Category Archives: performing arts

been | KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil

KOOZA marks the return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil, the company that began in 1984 with a motley troupe of Quebecois street performers. Started by the venerable Guy Laliberte, KOOZA combines two circus traditions – Acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The premiere that took place in Auckland last night was a truly mesmerising experience, proving yet again that Cirque du Soleil company dominates in all aspects of production. They are simply unbeatable.

A dazzling performance that is in equal parts a well paced fable, slowly unraveling the world of acrobatic wonder and magic, while also being an electrifying operatic experience that keeps the audience on its toes throughout. (My eyes wide open, my heart skipped many a beat and I stopped counting how many times I held my breath while watching the action unfold.)

“KOOZA is about human connection and the world of duality, good and bad” says the show’s writer and director David Shiner. “The tone is fun and funny, light and open. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s very much about ideas, too. As it evolves, we are exploring concepts such as fear, identity, recognition and power”

The show starts with The Innocent (A new kid on the block, expertly played by Cedric Belisle) a loner and simpleton who is trying to fly his kite. He’s interrupted by the arrival of a mailman with a curious package – a jack-in-the-box containing a Trickster (Derek Piquette) who summons us into his new land filled with wonder, danger and dreams. He introduces The Innocent to the other colourful and comic characters – The King, The Heimloss, The Obnoxious Tourist and his Bad Dog.

This is where the action begins. Music plays an important part in the production. Inspired by the sounds of western pop culture and traditional Indian music, it complements and adds to the drama of the acrobatic acts.

The main acts covered are  the sumptuous and beguiling Straps performance, Balancing on Chairs, Charivari, Contortion, High Wire, Hoops Manipulation, Teeterboard, Unicycle Duo and ultimate Wheel of Death.

As soon as you might feel the act is over, the performers realising their full human body potential, they up the ante and give you more than you have ever bargained for. The excitement build up is palpable until the very end.

A well deserving standing ovation followed.

Not to be Missed! Kooza by Cirque du Soleil will be performing over the following dates:

FEBRUARY 15, 2019 – MARCH 17, 2019

@ Alexandra Park

Been | Here Lies Love

If you love live musical performances, then this is a show for you.

The life of Imelda Marcos is narrated through the operandi of music, thanks to the writing genius of David Byrne and Norman Cook (aka.Fatboy Slim).  Directed by Sophie Roberts and with musical direction by Robin Kelly.

The anticipation upon arrival was palpable, and the energy high, as one looked around the lofty quarters of the Rangatira stage, to see a sprinkling of ‘who’s-who’ in NZ TV, Music & Theatre.

The disco themed concept was evident and most welcomely embraced, from the slick and sequin clad 5-pieced band, to the elaborate and glistening staircase, which reflected the luminescent costumes of the show’s star divas.

Ethereal lighting and a gospel-inspired backdrop fall upon songstress Ria Hall, as she opens the stage with powerful and intoxicating vocals, followed by equally as alluring performances by: Villette Dasha, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Colleen Davis and Sarah Nessia.

The suave and polished band deserve a notable mention, with their acoustically flawless rendition of a concept most unusual,  keeping the heady disco rhythm shaking, to the very end ….  A standout for me in particular,  was the percussionist Antonio Karam, whose vivacity and mad musical ability had not only myself, mesmerized.

Conveying the remarkable rise (and subsequent fall) of such a politically controversial icon was never going to be an easy task.  Yet this unexpected collaboration from influential and allying artists (Byrne & Cook) combined with the stage and musical talent of our very own, individually successful artists –  ‘Here lies love’  is a production of great expectation and certain delivery.

By the end of the show, you will be literally dancing in your seats!

Here Lies Love is now showing over these following dates:
November 22 – December 08th
Rangatira @ Q




Been | Retail Therapy

Basement Theater’s Spring Season has sprung!  Most fittingly (excuse the pun) alongside Click-Clack Productions to present ‘Retail Therapy’.  An irreverent and laughter-packed debut by playwright Grace-Amelia Vernal set in the cut-throat, take-no-prisoners, superficial realm of retail.

