Category Archives: performing arts

been | Basement Theatre’s Santa Claus

If you enjoy surprises, impromptu comedy entertainment, and being taken out of your comfort zone, then go and see Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, the Basement Theatre’s ninth annual fundraiser Christmas show is being played until Wednesday 20th December. The show is directed by Leo Gene Peters, director of the award-winning independent theatre company A Slightly Isolated Dog. Over the last few years, A Slightly Isolated Dog has been exploring how to make a theatre experience truly alive, by removing all barriers between the audience and performers, and this could not have been more evident in Santa Claus.

At around 6.30pm on Friday evening, the wonderfully petite venue saw crowds of (mostly younger) individuals sipping beer and wine before the show. What people didn’t know then was that they should probably sip a little more, to gain some well-needed courage for later on.

The story, which I found quite hard to follow, (after all the laughter and unprepared involvement) celebrated the way we build up expectations around Christmas and showed us how those expectations can then turn into a nightmare.

At the very beginning of the show, each French cast member introduced themselves, chatted to the different audience groups and asked Christmas related questions. They then used the information they had gathered to open the show. Firing statements back and forth from each cast member… “Camilla will be having a friends Christmas this year, as she is visiting New Zealand.” “Well Ben doesn’t enjoy Christmas because…” and so on. As soon as this happened, the audience felt immediately involved in the show, and we were already giggling as we got to know more about other people.

The killer cast of Hayley Sproull, Jack Buchanan, Andrew Paterson and Susie Berry were truly amazing, which was more evident as the show went on. From my experience, each cast member was personally lovely, hilarious and very spontaneous. They proceeded to put the audience members on the spot, encouraged them to be spontaneous (without much choice) and seemed genuinely interested in ensuring everyone had a great time. They were charming, sexy, funny and very French.

The celebrity guest on Friday night was Rose Matafeo, New Zealand comedian and TV presenter. She’s a writer and performer on the NZ late-night comedy sketch show funny girls, and she was a natural in Santa Claus. She was brought into the story of the show in many different forms – as Santa, Santa’s friend and a baby. Each time she provided improvised entertainment in a cool and nonchalant manner.

Many audience members were also brought into the show throughout the evening. One audience member was thrown a New Zealand post shirt to put on and told to run up the stage with wind and snow-like props in his face. Many other audience members were asked to put on a ‘talking’ Santa outfit, and were encouraged to act spontaneously, dance, create handshakes and ‘go with the flow’. A different audience member was introduced into the show as one of the cast’s lovers, which pressed him to think up and share an elaborate tale of how they met.

Overall, the show had incredibly powerful sound effects, and the cast members blasted out some great Christmas songs. You have to go to the show with an open mind, and be willing to join in the fun and act. This play is not for you if you are reserved and don’t like taking part.

Spoiler alert: The show saw us witness one older gentleman from the audience kiss one of the actors in a very passionate, unrehearsed, spur of the moment gesture. It was absolutely hilarious.

The Basement Christmas Show is one of Auckland’s must-do Christmas offerings and sells out every year, so don’t miss it. You can get tickets from $32 to $50 on iTicket.

interviewed | multi-talented Director Leo Gene Peters

Santa Claus is coming to town, literally. Santa Claus is the Basement Theatre’s ninth annual Christmas show, and it’s coming to Auckland from Thursday 30th November to Wednesday 20th December. The show is directed by Leo Gene Peters, director of the award winning independent theatre company A Slightly Isolated Dog. Over the last few years, A Slightly Isolated Dog has been exploring how to make a theatre experience truly alive, by removing all barriers between the audience and performers, and this will be evident in Santa Claus.

The annual Christmas show will include the usual host of secret celebrity guests. Team this with Leo Gene Peters’ raucous, sexy, signature style, and this is a show not to be missed.

I chat to Leo, who has worked as a professional director, designer, technician, actor, tutor, facilitator and mentor, to find out more about the show, his career and how he likes to celebrate.

