Monthly Archives: February 2010

Auckland Theatre Company – ATC – 2010 Clash Season: The Importance of Being Earnest


Backstage story for “The importance of being Earnest” Monday March 1st @ 6.30pm.

Art Lounge, New Gallery, Auckland Art Gallery, Lorne street.

Bookings and reservations are not needed for this free event.

See you there?

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In the 30’s


My friend Fiona recently celebrated her 30’s in Napier during the Art Deco Festival week. We gathered at the Sunken Garden in Napier for a picnic lunch. Lots of people were in Art Deco costume which was awesome. My favourite part was the aerobatics display. ( If only I’d known that the beach was 1min walk away the planes wouldn’t have disappeared behind trees.)  This was a festive occasion and people were really getting into it by dressing up and gently teasing each other. My friends and their kids had a wonderful time at the other free events. It sounds like something I’ll want to investigate further.

I prepared for this installment of #smackmyarts by reading “The bolter” by Frances Osborne. It’s about Idina Sackville “the woman who scandalised 1920s society and became White mischief’s infamous seductress”. It was a fascinating look into the world of the very rich (and quite scandalous) from aristocratic Britain during two world wars and beyond. Drunkenness, nudity, divorces, affairs – all with a desperate air of living life to the full. There’s plenty of detail – from letters, diaries and interviews. ( I think it gets more interesting after Idina’s first divorce so persevere through the descriptions of what her husband was up to.)  Following that I am ripping my way through the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood. This is quirky little series about a female detective in 1920s Melbourne. It’s more fun than it seems. (There’s plenty of sex and crime in this series too.)

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“Taihoa. I’m talking to my mate.”


“Le Sud”. Some clever revisionist history which manages to reference French history and New Zealand towns as they might have evolved had the French managed to claim the South Island before the British did. It’s been well reviewed all over the place by critics and audiences alike.

I went to one of the preview nights so the cast were still figuring out how to incorporate the audience into the rhythm of the play. We definitely laughed in places they weren’t expecting. The political scandals referenced have been well documented by the media so I don’t think you need to do any further research. There are some excellent Super City jokes plus some Auckland related jokes (which you may have heard before.)
My favourite conceit/s of the play were the different languages used with the expectation that the audience would understand it. (Thank god for third form French!)

The set really is quite lovely. It is very elegant in golds and creams, and fades into the background when the actors are on stage. There are quite a few people playing two sides of the game so keep your eyes open….

Le Sud
Maidment Theatre to 06 March
Tickets $35-$57

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The Second Test


I thought I’d missed a window for this review but look ^ it’s been extended for three more shows. I saw “The Second Test” on opening night. I knew it was about cricket and that it was a one-man show. Beyond that – well, it was geek week and I didn’t make any time to do more investigation into the story.
The basic story is this – NZ are playing Sth Africa in a cricket test. One of the NZ cricketers has received news that his fiancee has been killed in the train crash at Tangiwai. He chooses not to play. The remaining 10 players take the field. (Two at a time as NZ are batting.) Several players are injured. Finally the nine are out. Both teams start walking off the field when a figure appears… giving NZ their 11th man back allowing play to continue.
I enjoyed the versatility and staging in the show. It’s a wonderful showcase for Jonny Brugh who gets to play a myriad of different characters including the PM, classic kiwi blokes, women, and a Sth African driver. There are some very clever and very funny scenes. There is emotional truth in these characters. I’ll confess to getting a bit lost as to which character was which. (I put that down to the fact that I haven’t watched team sports for a while and have therefore lost the ability to remember a bunch of names.) The writers have talked to some of the players families so the story has that extra bit of insight. Film footage of the tour shot by one of the players rounds out the show adding something extra special.


Monday 15 – Saturday 27 February at The Herald Theatre.
Tickets $20-$25. Book at The Edge.


Read more about the story in “Men in white : the history of New Zealand international cricket, 1894-1985” by Don Neely and Richard King.





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Backstage story – Le Sud by Dave Armstrong


Auckland Theatre Company do a really cool “meet the creative team” thing before their plays.  The one for “Le Sud” was on last week.  Now I have to confess I wasn’t entirely sure about this play.  It’s a political satire and I don’t really keep up with what the pollys are doing. (Nothing worse than going to a comedy and not getting the jokes. That just leads to drinking and we all know where that leads…) Apparently though the cast have been sending suggestions to the writer and he has been tweaking the play so that it now has lots of Auckland based jokes (e.g. Supercity!*) so I can be sure to laugh at something. 