A successful foray into theater, whilst under an internship at the Basement itself, Grace’s passion for all things thespian clearly shows through the play’s direction, comedic quality of script and a relatively freshman cast that includes:  Louisa Hutchinson as the dedicated & upstanding although somewhat awkward employee Nina, socially libertine makeup artist Mercy (Albertine Jonas), the artistic and decidedly non-camp Charlie (Stephen Lyell) with their bitch-from-hell colleague Vicky (Becky Button) and the store Don Juan, Darren (played by Dylan Thuraisingham).

Carefully placed and laundered shirt/coat/dress racks are in the forefront of the audience, and with the high-pitched positivity of a voice-over, subtle yet obvious, generic elevator music playing in the background throughout, a scene is set.  One that resonates an early popular UK television show, “Are You Being Served”.

A standout from the get-go, was the vivacious Mercy.  Her questionable work ethic and incorrigible ideas were played to perfection by Albertine Jonas, helping an initially slow story-line gather momentum.  Another highlight for me was the performance of Zoe Larsen Cumming, as she takes the self-obsessed, selfie-taking and utterly narcissistic character, ‘Stefani’ to another level.  A highly amusing and completely believable Kardashianesque level at that!

This play is brutally honest and funny with ‘on-point’ costume design and hysterical (however inappropriate) puns and references such as, ‘slutty toddler’ and ‘putting on the gay’ ….  The character of Holly & Grange’s store manager Stewart (Tim Herbert) is not to be outdone however, as his true and colourful identity is revealed in the 2nd act, after  a comedy of errors at a subsequent staff party, including a misappropriation of A-Class ‘breath mints’ …

Retail Therapy is a light-hearted, yet thoroughly encapsulating show, that delves into the trivial and often ridiculous working lives of it’s characters.  Entertaining and whimsical, the energy of it’s actors and quick interchanges between props and scenes, brings the story to life and keeps the drama going until the very end!


*** Retail Therapy is now showing at the Basement:                                                                                                                     Tues 18th – Sat 22nd September


Been | HIR

Entwined with the mediocrity of middle-class America, yet with confronting and combative issues of gender play, war and the reality of domestic turmoil,  ‘HIR’ is a play with layers of colour and depth, it disrupts the status-quo whilst challenging the idea of the ‘nuclear family’.

Arlo Green, plays the disillusioned son returning from duty in war-torn Afghanistan ….  His experience with an array of broken soldiers, both physically and mentally, has left him yearning for some solace, yet upon returning home and being greeted by his incredibly fractured and disjointed family, the hopeful serviceman is left defeated.

NZ Theatre stalwart, Rima Te Wiata is at her most impressive, as the disparaging, cruel and at times thoroughly spiteful, matriarch Paige.  Supported equally at best, by her formerly abusive husband, however now reduced to a mere shell of former self – Arnold (Nathaniel Lees).

Adam Rohe, completes the dysfunctional family unit as the gender-transitioning Max, a sullen and impressionable teenager burdened by the sheer tyranny of his mother who reigns over the household,  while his depleted and despondent father now just lurks, an empty being.  All three characters; Issac, Arnold and Max;  exemplify the varying state and meaning of masculinity itself , as the emasculating Paige exercises her now wilted down person and cynical viewpoint upon them all …

Nathaniel Lees character,  Arnold is played to perfection.  His presence is observed, even through his many scenes that are without dialogue.   He never loses pace; as he stares vacant into the TV screen, absently eats fried chicken in a nightgown, and in the one last scene, completely loses all dignity (and continence) after a physical and mental showdown, one that is spurred on after a revelation of home truths.

The play’s setting echoes the decor of shows that mirror the lives of the struggling white middle-class/red-neck America and those with questionable education and boredom with mundanity of everyday life.  The series, ‘Roseanne’ springs to mind, with the well-worn sofa and makeshift crocheted throws.  Right down to the tacky fish-inspired stickers on the fridge and the weathered Venetian blinds; the set is convincing with it’s purposeful lack of class and ambience.

