.

High recommended:       5/5

Half of the Sky marks the third collaboration between Massive Theatre Company and internationally renowned writer and actor Lennie James (The Walking DeadFear of the Walking DeadSave Me), following the success of The Sons of Charlie Paora (2004), Havoc in the Garden (2011), and was developed in collaboration with members of the Massive ensemble.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Sam ScottMassive Company

Starring:
Kura Forrester
(The Wholehearted, The Adventures of Suzy Boon, 2019 Billy T Award Winner)
Grace Palmer
(Shortland Street, Home & Away)
Awhina Rose Henare-Ashby
(The Mooncake and the Kumara, Waru)
Max Palamo
(The Sons of Charlie Paora, Super City II) 
Pat Tafa
(The Wholehearted, Westside)

 

Loft, Q Theatre 305 Queen St, Auckland CBD

Been | I didn’t Invite You Here To Lecture Me

 

Ding! The class bell rings and we are ushered into the university auditorium.  Today we shall be attending a number of lectures: Law, Shakespeare, German, Music, Political Policy, Linguistics, Literature and Education … it’s a busy day.  Yes, we the audience are once again impressionable and wrought students back in our old lecture hall haunts.

‘I didn’t Invite You Here To Lecture Me’ –  written and produced by Amy Mansfield, has been compiled using endless reams of her own (and surprisingly well-kept) university recitation.  Our orator, played by Mika Austin, masterfully emulates the teaching style of each of the individual lecturers; Seamlessly flitting from one character to the next and then back again, as we are taken on a journey through the complexities of the English vernacular and interweaving each personality through the myriad of lessons.

Given the heady and high-brow subject matter, it will hardly be surprising, that there are opportune moments of student (i.e. audience) participation in this play, but fear not!  For it is all very frivolous and engaging, provoking thought and consciousness.  I myself at times, found myself wistfully reminiscing of university days long gone by …

Mika Austin provides a sublime performance with her shrewd intellect and highly witty script, as well as her lightning-fast personality changes mid-discourse.  Her masterful acting talents are only further demonstrated, by the very timely improvisation she breaks into when one of the classmates (audience) commits a phone faux pas part way through the performance.  The lecturer humorously reminds us of our obligations in the auditorium and immediately falls straight back into stern pontification without missing a beat.

This play will bring back colourful memories for many, from the testing (both literally and figuratively) times of their tertiary years.  It will also have you chuckling away at the tedious nature of a lot of those past tutorials and the seriously comical and character-driven anecdotes from their educators.  A superb performance with talented and flawless delivery.  Be sure to catch it before it heads offshore to the Melbourne Fringe Festival!

I Didn’t Invite You Here To Lecture Me – is now showing @Basement Theatre from the following dates:

Tue, 10 Sep 2019 – Sat, 14 Sep 2019

been | The Blind Date Project

A date so awful to make you appreciate all your tinder dating disasters. 

“Silo’s 2014 sell-out hit returns for a new year and a new you. Five years on, serial dater Anna’s back on the market and looking for love in all the wrong places. Each night, she meets a new blind date, each one played by a different performer, each one a surprise to Anna.”

I walked into the theatre the same way I walk into a bar to meet all my “blind dates” :  open minded, aloof with zero expectations and a hope for some entertainment and a good story to be told over wine. Greeted by the sound of a leather clad bar keep (Yvette Parsons) singing questionable karaoke, I felt an equal dose of intrigue and “what the hell did I just agree to review”.  An 80/20 reaction to most of my actual dates.

Anna (Natalie Medlock) sits at the bar nervously checking her phone waiting for her Tinder date to arrive.  Shortly after her date arrives – who just happens to be pregnant; Anna feigns indifference but this revelation becomes the central talking point of the “blind date”. This 100% improv comedy explores the great human tragedy that is the online dating profile vs the actual flawed reality.