The director Raymond Hawthorne said that it must be hell on the actors to have the changes made so quickly and so often.  He’s worked with the play from the very beginning and he sounds impressed with the structure. They talked a lot about the rhythm of the play which of course completely changes when the audience is introduced.  Jennifer Ward-Lealand said that the “audience is the missing link for us. It’s like riding a completely new rhythm.”  Preview shows are very important for a play like this.  It’s contemporary but the writer has to make sure that the jokes are still relevant.  Sometimes jokes based on situations that might seem dated are still relevant to the audience.  Hawthorne said that we will laugh at the “recognition of us”.

The team was well represented with the director, the full cast and a couple of the designers on hand to talk about what they were up to.  In fact I think the only person missing was the writer.  They were constantly referring to him (“impressively fast turnaround for scripts”) and complimenting him (“best work ever!”) so it was almost as if he was there.  There was also a guy who I think is the ATC Artistic Director acting as the MC/Chair for the night.

It was neat to watch the dynamics between the cast.  They looked like they were having fun with each other and with the play.  They say that they all crack up in rehearsal everyday.  ‘Political correctness goes out the window with such broad characters but it’s never offensive.’  I personally found the designers interesting.  They talked about their influences and how what they ended up with (my words) the essence of the thing.  In other words the set and lighting design didn’t have to be exact but had to support the play without overwhelming it. Phillip Dexter said ‘Can’t be too realistic otherwise the audience  won’t believe; need to suggest.’  I wasn’t that surprised to see how many different influences there were on the look and feel of the play – once I stopped to think about it.  For example, here are my notes about Tracy Grant-Lord “starting point was landscape. fancy french places, hall of mirrors versaille. lots of different influences, oval office, hotels in paris, opulence scenic wallpaper, neoclassical style.” That wasn’t all of them either.  The costume I’m most keen to see is Miriama McDowell‘s one which is a ‘cross between Malibu Barbie and Tame Iti.’

A French colleague in Wellington tweeted me this morning to say “it was really funny” so it’s not just the NZers who will have fun with this.

I’ll leave the last words to the director.

“Don’t bring your children.”

Le Sud by Dave Armstrong
Maidment Theatre 11 February – 06 March

* Exclamation mark is mine. I’d add *ironical jazz hands* too but that might be excessive.

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There’s no need to get excited – notes from LATE 01: Waitangi

In all the hand waving about Waitangi Day it was a pleasure to listen to Sir Douglas Graham and Archdeacon Dr Hone Kaa talk about the Waitangi Tribunal at the Auckland Museum the other night.?? Moderated by Finlay Macdonald they discussed 35 years of the Waitangi Tribunal and the end of the claims process; moving from grievance to development.?? It’s terribly cliched but I felt that they spoke with genuine respect and enjoyment of each others cultures.?? When they disagreed they did so in a civilised manner.?? Sometimes old school rocks.


Sir Douglas has been involved in negotiations in the Auckland region.?? Apparently the original agreement around the volcanic cones was made with Ngati Whatua without consideration of the fact that other iwi have interests in Maungakiekie and Maungawhau.?? That has since been renegotiated and iwi will work together as a collective to act as a recipient of rights.?? Current interests and public rights are preserved under this agreement.?? He then described how each iwi linked to the maunga – this person went there, then that situation happened, then this whanau did that.?? He spoke about how he understood how important it is for iwi to preserve relationships with the maunga as their ancestors had links with the land.


Sir Douglas offered an interesting insight into the process. ‘When we started we had no idea what we were doing nor did Maori. We knew the grievances but not solutions. We worked together – fell over, got up and tried again. This is not commercial negotiations. Emotions are involved.’ He gets a personal thrill from seeing developments by iwi.?? (The money goes to the iwi rather than individuals as ‘It’s not today’s generation that suffered, it was the iwi that suffered.’ He thinks that it’s a common misunderstanging about what happens with the money.?? Rather than going to individuals it goes to the iwi to spend as they will.?? (Usually on scholarships, superannuation schemes etc.)?? Sir Douglas said that it would take time and that iwi may stuff up but then ‘we all have.’?? Archdeacon Dr Kaa agreed and said that it depended on iwi as to whether there was an ‘elite’ created.?? He felt that if the ‘elite’ were prominent then the iwi would suffer.)


Archdeacon Dr Kaa thought the progress was marvellous.?? He described what it was like in the 70s, especially the situation at Bastion Point and how it was a battle with the government.?? He said the Prime Minister was not helpful and expressed a wish that the current progress ‘could have been made 30 years ago.’ He then went on to talk about the first meetings in 1985.?? It was held in a hotel, not on a marae, and only pressure from outside parlament opened the negotiations up. ‘Things changed, progress was made’.?? He said it was ‘amenable to work with Lange’.