Q: From your point of view, what is the Christmas show Santa Claus about?

A: The show is a celebration of our ridiculous lives, especially the way we build up expectations around Christmas (and our lives in general) and how the real events rarely ever live up to our expectations… it’s a party that celebrates the childhood magic and the adult disappointment of Christmas… it’s a chaotic romp through the Christmas fantasy into the Christmas nightmare.

Q: Should the audience be worried if they haven’t been good this year?

A: No… well, I mean judgement is coming, Santa sees all. He knows when you’re sleeping, and he knows when you’re awake and he’s definitely coming… but I wouldn’t worry about it…

Q: Tell us a little more about the cast of the show…

A: They’re a great group of performers, really charming and very sexy and very funny… and very French.

Q: How have you explored removing barriers between the audience and performers for this Christmas show?

A: We tell the story with you, so the audience is always a part of what we do… we like there to be no barriers. Even with that, some people just watch the shows, some people play with us a bit… we do our best to make sure everyone has the best possible time. We want you to do what you want and have a great time out.

Q: Can you tell us more about using transformational venue experiences, integration of popular culture and interactivity? Are you doing this again for Santa Claus?

A: We love to play make-believe, then create something together and all buy into a story and tell it together in an exciting and entertaining way. This is something that is inherently in us as human beings, it’s why all the storytelling forms exist, we need to dream and exercise our imaginations. We like to play the way we did when we were kids, to make magic happen by turning one place or object into another. There are very few places for us to do this together and we believe the theatre is a crucial place for this to happen.

Q: What has been a key highlight (so far) in creating and directing the show?

A: We spend a lot of time making each other laugh at ridiculous offers for the show… but I’m enjoying most all the stories of our family Christmases that we’ve been telling/hearing in the making process. It’s such a lovely process to reflect in this way and see other people’s experiences of Christmas, whether they’re good or bad, whether they like it or hate… we celebrate them all.

Q: What do you want the audience to feel/experience/get from the show?

A: A great night out that is different from any other great night out… we want people to come and feel sexy and laugh and have a party that celebrates our ridiculous lives.

Q: What would be your best piece of advice to give to the audience before they attend the show?

A: Meet up with friends, have a meal and some drinks, chat about your Christmas plans with them, tell stories to each other… and come to the theatre expecting to have a great time. We will do everything in our power to make you look as good as possible and to have a great time.

Q: How will you celebrate once the show has finished?

A: Probably Christmas with close friends (surrogate family). A lot of food and a lot of drinks. Once the show opens we may have a few drinks as well…

Q: How does Santa Claus compare to previous shows you have done with your theatre company?

A: It’s delightful to be partnering with Basement to create it – we love working in Auckland and especially with Basement. They’ve created a great energy and community in the venue. The show itself is similar in a lot of ways, but very much its own beast… it’s been different to plays with such well known mythology and cultural events that so many people have a strong relationship to.

Q: What do you have planned for A Slightly Isolated Dog, after the huge Santa Clause show? Will you have a break or are you straight back into planning for another project?

A: We’re always planning for upcoming projects… but we’ll have a bit of a break for the holidays for sure. We’ve got a project coming up for CubaDupa in Wellington that we’re really excited about, as well as a national tour of Jekyll & Hyde. And there are a number of other projects in development.

Q: You have worked in many areas – directing, designing, acting, tutoring, mentoring and much more. How do you manage your time? Does the workload ever get too stressful? How do you like to unwind?

A: I try to make sure there is enough time to work through all the projects that I’ve got going at once, but sometimes I just work a lot of hours to get everything done… other times it feels like I do very little… The workload can be stressful, I try to keep up good practices in my life… I try to meditate, I run quite a bit and I’ve been doing Wing Tsun Kung Fu for a number of years as well. And I also enjoy drinking, which is useful…

Q: If you had to choose just one of the above professions to do full time for the rest of your life (you couldn’t do anything else), which would it be and why?