HIR, created by Taylor Mac – a remarkable individual, in the way they themselves perceive and carry out the idea of gender and convention, is directed by the detail orientated and insightful Sophie Roberts.  It is a poignant play that reflects our modern society and pushes us to feel the angst and chaos, through broken dreams and power struggles which befall this family, in particular; the now sadly disillusioned Issac.  As theirs is a reality that is not too implausible within our modern kith & kin …

HIR- with it’s harrowing and at times, deeply dispiriting subject matter, with notes of sardonic humour throughout,  is reminiscent of a Tennesse William’s tragedy, and is just as successful at drawing in and engaging with it’s audience.  However morose and jarring the effect may be.

HIR is part of the Silo Theatre and currently showing at the Herald Theatre:

*** Until 25th August

Been | Run Rabbit

Darkness befalls a velvety-clad ingenue upon a miniature topiary.  Cue a Highland march …

Charismatic and entirely engaging, Victoria Abbott beguiles us, as she introduces the play ‘Run Rabbit’, explaining the context and it’s performers.  Albeit the one; as she introduces the many facets of Victoria Abbott throughout the 60minute run,  invariably flitting fleetingly from shrub to burrow, akin to a hasty rabbit.

Meet Black Agnes, awoken straight from a dirty siege amidst an invasion of the 1300’s,  Victoria shows brilliant inclusion of the audience as she takes us on a convincing narrative, that traces back from her ancient lineage to present day 2018, with tales of tertiary days, questionable encounters and personal experiences that purport this play’s underlying theme …

Run Rabbit, directed by Kate McGill and produced by Alice May Kirker,  is a production that utilizes the most minimal of props, yet is filled with creative and visually stimulating prose – thought provoking metaphors, alliteration and recurrent use of homophones keep the pace of the play throughout.   It is definitely strange and confusing at times, and being a bit under the weather myself that day, took a little focus to keep abreast of it’s direction initially.

She delves into dark quarters, relaying incidences of sexual innuendo and unwarranted attentions.  Victoria confronts the audience in order to make us aware of the unease that she herself felt in these very situations she portrays to us.  But with the inclusion of comical parody, such as one particular scene straight from the film  ‘Love Actually’ and energetic games of ‘insults, metaphors & threats’,  it was all drawn together, with a strong sense of clarity and purpose that touched many a heart in the room ….

Victoria Abbott, with her impressive comedic timing and skill, as well as incredibly strong presence on the stage, shows that she is an artistic force of femininity to be acknowledged .

Run Rabbit, a one-woman show created by Victoria herself, is intelligently crafted to engage the intimate audience of the Basement Theatre, whilst delivering a message that was at times confronting, yet incredibly powerful and necessary, regardless of time.


*** Run Rabbit runs (he he, excuse the pun):

24 Jul – 4 Aug


interviewed | Bringing the gift of laughter, joy, and Bon Qui Qui to New Zealand…

Eleven years ago, the world was given a gift… that gift was Bon Qui Qui, a disgruntled fast food employee with no filter. It’s a gift that keeps on giving for Anjelah Johnson, the American actress, comedian, and former NFL cheerleader who created and brought the character to life.

Bon Qui Qui has since been enjoyed and replicated by over 80 million people worldwide and she has a hit album on Warner Bros. Records titled, Gold Plated Dreams, which Anjelah has toured twice, selling out both times.

“Everyone wants to hear from Bon Qui Qui and you know what, I’m honoured because not every comic gets that. Not every comic has something that’s resonated with so many people who will come to your show because they want to hear that, because they saw it online or whatever.

“I present the joke as a thank you gift at the end of my live shows; I’m done with the joke but the people aren’t and that’s what matters.”

Johnson describes herself as an observational storyteller who connects with her audience relationally.

