Category Archives: performing arts

interviewed | Sananda Chatterjee for Dara

Throwing both light and darkness on a crucial moment in world history, the acclaimed Prayas Theatre Company stages a battle for succession that cuts right to the heart of what it means to be devout, with the magnificently ambitious and highly affecting epic DARA.

With over a decade with Prayas, Sananda Chatterjee has seen it all. Starting off as an unsuspecting usher, her love for storytelling has seen her progress from Usher to Director. We spoke to her ahead of Prayas Theatre Company’s latest production, DARA – on at Tapac until Sunday 24 June.

Tell us about your journey starting as an usher to becoming a director…
I was helping out Prayas with the ushering because I was told I had to. Amit Ohdedar, who is a founding member, the President and my co-director on this one, is a family friend, so my parents happily volunteered me and my siblings for the role. I got a real taste for the stories that were being told and started wishing that I had more to do with them, curious about the making of it. After ushering for a couple of seasons (2005 & 2006), I went on to become the AD and Stage Manager (and costume designer!) for the 2007 production of The Terrace and 11 years on, the rest, as they say, is history!

Have you always wanted to be a director?
No, not until I started working as an AD, did I get the taste for it. I have always wanted to be a storyteller – it has always been my passion, my addiction. I started by writing, you know when you are younger, you paraphrase your favourites, and palm it off as your own, not understanding plagiarism? I did that with some Edgar Allan Poe stories, the one I remember most clearly being gripped with, was the Tell-Tale Heart. Anyway, that eventually gave way to short stories and poetry. Poetry is my favourite form of storytelling. I get obsessed with phrases or images. I guess the images, lent itself to theatre too. When I was younger, i wanted to tell stories through journalism, but I quickly discovered that you couldn’t really embellish those stories, that was more factual and reporting (I wish I was aspiring to be a journalist in the Fake News era, I would have fit right in!), then I quickly lost interest! Now I tell stories through theatre, to elicit a reaction. I love directing now, I don’t know how I ever lived without it!

What’s been your most memorable production and why?
Oh, toughie! I am curious, so I loved shadowing people as their AD, so whenever I work with other directors, I love it. I am a sponge, having not gone to school for performing arts (except the Dramatic School of Life). I have loved working with autonomy as well! I enjoy bringing elements I enjoy watching and being immersed in pop culture, onto stage through what I do! Couldn’t isolate one for you!

What can you tell us about Dara? Is it suited to mainly an Indian audience or have you adapted it to a broader audience?
What can I tell you about Dara… it is an epic, period drama! If you understand politics of power and religion, you will have no trouble in understanding the play. I think of myself as a child of the global economy, of universal sensibilities & culture, so the work will never be isolationist! The script was performed by the National Theatre in the UK, we have used the same one. I am confident that it will lend itself to a wide range of audience, no matter what their ethnic or cultural background.

What about the music and the costumes?
The music is influenced by the music of the period – taking notes from Sufi, Hindustani Classical and Persian. It also has accents from a variety of Indian instruments to accentuate moods and evoke feelings. There are also some original compositions from our amazing group of musicians, who happen to be performing before the show on the Saturday nights! We are so lucky at Prayas to have an in house band!
The costumes are special. We have gone for a unique overall design. I don’t want to give too much away, but we have had to evoke an era and a feeling without blowing the budget. It is also a medium of that visual storytelling in the play.

Who have you cast and why?
We have open auditions for every show, a call goes out, and basically, we decide how the show will look based on who turns up! We have managed to build up a company of performers and production crew over the last 13 years we have been in operation, and every year we gain more and more performers. We try to match everyone up based on ability, and experience. The people are passionate and come from all walks of life, they give up their time, weekends, post work.

How is this production different to other productions Prayas has done?
Well, for one it is historical epic! We haven’t done one of those before. It is Prayas’ biggest undertaking in years, more daring than we have ventured into before, including some kick-ass fight choreography from Alexander Holloway, fresh from the Pop Up Globe. I am way too excited to see it in the space myself, it is one of those plays!