A: I’d direct/create new theatre… It’s a place for us to come together and share our loneliness. To celebrate all the ridiculous and beautiful things about life – to build community through reflection and imagination. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. It’s amazing to be with a thriving audience in that way.

Q: Random question – what is your favourite food if you had to choose one item or dish?

A: Tricky… Cochinita Pibil.

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for the aspiring directors out there?

A: Question the purpose of what you want to make. I think it should be for a bigger reason then wanting people to tell us that we’re good. What are you trying to create in the community? Why should we come together for some event that you want to make? These questions seem crucial, but I don’t think they’re often really examined.

The Basement Christmas Show has evolved from a low-key fundraiser, to one of Auckland’s must-do Christmas offerings. The show sells out every year, so don’t miss it. You can get tickets from $32 to $50 on iTicket.

interviewed | Rap Sensation Melvin Bailey

The comedy musical Love Me Tinder is coming to Auckland this week. Stephen Sinclair has directed and produced a hilarious perspective on the path of love in the age of Tinder. The show, who is for anyone with a smart phone and an open heart, was a sell-out at the Auckland Live’s International Cabaret Season last year.

Love me Tinder is the story of Zoe and Daren who meet on the ubiquitous dating site. They are compatible in so many ways, but Tinder’s on-going temptations then threatens to tear them apart. The show lets the audience witness the train wreck of a Tinder date going disastrously wrong.

The musical has been rewritten and developed for this year’s show. I chat to local rap sensation Melvin Bailey AKA Kloos, who has created suave and seductive lyrics for Love Me Tinder.

Melvin, who was just fifteen when he started rapping, explained how the script has been adjusted for the second season, and all of the music is now original. He said: “The show is about relationships and how the advancement of technology has affected the ways in which we communicate.”

Melvin is excited about acting alongside Jennifer Austin and Stephen Lunt, who play Zoe and Daren.

When asked how he got into rapping, Melvin said: “I love music and naturally Hip-Hop suited me, I wrote bits of poetry whilst studying at university and thought why not lay those verses down. It was my new year’s resolution for 2015 to make a mixtape, and once I did that, I simply carried on.”

I asked Melvin about his personal experiences with Tinder. He said: “We were encouraged to download the app last year for research purposes but I lasted less than five minutes. I’m more of a walk up to you and chat kind of guy.”

At last year’s Auckland Live International Cabaret Season, Melvin thought it was awesome to partake in the lively vibe in town. This year, he said he’s excited about “being part of the music once again, and having the opportunity to perform at the Comedy Club, which puts everyone at the heart of it all.”

After the show finishes, Melvin is hoping to get tickets to see Drake and celebrate all of the shows hard work. He will then focus on solo projects. He said: “My debut EP has been in the works for some time now, but the finish line is in sight.”

Melvin gets his inspiration form Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Chance The Rapper, Childish Gambino and Lute. He said: “These guys are skilled and force me to go further with my lyrical content. Through their words, they alter my perspective and I’m left with a greater appreciation of life. I hope that one day I can do the same for someone else.”

Melvin’s advice for aspiring rappers is: “Create tracks that you enjoy and be honest in your output.” He gets his inspiration from life, “each day is a blessing, regardless of what happens.”

Love Me Tinder returns to bar Freida Margolis in New Lynn on Sunday 29th and Monday 30th October, then plays at The Classic Comedy Bar on Queen Street from Thursday 2nd to Saturday 4th November. Book your tickets here.

been | The Vultures

Nominated for Five Wellington Theatre Awards 2016 including Best New New Zealand Play  –  ‘The Vultures’  written and directed by Miria George tells a bitter tale of sibling rivalry and greed, set among an old world of land and privilege.

Performing to a near packed-out audience.  The intimate yet lofty setting of the Rangatira stage provided the ideal backdrop for this indigenous collaborative production by Tawata Productions

Set within the parameters of sacred land and an idyllic lake, the plays theme, together with the polished and engaging performances, highlighting the very distinct character traits within whanau, was simplistic yet highly effective.