“I like to tell stories about things that have happened in my life and in my relationships, and I like to connect with my crowd and relate to them – I think the best way to do that is relationally. We’re all going to have different opinions on things, however, most of us have relationships in our life. We all do. Whether it’s relationships with our parents, with our spouse, our boyfriend/girlfriend, with our co-workers, whoever – you definitely have relationships. I love to connect with people and relate to them on something we can all identify with and that’s typically relationships. I’m observational about what I see in society and then talk about it relationally.”

Generally, that doesn’t mean a lot of improv during her live shows.

“I know a lot of comedians that do crowd work, where most of their act is from the crowd in the moment. I definitely have my stories that I tell about my life and there’ll be some moments where I’ll connect with the audience and be like, I do this, does anybody else?

“I like to remind the crowd that this is a conversation I’m having with them; we’re all in this together.”

Sometimes though, things don’t always go to plan. Every comedian has a day or a show where the audience just isn’t buying what they’re selling.

“I feel like that doesn’t go away. As successful as you get, I still hear stories from my friends that some shows are so fire and other shows, the energy is just kind of low and there isn’t really a rhyme or reason for it.

“Everybody in your audience is different and they’ve all had a different day – one may have just been fired, another found out their sick, or somebody just broke up with their boyfriend. Whatever it is, you have no idea what each individual is going through and I’m a firm believer in energy and vibe in the room.

“I feel like people with strong energy can dictate the room. If you have somebody coming in with mounds of joy and excitement and they’re just happy, that will shift a room. But then, you’ll get some people with dark energy; they’re having a bad day and that will shift the room too.

“You can do your material and you can do your crowd work, but if they’re just having a bad day, they’re having a bad day, and you do your best to bring joy to them. It might not be the level 10 laugh, it may be the level 7 because that’s all they’re capable of giving you that day.”

Anjelah has to be doing something right; she’s appeared in huge commercial campaigns for the likes as Visa and Snickers, has guest-starred on TV shows The Shield, Ugly Betty and Curb Your Enthusiasm and her film credits include Our Family Wedding, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Enough Said, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, and Mom’s Night Out.

During her first visit to Australia, she sold out her 2014 Melbourne International Festival season and she regularly sells out comedy shows across the US. And if that’s not enough, she has so far released four hugely successful one-hour comedy specials on Netflix and Hulu.

With such an impressive CV and busy schedule, what gets her out of bed in the morning?

“Different things to be honest – it depends on what I have going on in my life and where I’m at. If I have a lot on my mind, the pressure wakes me up in the morning. In the calmer season, when there aren’t a lot of deadlines, I feel like what wakes me up in the morning is hope for the day.

“I prefer sunrises to sunsets because to me, a sunset, although beautiful, signifies the end and it’s the end of the day, it’s time for rest… but the sunrise, it’s so hopeful. It’s like, you have the whole day to go for your dreams; you have the whole day to achieve something you never thought you’d achieve; you have the whole day to take a risk and go for it.

“That’s what gets me up in the morning – I’m like, wow, I have the whole day to try and do something amazing with my life and that’s what fuels me….. As long as I’m not super stressed out!”

And on that note, here’s what she has to say to her fans in New Zealand:

“I am very excited to come down and meet you and perform for you. I can’t wait to bring this gift of laughter and joy and I hope that this joy just marinates in your home and infiltrates the land. Not to say you don’t already have it, it will be extra joy on top of what you already have. I hope I am able to come and just leave this gift of laughter and joy with you.

“Also, I’m starting out my tour in New Zealand and it’s downhill from there because I’m going back to Australia! So please, come out and share the laughter with me in August.”


In 2013, Anjelah reprised her role as her MADtv character Bon Qui Qui for a skit released by Alexander Wang:

Don’t miss your chance to see Anjelah Johnson performing Anjelah Johnson Live for one night only at Auckland’s SkyCity Theatre on Sunday 12 August. Buy your tickets here.

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.