Tag Archives: performing arts

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.

been | Close City

The Passion, excitement and unspoken nervous tension of an opening night are heightened in the small crammed studio host to ‘Close City’ – a play produced by Amber Rose Henshall and directed by Egle Simkeviciute Kulvelis.

Written by Marius Ivaskevicius, Close City paints a colourful and provocative tale of marriage most mundane, dominance and submission, all with a decidedly Scandinavian quintessence.

Sheena Irving and Jeff Szusterman play the fragile centrepieces of this play with superb support from Lucy Suttor as the fantastical mermaid, Thomas Sainsbury provides comedy with his character’s quirky swedish anecdotes and bizarre reflective musings, Daniel Watterson plays the dashingly deviant Lars, along with Emma Newborn as the morally corrupt Birgit.

With clever metaphors between glass and the innate fractures of close relationships, parallels pertaining to the distance of cities, (Malmo & Copenhagen) and the journey of discovering another part of oneself previously repressed, albeit far from home, Close City is a story that alongside superb acting, clever and detailed artistic direction that leaves one feeling not quite the same as when they entered.

Thought-provoking and engaging, this is one show of the Basement Theatre’s Spring Season that is a must-see!


Close City is showing at Basement Theatre 6th-17th September

Been | Leilani

From first throes, seated in the back row of a dimly lit and intimate theater, we are drawn into the tragycomedy of Leilani (Irasa Siave), a naive but incredibly loveable heroine, who shares her journey from the onset – the consequences of an unrewarding love, to being down on her luck and cast amongst the undesirables of society.

Director Pedro Ilgenfritz introduces the play and it’s players; Aymee Karaitiana, Irasa Siave & Natasha Daniel and their young, yet uniquely impressive Mahukia Theatre Company.

The use of masks to emulate the emotions of it’s characters, together with the sparse and barren settings of the stage, play a very important part in capturing the core soul of the play.  One that deals with such issues relevant to our own urban culture; homelessness, unplanned pregnancy and despair.

Pedro’s direction combined with the subtle use of choreography, sets just the right pace throughout the 70min performance to engage the audience’s attention and keep us invested in it’s characters and their evolution towards the end.  The inclusion of comedic elements as well as the irony of finding love, acceptance and hope from out on the bleak dark streets, bring too, some light relief to an otherwise grim subject.

Language is not merely confined to just words, language can manifest itself through imagery, movement and music, which is what Leilani successfully achieves as a theatrical experience, one that takes you on a journey through the essence of music reminiscent of silent movies, movement, comedy and a reverent tribute to the Commedia dell’Arte”.

It is an experience that is worth the admission price 10 times over!   A truly moving and polished performance.


***  Leilani is part of the Matchbox 2016 Season and is showing at the Q-Theatre (Loft) from August 4th – Saturday 13th

been | The Book Of Everything

The Book Of Everything returns to the Auckland stage at Q Theatre after a successful run last year. It is an adaptation of a children’s book of the same name by Dutch Author Guus Kuijer. Author and playwright Richard Tulloch has done a fantastic job transforming the book into a play, celebrating the boundless power of imagination while providing a lesson about bravery in life. With superb direction by Sophie Roberts, The Book Of Everything is an entertaining theatrical experience to be sure.

seen | Hummingbird

We meet Phoebe, standing on a doorstep in the rain, three months after her boyfriend’s disappearance, and, it is assumed, death. With nowhere else to go, she flees to her sister’s dairy farm. Once there, after a rude wake up call from her brother-in-law, Phoebe decides it’s time to pull herself together and do something. So, she decides she’ll fly away – “with wings and shit”.

Hummingbird deals with three people’s losses, three people’s hopes, and three variations on sanity. Phoebe wants to fly away; her sister wants a baby; and her step brother doesn’t know what he wants, until Phoebe gives him a wake up call of his own. It is a story of transformation and realisation, which anyone who has lost or found something will relate to. What could be a weighty subject is tempered with well-timed humour and a touch of the absurd.

The three young cast members (Sophie Vowell, Chelsea McEwan Millar, and Barnaby Fredric) have received just praise from the local theatre industry. They have a natural affinity for each other, yet some of the strongest parts were their monologues, where each of these actors came into their own. Despite a few fumbled lines and a script that, once or twice, felt a little contrived, these three do an admirable job of bringing complex characters to life. Playing out on a creatively realised set, to a well-executed live score, Hummingbird comes together for a fun and absorbing hour that Fringe-goers would do well to see.