It’s been 35 years since the Waitangi Tribunal was set up.?? “With its current resources, the Tribunal expects to have prepared casebooks for all historical claims by 2010 and for all generic claims by 2012.“?? Sir Douglas said the cutoff date was for iwi to make a claim by and if it can’t be settled by that date then we have to be patient and tolerent. In his experience each iwi has different information available to them at different times.?? The protocols that were set up in the very beginning (e.g.?? If this happened then this is what it’s worth) help to progress discussions and put boundaries around what can be asked for.?? He said that there are two parts to every settlement.?? The first is acknowledgement of wrong done and apology from the Crown to iwi on behalf of the people of New Zealand. Often the cash component is less important than the return of land. The financial recompense to the iwi makes sure they are strong forever; it is not intended to deprive people of their social welfare rights. Archdeacon Dr Kaa agreed that the state still had a responsibility.


Sir Douglas talked about the Tribunal as having gathered a body of knowledge which is a history of the encounter between Maori and?? Pakeha. ‘It can teach us something about how to be a multicultural nation.?? It was a matter of finding right place to share stories.?? People can read the histories.?? Don’t have to read too many to discover that something had to change.’?? He felt that New Zealand was streets ahead of other countries in terms of negotiating and settlement.??


Finlay Macdonald asked both of them what they though should happen after the Tribunal had finished making recommendations about Treaty claims.?? Sir Douglas said he thought it should stay and widen its scope to include opportunity for Pakeha to say X iwi was breaching their obligations under the Treaty.?? He thinks it is a body which can mediate breaches of obligations with ‘prejudice against someone.’?? Archdeacon Dr Kaa said no, that the Tribunal was established because Maori asked for it.???? He was however, willing to entertain the idea further.?? He thought that the Tribunal could pursue the task of reconciliation further not just offering apologuies.?? He suggested it could maybe it could be a body to hear grievances into the future.


Archdeacon Dr Kaa talked a little bit about Whanau Ora, a new way to fund providers of schemes and programmes for Maori . It was created as a response to restoring some sense of sovereignty.?? ‘Applying Maori dimensions to Maori problems.?? Won’t need to go through (mostly) white budget holders.’?? He felt that Maori were not as well engaged in the political process as they should be and that he was working on encouraging them.?? He said that there was great disengagement – ‘politics quite boring, politicians even more boring. Maori were never that engaged except for a small number of vocal people. Their memory is of a spokesperson for the whanau or iwi.?? Need to give people that desire, empower them to be their own spokesperson.’



Q. Politicians know that playing the race card usually results in publicity and sometimes votes. Do you think using the ”race card is on the wane???
A. Archdeacon Dr Kaa – I think talkback has replaced that. There are politicians on the radio now! The nation is changing.?? Younger politicians are aware of ‘others’ existance.?? Can see us everywhere.


Q. Do you think Maori should have legislated representation in the new Auckland supercity?
A. Sir Douglas – Yes, in favour of Maori representation in the supercity.?? Was dealing with 13 iwi in negotiations over Maungakiekie and Maungawhau but more iwi interested in Auckland and Coromandel area so could end up with strange representation.?? ‘Put my oar in but it counted for exactly nothing’. Does this conflict with my ideas about national representation? Think there are representatives nationally – Maori Party. There has been a call for Maori house (used example of Maori Anglican Church representatives) but with the existence of the Maori Party the need for a seperate Maori House is lessening.


Q. From Sir Paul Reeves – Was involved in settlements for Wellington region.?? Looked at the word ‘apology’ – it gave the Crown the last word so now we ‘forgive the Crown’ which opens it up for reconciliation and prosperity for the community.
A.. Sir Douglas – oh yes, good evolution.


Q. I’m currently reading Judith Binney’s excellent book “Encircled lands : Te Urewera, 1820-1921 which includes the notion of Tuhoe as an autonomous iwi – is there room for autonomous nation???
A. Archdeacon Dr Kaa – A subject that warms my heart.?? All power to them for pushing soverignty.??
A. Sir Douglas – Don’t think so – look at reservations in the United States.?? In favor of devolving power to iwi (like Whanauora) but thinks NZ is too small Not sure that the concept of having own police force is suitable for NZ.?? Sympathetic to their cause.?? In favor of devolving power to iwi (like Whanauora) but thinks NZ is too small.


Sir Douglas kept saying ‘it will take time, no point in getting too excited about things.’?? He likened it to two families living in the same house with different cultural backgrounds and different ways of working.?? There might be disagreements but if each person is doing their best to make it work the eventually it would.?? The two men showed that it was possible to disagree without resorting to name-calling or sensationalism.


Happy Waitangi Day 2010.



Season tickets available for the LATE series.?? The 2010 theme is “innovation”.?? (There is always a lecture (moderated by the excellent Finlay Macdonald) and good music.?? Plus you get the chance to wander around the Museum at night.)


* notes in ‘ ‘ are not exact quotes, I couldn’t write that fast.
** If you’re wondering about the different ways I’m referring to Sir Douglas Graham and Archdeacon Dr Hone Kaa – I’ve taken my cue from the Museum writeup.?? I’m assuming the writer has taken their cue from the individuals.