Starring Nicola Kawana, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Ani-Piki Tuari & Erina Daniels; the actors are the heart of this production. Honest and kind Sister Nurse Hinemoa is a polar opposite to her successful yet ruthless and intimidating sister, magazine magnate – Atawhai.  Superbly cast alongside their imposing and calculating brother, the dubious businessman Petera, and not least, their more virtuous niece and nephew, the prodigious scientist Kiwi and her cousin, budding gymnast, Te Rāwhitiroa, who have long been estranged.

I was particularly impressed with the metaphoric use of costume throughout the production, the grand and regal cloak of feathers worn by Petera, which throughout his descent into uncompromising rapacity and his physical stature, came to resemble that of an actual vulture.

‘The Vultures’ success lies within it’s characters and the underlying message.  A powerful portrayal of family loyalty vs greed, and the insatiable lust for material wealth which ultimately becomes soul-destroying.

With a very limited few days left of viewing to go, be sure not to miss this superbly crafted piece of Maori theater.

 

Now Showing @ Q !

Wednesday 18 October – Saturday 21st October

been | Pleasuredome The Musical

Let’s get this mother*cker started….welcome to the Pleasuredome!

And what a welcome it was…

Tucked away in the West Auckland suburb of Avondale, the Pleasuredome sits amongst an industrial estate.  And as you walk through the doors of a former factory office, you’re greeted by member of Angel’s security who usher you into the ‘subway.’

For the next three hours, you’re transported back to a time when Prince topped the charts with Purple Rain, hooped earrings were all the rage, and Tom Selleck’s moustache was the epitome of male facial hair.  Welcome to 1980’s New York City.

The set is meticulously detailed with all the trappings of the big apple; there’s the diner serving typical American food, the newsstand, the street vendor selling I <3 NYC t.shirts and the casually parked yellow taxi.  You’ll even find members of the NYPD patrolling the neighbourhood.

The musical centre’s around Sappho, a coke snorting club owner, who is trying to stop the Pleasuredome, a club that not only is the life of the party, but also represents pride, acceptance and freedom, from being demolished. Throw in a cocaine dealer, a topless DJ, a homophobic father, a self-repressive gay and a newly-discovered lesbian and you’ve got yourself a feet-tapping musical.

The cast are brilliantly cast and their performances are worthy of a West End/Broadway show.  Lucy Lawless, who plays Sappho, has come a long way from playing Xena the Warrior Princess.  Her voice is delectable and her performance of Sweet Dreams puts her back in the limelight as one of NZ’s best performers.  Vince Harder, the former X-Factor contestant gives a strong performance, with every RnB number paying homage to the classics that they were.

This is truly an immersive experience; one which I did not want to leave. IF there is only one musical you see this year, make it the Pleasuredome!

Buy your tickets here.

been | Cole

How much charisma does it take to fill the Auckland Town Hall? If you’re Michael Griffiths, consider the building bursting.

The spirit of Cole Porter lives in Griffiths, who has been portraying Porter for 3 years in this show. From the moment Griffiths stepped onstage – complete with Porter-esque limp – the spell was cast for an hour of marvellous musical magic.

As with the best cabaret, all of the glamour and fun of the genre combined beautifully with hints of melancholy as Mr Porter regaled us with the highs and lows of his life and career; taking in Paris, New York, a marriage of convenience, love lost and found, and the riding accident that nearly ended his career. These moments, retold wittily and wistfully, but never self-pityingly, were touchingly revealing, and Porter’s greatest hits are cleverly woven into the narrative, musically illustrating the story.

Typically matinee audiences are subdued, but Griffiths in mischievous style alternately teased, cajoled and affectionately bullied the assembly until we were transformed into his own private singalong chorus. A gorgeous setting – complete with glittering curtains at the doors, romantic lighting, roses on the tables, and a particularly well-deployed mirrorball– completed the spell.