Why should we go and see Dara?
Dara will be as much entertaining, as educational. If religion and the politics of power is your thing, you will like Dara. If you like escapism and a good spectacle, you will like Dara. If you, like me, are entrenched in pop culture, you will like Dara. If you like Shakespeare, you will like Dara. If you like learning about world history, and things that have shaped the present of the world’s largest democracy, you will like Dara. If you like to see how global cultures are able to shape people, and how family dynamics shape personalities, you will like Dara!

Prayas are committed to taking audiences beyond cultural notions of Bollywood and butter chicken. With DARA, they take the audience right into the centre of history: the world of the largest, powerful and by far the richest empire of the world at the time. See DARA at TAPAC from Thursday 14 June – Sunday 24 June.  Buy your tickets here.

interviewed | Yorick!’s Oliver Delvin

Q Theatre’s Matchbox Season returns in 2018 with Binge Culture’s, Yorick!. Promising to be an experimental, totally unique, and hilarious show about death… as well as a full-on musical with stunning design.

Yorick! is reinventing Macbeth as you know it.

We chat to Music Composer and Performer, Oliver Delvin, ahead of the Auckland Matchbox Season.

What is your role in Yorick!?
I am the musical composer and musician character “Oli” in Yorick!.

How are you preparing for it?
Well, we’ve made all the tunes and just finished our paper tech and packed everything up ready to go to Auckland. So right now I’m doing some much-needed laundry, doing some polishing of the backing tracks, practicing my 5 lines and preparing a few little surprises.

Can you tell us more about the music of Yorick! – have you composed original songs?
The songs, just like the rest of the show, were devised collaboratively. The cast was given provocations, I played some piano and they improvised lyrics and tunes to what I was playing. I took those improvs and shaped them into the musical theatre song form we were going for, and then gave them to Jake Baxendale who arranged them for his hot band of Jazz cats who we’ve recorded into this beautiful backing. In the show, it’s just me on stage playing piano and the cast singing.

Are you a fan of Shakespeare? Do you have a favourite character or play?
I would say I am a keen theatre-goer. I was lucky enough to be taught Shakespeare all the way through high school so feel comfortable enough going to a show. My favourite has definitely been the Bright Orange Walls production of Midsummer Night’s Dream that was put on in the NZ Fringe in 2014. Also, favourite film/stage adaptation/reimagining would have to be West Side Story – huge fan.

You’re a busy man, in addition to your theatre work, you’re also part of a band, Hans Pucket – can you tell us more about that?
We’re a guitar pop band, making pretty thoughtful and sometimes pretty emo songs you can dance to, and we’ve just released our debut album Eczema. You can get it on cassette!

Where would we find you on a Friday night?
If I’m not at a gig or rehearsal, at home making a meal with some friends and probably watching a movie.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Joel has been picking us up to go out to Avalon at 8:00 so I gotta be up! When we’re not doing this my girlfriend works 9 to 5 so I get up when she gets up otherwise I just feel stink. I keep pretty with music and theatre so there’s usually a reason to get out of bed. And when I’m not busy like – oh boy – when all this is over, there’s nothing wrong with having some much-needed rest – am I right?

What’s currently trending for you?
Westworld season 2 is giving me my TV fix. Also, I’ve gotten really into whiskey this year – nothing fancy, just on ice in the evening. Also would love to spend some more time with Samin Nosrat’s cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat. Music-wise I am overwhelmed with the good local stuff that’s come out this year: Womb, Onono, Girlboss, The Beths, Wax Chattels, Estère, Dateline, Being, and Kody and Ruben Neilson obviously forever – great to see them playing together again in UMO.

Catch Oliver Delvin in Yorick! – playing at Q Theatre Tuesday 12 June – Saturday 23 June.  Buy tickets here.