The date becomes increasingly difficult to watch without wincing as their life stories get told and their poorly constructed personas begin to show cracks and unravel at each twist and turn. The phones begin to go off with more frequency. There are times where the audience is kept guessing who will end up making a run for it. Spoiler alert – They don’t. I am watching a train wreck. Like that bad date you know you never want to see again, but are patiently waiting to see how it all turns out. As a woman we have been known to be too polite to just leave when we ought to.

No I’m not leaving a negative review, on the contrary, the performance delivered on it’s premise. And it left me in awe. With a tinge of hope. There really could be someone for “everyone”.

It definitely put me off going on dates.  Oh, who am I kidding….looking down at my phone…”Uber is 2 mins away”….

 

Showing until 30th September. Book your tickets here .

been | We Will Rock You

Thunderbolt and lightning! The NZ Musical Theatre Consortium and Bruce Mason Theatre bring the magnificent musical production ‘We Will Rock You‘ to the stage over the next two months.

Created by the lords of rock ‘Queen’, not to mention the genius of ever-evolving writer, Ben Elton –  this West End musical comes to our shores, with the help of an outstanding cast of actors, ensemble and exceptionally talented band.

With an auditorium packed literally, like sardines, the draw and excitement that enveloped the filled-out crowd was almost tangible.  The audience are immediately drawn in to this musical odyssey with flashing projection of words and visuals to set the scene, and to provide a narrative that is reminiscent of the sci-fi classic ‘Star Wars’, with a somewhat post-apocalyptic feel ….

The orchestra (or band) are also projected above the imposing stage.  An element of this stage setting, that I found both impressive and artistically effective.   A chorus of dancers with costumes emblazoned with the song title “Radio GaGa’ were visually striking and immediately piqued my attention as they set the pace for the rest of the show, as did the eponymous ballad  ‘We Will Rock You’, welcoming us to a musical anthology  full of historical humour, that we were set to enjoy for the remainder of the performance.

We Will Rock You is full of hilarious rock-references and clever dialogue that reflects the glory of a by-gone era of music.   With futuristic themes and cleverly placed classic Queen ballads throughout.  One most noteworthy track being ‘Killer Queen’ which sets the stage for  NZ’s own musical royal, Annie Crummer.  Annie exercises her theatre chops with unexpectedly brilliant and powerful delivery!  She is perfectly cast as the arch nemesis of the ‘Bohemians’ a group of misplaced yet passionate rock-loving, breathing beings.  The main protagonists in said group (and indeed the entire musical), are portrayed by William Deane as ‘Galileo’ and his love-interest, ‘Scaramouche’ played by Bridie Dixon.

They are supported by other key members of the Bohemians: ‘Brit’ (Caleb Muller),  ‘Buddy’ (David Mackie) and ‘Oz’ (Rebecca Wright), who alongside the Killer Queen’s right hand man ‘Khashoggi’ and of course the star-crossed lovers Galileo and Scaramouche themselves, entertain the audience with such convincing character portrayals, and moving vocal performances from Queens catalogue of hits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The choreography, lighting and set-design of  We Will Rock You is fantastically polished. The sheer attention to detail, for a production of this magnitude, is no mean feat and the creative team of: Director Emma Carr, Musical Directors, Mark Bradley and Edwin Randall and choreographer, Rebekkah Schoonbeek-Berridge should be applauded for their success!

An ambitious production on every scale, but that is brought together so brilliantly with the energy of it’s entire ensemble, the faultless score from the show’s musicians, and of course Annie Crummer’s seemingly limitless vocal-range.

‘These are the Days of our Lives’ is performed by the entire chorus towards the end of the show, an ominous ode to demise of the legend himself (Freddie Mercury).  Yet within it’s words are a message and a lesson, in living your life whilst also being true to yourself.  A fitting piece of classic Queen to wrap up this musical journey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

*4.5 Stars!

We Will Rock You is currently playing at the Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna:                                                              20th August – 7th September