Hummingbird is playing from the 7th to 10th of March, at The Basement Theatre, 8:30pm. Tickets are $20, or $15 on concession. For more information, check out http://www.aucklandfringe.co.nz/Fringe-2013_2/Fringe13Master/Events/Theatre/Hummingbird.aspx

Ship Songs: Yarns from the sea. Spun from the heart.

If you’re in the mood for a little romance check out Ian Hughes revamped Ship Songs at Q Theatre. Endearing audiences when it first showed in 2008, this tale has been reworked and it’s all the more richer for it.

It’s easy to fall in love a tiny bit with each of the fourteen characters Ian Hughes portrays in what is essentially, a love letter to his parents.

Inspired by the true story of how his mother and father met, there are three seafaring stories all woven together, one of a young girl taking a chance and boarding a cargo boat bound for Canada, another of a young Irish convict on a prison boat who falls in love with a beautiful wahine and the tale of 15th Century Chinese Admiral determined to sail around the world.

Sumptuous visuals and yearning ballads by Don McGlashan add to the sense of sweetness and whimsy.

Don and his talented two companions are centre stage with their music, occasionally providing comic relief, sound effects and even acting.  Ship Songs is all about taking a chance and finding your own place in the world and Ian Hughes seamlessly sweeps you along for the journey. Highly recommended.


Written and Performed by Ian Hughes

Directed by Anna Marbrook

Music by Don McGlashan

2 Dimensional Life of Her

While a chunk of the city’s population are gallivanting at Splore, I’m staying in Auckland this weekend. But it’s not without its events to keep the intentionally or unintentionally grounded from being entertained.

The New Performance Festival is on now at the Aotea Centre from the 17 – 25 of February. 9 days of genre-bending shows, where New Zealand artists join forces with international acts, to push the boundaries of theatre, dance, music and art.

2 Dimensional Life of Her is one such show, created by Australian artist Fleur Elise Noble. With multiple projections, Noble leads the audience down the rabbit hole of her studio. Sketches come to life, only to get erased by her mop, or destroyed by rogue string puppets. In turn, puppets tear their paper confines and chase a projection of Noble out of whatever 2D surface she finds herself in. Before the puppets visually overwhelm the set, she then resurfaces on another part of the screen and, with her trusty mop and bucket, wipe the hooligans back to oblivion. Everything is in black and white. Everything is a work in progress.

The sound of her footsteps reverberate through the room, giving clues as to where in the space she is located.  Multiple screens host the projections, irregular and layered. A white cut out of Noble’s silhouette stands in front of a bigger screen, another screen hangs adjacent where her studio is projected. A projection of a table holds a pile, several torn paper completes the floor. Darkness, chaos, heavy footsteps, the string puppets’ misbehavior and the incessant creation and destruction of images; it is both unsettling and amusing. Bursts of live, theatrical invasions remind the audience it’s all happening in real time.

One doesn’t search for a narrative on 2 Dimensional Life of Her; it’s of the same grain as that of a dreamscape. String puppets sit to watch a short film of Noble looking for her paper cut-out on the loose. Suddenly, everything roars in flames. The engineering of the sound and projections are brilliantly executed that any sense of reality is temporarily suspended, leaving you to believe those flames are real.

While the plot is amorphous, what’s directly conveyed are the emotions of an artist at work in her studio, perpetually creating and destroying images. And just before you start believing it’s getting too esoteric, real-life Noble emerges from the shadows. “I guess you guys are looking for a happy ending,” she pronounces. The tone switches to that of irreverence, with the puppets returning in full colour, on a paper sailboat, waving goodbye. Real-life Noble hilariously instructs each string puppet to their task. After a huge amount of time devoted to tension, this was the release. It wasn’t meant to be all serious. Down the rabbit chute I was seeking for some heart and relief flooded me when I found it in the end.

Being an artist myself, it’s the sense of play and irreverence in the process of making art that I identify with these days, more than the pain and the struggle. Without the injection of humor and pathos in the show it could be perceived as just another pretentious conceptual performance. Thankfully, that’s not the case. 2 Dimensional Life of Her is executed impressively, with most gears of its engine created by Noble herself – puppetry, animation, film, projection, stage design, drawing and direction. Illusory, captivating and charming. Back to front, then back again.


2 Dimensional Life of Her

Friday 17 – Tuesday 21 February
6.30pm Mon/Tues/Fri, 4pm and 6.30pm Sat/Sun
40 minutes
Lower NZI 2, Aotea Centre
Adult $25, Senior/Student/Groups $20
Limited door sales available or pre-book now at THE EDGE