NZICF 18 | I Am Your DeeJay

K-Rd? Check.  Deep,dirty underground?  Check.  Whammy Bar ….. ?

These opening adjectives and location alone, suggest that this will be no ordinary show from the NZ International Comedy Fest 2018.

A throwback to late nights and bacchanal activities,  ‘Juan Vesuvius – I Am Your Deejay’s’ run of sold-out performances this season, is proof enough that this is one event not to be missed.  Upon initial research and the sold -out status of his show, Juan had me chomping at the bit even before opening night!

‘Decked’ in 1970/80’s tennis garb, sports towel draped over shoulder and Pablor Escobar’esque moustache, comedian Barnie Duncan‘s alter-ego Juan takes us through a journey of house music from Chicago to Ibiza.

His show is packed full of interesting and historical facts, as well as being awesomely entertaining as well.  From the anti-gay laws of 1960’s New York, fascinating references to the infamous after-hours gay bar – the ‘Stonewall’ and consequent riots; the private apartment/nightclub – ‘The Loft’ and equally as legendary DJ & proprietor Dave Manhuso, with his particular penchant for attractive, towel-clad men …..   Juan’s knowledge of the foundations of house, audiophile equipment and progression of high-fidelity sound is second to none.

As this audio trip takes us into the next decade, we are treated to the hyper-sexual vibe of disco, in the most clever, crazy and side-splitting way …. drawing parallels to Donna Summer, horny flowers and exploding pollen.

Of course classic, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and the inevitable fate of disco make a notable mention, as does the succeeding warehouse sound of Chicago and development of club culture through Manchester’s ‘Hacienda’ – a hedonistic playground and home to ‘The Smiths’, ‘Happy Monday’s’, ‘Depeche Mode’ (my personal favourite) and much more of electronica’s finest still.

Hilarious observations of house music’s nemesis, David Guetta and his sound slaying of popular artists such as; Snoop Dogg and The Black Eyed Peas, are undeniable.

This is a comedy production that is out of the ordinary, indescribable, and from the reaction of the audience I was lucky to be a part of; a show that people will definitely be talking about for a long time after ….

Juan Vesuvius: I Am Your Deejay.  To put it bluntly, ‘fucking brilliant’.

 

*** Juan Vesuvius is playing from 15th – 17th May @WHAMMY K-RD

Note: All shows but Thursday 14th are now SOLD OUT  so get in quick!

 

NZICF 18 | Not Suitable for Children

Despite being jet-lagged from an 11-hour flight the day before and running on fumes, The Umbilical Brothers managed to thoroughly impress and entertain with their special brand of effervescent physical comedy.

It’s not often I find myself with nothing to criticise, but it’s a struggle to find things I didn’t enjoy during this show. The Umbilical Brothers produce an impressive array of sound effects, using just themselves and a couple of mics. Lots of well-timed (mostly) to-and-fro, ‘Dane’ and ‘Shaved’ are cheeky and barefaced in nature with a comedic charm, I was totally immersed during the show. The aptly titled show contains a blend of nsfw banter, innuendo, and a Disney “cameo appearance”- of sorts, making for a perfectly-paced, cleverly composed entertainment piece.

The Umbilical Brothers will be performing “Not Suitable for Children” until this Saturday the 19th of May. I highly recommend checking out the show before it ends.

Purchase tickets to see the duo HERE.

4.5/5 Stars

For the full line-up of shows in the Festival head to the Comedy Fest website. Running 26 April – 28 May 2017.

NZICF 18 | 5 mins with Matt Okine

Matt Okine’s worn many hats over the yars and now the comedian, actor, broadcaster and writer is returning to New Zealand with his brand new live show, The Hat Game.

From swimming to slurpees, conga drums to coconut oil; this show will cover it all.  We caught up with Matt ahead of his return to New Zealand.

Describe your show in three words or less
Gold-medal worthy.