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The Lover by Harold Pinter @basementspace

Sexy, funny and a little bit creepy.

The set is hotel-chic, peachy-beige (apologies, I’m not an interior designer), sharp lines, gorgeous cut-glass decanters and glasses. Crisp, sophisticated, “a perfectly manicured world” as described by the director and realised by the designer.
The two main actors – Michelle Langstone (with the sexiest ever short hair) and Craig Hall (just gorgeous) – navigate through and around the furniture. It stands in for the barrier between them which may not be a barrier at all…

I can’t really tell you about the story because then it wouldn’t have the same impact. However, the script is like sparkling mineral water. Fizzy and soothing with a bit of bite. I love the contrast between the controlled and hidden dialogue and the slightly cheesy and out of control monologue-y bit.  The costumes. The costumes! The Crane Brothers do Mr Hall’s costume. He looks lovely but a suit is just a suit right? Ms Langstone’s wardrobe – I covet it. Not so much the orange lacy number but definitely the blue dress in the beginning.  (I haven’t seen Mad Men but I think that this show is styled along the same lines.)

Lest you think I have been overwhelmed by the smoky hotness, it’s not all good. There’s a bit of work to do on the pacing. Some of the dialogue was slightly off in the timing. That should come right in a couple of shows (I think the audience reaction was a surprise at times.) And, although I adore those costumes they do take a lot of time to get on and off which can be a bit disconcerting for the audience. (You’re not quite sure if they’re coming back although the house lights aren’t on so…)

I reckon it’d be the perfect date show. Dinner first then 70mins of crackling dialogue and sexy performances.

Don’t take my word for it – go see it and report back.

The Lover by Harold Pinter, on at The Basement.
Wednesday, 3 February 2010 – Saturday, 13 February 2010
Directed by Caroline Bell-Booth. Starring Craig Hall, Michelle Langstone & Matt MacDougall.
Tickets: $20. Bookings through iTICKET 09 361 1000 or

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Actually, you can eat the art

I saw the Taste: Food and Feasting in Art exhibition in two parts – with lunch in between.  It turns out that you can eat the art.

It wasn’t a painting so no canvas licking on my part.  It was an artwork called “Koha“.  Most of the write-ups about the exhibition mention it.  It’s created from steel pins and chocolate fish (yes, marshmallow chocolate fish).  The work was in a hallway space linking two rooms.  Walking into it you are enveloped by the smell of chocolate and marshmallow. The artist, Robert Jahnke, created it as a comment on guardianship not ownership of fishing stock. (But I reckon it could apply to any resource.)  It feels almost sacrilegious to take part of it away to be eaten.  In fact there weren’t many gone the first time I walked through.  Obviously people got peckish during lunch as more had disappeared when we came back.

I really like “Koha” in ways that I can’t quite articulate.  I think that it raises a lot of questions relating to the artwork (as well as the theme).  The chocolate fish is a Kiwi food icon, the default congratulation/commiseration foodstuff.  What if the fish changed size? (I’m pretty sure it has got smaller over the years.) What if Kraft (who now own Cadbury) decide not to make any more?  Does it matter if the fish face a different direction? (The day we saw it they were facing the other way to the picture on the website.  I wanted to change one of the lines so some of the fish were swimming the other way to all the others.)  How much did the Gallery pay for it?  Do they replace the fish every day?  Do they replace ALL the fish every day?  What happens to the fish that aren’t eaten?  What would it do to the meaning if the fish were cast in resin or preserved in some way so they weren’t edible?  Is one of the conditions of the art that it’s hung in a small space so you can smell the fish?

Fish and seafood was a major part of the exhibition which isn’t surprising.  Lots of photos of seafood, depictions of fish and a wonderful knitted giant octopus or squid with tiny babies which made me laugh. There were more straight up depictions than I expected.  e.g. cooking a hangi, plastic food for Japanese restaurants, doughnuts.  I preferred the more abstract things such as “The Last Supper“, 2 minutes 33 seconds, The Global in the Local.  The descriptions next to the art were also interesting.  One of the paintings “Miracle of loaves and fishes” had a mysterious note saying that it was the last remaining canvas of four.  What happened to the other three?   Another, well, I’m not sure it’s a highlight, piece that caught my eye was the film by Ed Ruscha called “Premium”.  It was interesting to watch the way the food was filmed.  Although art it did have the flavour of a cooking show to it, especially in the way the salad was shown in closeup. 

I’m not really an art person but I like the way that I’ve come away from the exhibition with more questions than answers. 


Taste: Food and Feasting in Art

Until 14 February 2010

Admission: Adult $7, Concession $5, Family Pass $15, Under

5s free.

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