Like the most pleasing of parties, the hour flew by in the blink of an eye. I didn’t want it to end. Five stars.

Grab tickets HERE.

been | Velvet + The Sound of Falling Stars

Where do I begin with such a superbly theatrical and musically packed evening ….. ? One which took me from the bright hedonistic lights of the disco era – a’la Studio 54, to the beautiful yet melancholy crooning of musical heroes now past …

The Rangatira balcony of the Q-Theatre stage provided the perfect spot to appreciate an evening of fabulously retro sounds and an array of gymnastic talent as witnessed through the night’s show and winner of the Adelaide Advertiser Best of Fringe 2016 and the Bank of South Australia’s Pick of the Fringe 2016 – ‘Velvet’.

I loved the raised DJ Booth and the cool and perfectly suited attitude of it’s resident DJ, Joe Accaria, who took the audience through a ‘Boogie Wonderland’.

The drumming and percussion skills of the mix-master, as well as the acrobatic display of a very toned and skilled Mirko Kockenberger was impressive and boosted me out of my otherwise sombre mood, and that was only within the first ten minutes!

With the presence of renowned Australian music legend, Marcia Hines, a true disco diva owned the stage, with amazing soul and star power from an equally talented ensemble consisting of; rising Australian star Tom Oliver, aerialist Emma Goh, a gorgeous display of muscles (Stephen Williams) soul sisters Kaylah Attard and Rechelle Mansour, and not to forget my personal highlight, the delightfully flamboyant hula master Craig Reid.

Velvet was a perfectly polished disco extravaganza of powerful nightclub ballads, a journey of a who’s who of 1970’s dance hedonism featuring; Gloria Gaynor, “If you could read my mind”,  a group effort of the classic It’s Raining Men’ – to an unexpected acoustic act of an altogether different pace, with Tom Oliver in fantastic stage dress and a ukulele version of ‘Stayin Alive’.

‘Last Dance’ was the perfect score to conclude this wonderful show of glitter and glamour.  An energetic and marvellous fusion of dance, disco and gymnastics, ‘Velvet’ is a wonderful parade of Cabaret.

After such an entertaining display I was not 100% certain that my enjoyment could be surpassed. But the next show proved me wrong and on a major scale too …

‘The Sound of Falling Stars’,  performed within the tête-à-tête of the Auckland Town Hall, was hands-down one of the most unexpected and awe-inspiring performances of the season and had me mesmerized throughout the entire evening.

The unassuming musical genius of Cameron Goodall (Sydney Theatre Company’s Lion King) personifies a plethora of musical legends gone before us.  Taking the audience on a musical journey that transpired through the decades.

Marking the tone of the show with a very believable characterization of Elvis ‘The Pelvis’ – Cameron Goodall and creative director Robyn Archer put together a show that was incredibly smart, well-researched and narrated in a manner so unique.

Cameron had outstanding support from George on accordion and from keyboardist Enio Pozzebon, whose passion for real music was evident from the expression on their faces and faultless instrumentalism.

From the blue-grass/country of Hank Williams to the Neapolitan classic tune ‘O Solo Mio’, transitioning through to soul icons Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye; then to a complete juxtaposition of rock gods; Jim Morrison who noticeably influenced his formative Michael Hutchence, Kurt Cobain and even portraying the anarchic punk Sid Vicious.

So many more figures in musical history, that I cannot name all,  but with each one, he immerses himself with such honesty, depth and appreciation that was truly remarkable.

His rendition of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ so cleverly intertwined with his equally musically talented son Jeff, was hauntingly beautiful.

Cameron Goodall provides the audience with accounts of each artist’s inevitable fate – all chronicled so informatively, whilst seductively sashaying between musical genre; country, soul, rock and even a crooning Frank Sinatra – his version of ‘I did it my way ‘summarizing a magical and truly moving performance that truly left me touched and spellbound.

A definite must-see this Auckland Live International Cabaret Season.  5 Stars *****