What’s the inspiration behind it?
In 2009, I applied to become a Ghanaian citizen in a bid to be selected for their olympic swimming team. Turns out, becoming a ghanaian citizen AND an olympic swimmer is a lot harder than it sounds. This is that story.

Where will we find you during the festival?
Swimming at Waihiki Island during the day, followed by Brother’s Beer for an afternoon Pale Ale, followed by dinner at Tanuki’s Japanese, and then doing my NZICF show at 10pm at the Basement!

NZ Comedy Scene – would you swipe right or swipe left?
Swipe right, for sure. I’ve been booty-calling the NZ Comedy Scene for the last four years. I’d love to go steady, but I need to stay in Oz for work :’(

Do you have any top picks for this year’s festival?
I saw Two Hearts at the Q Theatre late last year and it has easily been one of my favourite shows of the past six months! There’s a good chance I’ll watch them again for NZICF!

What song or movie best describes the story of your life?
The Degrassi Junior High Theme Song.

What are you currently binge-watching on Netflix?
I have a TV Show called The Other Guy that is currently streaming on an Australian streaming service called STAN, so…. What is Netflix??

And your top 3 songs on Spotify?
Octavian – Party Here
Set Mo – Near
KLP – Never Be The Same

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Origami. I really like origami. I’d also fight crime in a suit made completely out of folded paper. I would be called CraneMan – the lamest superhero of all time.

World Association:
Comedy – Beers
New Zealand – Wine
Woke – up and had breaky beers
Adulting – Carpet cleaning
Basic – Instinct was on TV the other day and I watched half of it.
Trend – ing
Joke – See me tell them at New Zealand Comedy Festival!

 

Matt Okine performs 18 – 19 May at Auckland’s Basement Theatre as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo. Buy your tickets now.

NZICF 18 | Bogan Jesus

New Zealand’s favourite bogan was back for this year’s NZ International Comedy Festival with his brand new show, Bogan Jesus. On a mission to convert all to his new religion, Messiah Chopper traveled the length of the country before closing his tour across four sold-out shows at Auckland’s SkyCity Theatre.

We attended his first show of the night which started a little later than advertised. Better late than never; with his signature glasses, jandals, a stole around his neck (looking every bit the religious messiah) and two bottles of beer in hand (Victoria Bitter, no less), Chopper graced the stage to raucous applause.

He began by explaining that there is a need for religion but that all of the world’s religions aren’t the answer… So, he’s saving us all and he’s created his own religion, one where he’s taking on the role of Bogan Jesus. He then proceeded to share his ten commandments.

The show was cleverly written and well-executed, with plenty of laugh out loud moments. His show certainly attracted an oddball crowd, but the well-seasoned comedian that he is, he quickly quietened his hecklers.

Chopper is a unique character with a unique appeal, it’s not hard to see why he’s a Kiwi favourite.

4 Stars.

NZICF 18 | Humble

Frickin Dangerous Bro: Humble.

3 comedians bringing sketch comedy back to life.

In the ever evolving world of comedy, both slapstick and sketch comedy, have not been the latest trends, However, the 3 Auckland Lads have persevered, and their new show, Humble is a great a mid-week, 10p.m performance,packed with lots of laughs..

Pax, Jermaine and James have great chemistry and entertained the crowd from start to finish, with their take on a theatre-based sketch show. Whilst this was my first Frickin Dangerous Bro, they have acquired a cult following of fans, mainly from their recent stint on Maori Television.

Starting off with a courtroom sketch they moved onto several micro-sketches, a crime scene and ended with a signature terrorist sketch, all intertwined with organic laughs and chats. Whilst some of the jokes appeared forced and predictable, there was a genuine feeling that the trio wanted to be there, were all having fun and most of all their organic chats were relatable to ever member of the audience. The highlights of the show were the micro-sketches and trio’s ability to roast each other.

It was a great to see kiwi comedians perform with the finesse, the delivery and the attitude of world comics….Humble they are

4 stars

See them tonight and tomorrow.  Buy your tickets here.