Tag Archives: ASB Theatre

been | six degrees of separation

MiNDFOOD SEASON of Six degrees of separation by John Guare, presented by Auckland Theatre Company, exposes the vacuous culture of glitz and greed that so clearly defined the ‘80s. “A story based on real life events depicts the lives of suave, sophisticated and wealthy Manhattan art dealers Flan and Ouisa Kittredge. The Kittredges are all about keeping up appearances but their world of comfort and respectability is turned upside down with the sudden arrival of a charming stranger.”

In Six Degrees of Separation, characters from various backgrounds are thrown together in unexpected situations, and we watch them as they endear themselves to each other, enrage each other, and unravel ultimately to a point of self examination brought on by the charming stranger/con artist.

The result is both humanizing and condemning, leaving us to ponder on what we value, who we care about, and why. Exploring existential ideas, the play delves into a purposeless society with friendships driven by agenda, loneliness and Sisyphean task painted by the never-ending cycle of making enough to sustain their carefully constructed world of privilege.

Notably, the title “Six degrees of separation” plays only a small part in the play, and the theme of inter-connectivity between all people falls in behind more dominant themes of class and race.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand plays Ouisa Kittredge with a commanding stage presence, her nuanced portrayal of a Manhattan socialite with confused sense of self, pretentious and greedy on one side to someone with an inner need for authenticity and meaningful relationships is near perfection.

Andrew Grainger’s Flan Kittredge, is Ouisa’s supportive husband desperately trying to ensure their place in Manhattan society. We feel a tinge of pity for him at the start however as the plot unravels, with his character clinging on to his false persona and his refusal to self examine becomes unnerving to watch. 

Tane Williams-Accra plays Paul the charming stranger posing as a friend of Kittredge’s children, his somewhat awkward beginning is promptly overshadowed by his natural charisma that endears him to his unlikely hosts. He enthrals his unwitting ‘targets’ and the audience alike with his thoughtful ideologies on art, literature, philosophy; a stark contrast to the insecure, bratty and over privileged children of Kittredge as we witness later on in the play.  

One of the key symbols explored in Six Degrees of Separation is a double-sided painting, that Flan Kittredge describes as “one side geometric and sombre. The other side is wild and vivid and adds “We flip it around for variety”  The painting is attributed to Wasily Kandinsky, a celebrated artist whose career spanned the turn of the last century. Ouisa Kittredge explains the nature of the painting and how it is symbolic of the chaotic side of the painting’s dualism. She says: “Chaos, control. Chaos, control. You like, you like?” Making this the question that explains the dual role of the play in its relationship to the art. Though it is about the wealthy and their world it is quite apparent that the notion of chaos and control are very cleverly placed in the art symbolism.

Kandinsky painting holds a place in this production as an example of the dual nature of the play and it’s plot. On one side is the security of the wealthy New York family, while on the other side is the character Paul who is from the streets and possesses an extraordinary intelligence, that is used to con the people that he involves himself with. 


Overall a highly entertaining, thought provoking and relevant production. Six Degrees of Separation is showing until 30th August at ASB Waterfront Theatre..

seen | Mia figlia! Dio! mia figlia! Gilda!

Warwick Fyfe - Rigoletto + Emma Pearson - Gilda

My daughter! God! My daughter! Gilda! are the cries in the last scene of Verdi’s Rigoletto where Warwick Fyfe as Rigoletto and Emma Pearson as daughter Gilda create an emotional, dramatic finale in NZ Opera’s modern ‘Italian mafia’ take on this great tale.  The solemn ending is captured in photograph by Neil Mackenzie.

Rigoletto tells the tale from the perspective of a ‘fool’ Rigoletto who due to his unfortunate appearance uses his words to attack his fellow constituents and when this finally backfires his karmic comeuppance is devastatingly heart-wrenching.

The stage comes to life with Fyfe introducing us to Rigoletto. We then meet Duca di Mantova (Duke of Mantua) performed by Rafael Rojas, who sadly due to illness was not at the top of his game on the night and unfortunately failed to truly wow the audience. There is no mistaking Rojas talent which was certainly apparent in those high notes, and so hopefully he will be back in full form for the rest of the Auckland shows. On a more pleasant note, Pearson‘s coloratura soprano performance is incredible, clear, crisp and on pitch, sending tingles down your spine.

I found the operatic singing of Italian, breathtaking and the famous aria La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle) which has in recent times been performed by world renowned tenors such as Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli, one of the highlights of the show. Another highlight is most certainly the quartet in which the Duke flirts with the barmaid Maddalena portrayed by Kristin Darragh and Rigoletto showing his daughter Gila the Duke’s true nature, this juxtaposed with the orchestra’s build-up is hair-raising.

Throughout the show you are enveloped by visual and aural splendour. The set and props have been masterfully crafted, beautiful lit with often challenging scenes including rotating stage and handheld torch lights. The Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra fill the theatre with tremendous warmth and ambience giving body and flavour to the whole night. All carefully guided by Director Lindy Hume and team.

For the average Opera novice this is a spectacular show full of emotion, passion, conviction and beauty, if you’ve never been, NZ Opera’s production of Rigoletto will not disappoint.

Tickets are on sale and range from $50 to $180 approx.