Monthly Archives: April 2011

August: Osage County

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There are a couple of quality shows on in Wellington atm. This one is pretty funny but there’s a nasty undercurrent to it (well, it is about family relationships). Violet’s husband disappears and her family – daughters and their family, her sister and her family – descend upon the house like flies. Secrets are revealed and tempers are lost.
All the performances are superb. There are several not-much-time-on-stage parts and each actor is very grounded and real in their performance. (And in one case quite, quite creepy.)

I saw this play in Auckland. The two productions are very different – the ATC design was spare and sparse giving the actors nowhere to hide (apparently quite exhilarating) whereas the Circa production is naturalistic and more domestic. I kept describing it as earthy but I think grounded is a better description now. The characters speak the same words but are being played in quite a different way giving a different perspective on what is happening for that character. I found it exciting to see the different choices – it was almost like seeing a different play. I enjoyed it more at Circa but I think this was because I knew the story and could enjoy the performances. There were a couple of moments that I thought could have been played for a stronger effect. However, when I kept saying “I really liked it when [that person] did [this thing]” in the post show discussion I knew that there wasn’t really a lot to work on. (From my pov, obv.) Favourite scene – in the very beginning when Mr Weston (Ray Henwood) keeps topping up his glass…he’s only having small drinks…there just happens to be about 16 of them!

Remember – it’s THREE acts long with TWO intervals. Don’t make the mistake of walking out after the second act.

Book at Circa Theatre box office 04 801 7992
August: Osage County, 2 April – 7 May
Tickets $25 – $46
Tue-Thu 6.30pm; Fri-Sat 7.30pm; Sun 4.00pm

Running time 3 hours and 30 minutes (including 2 intervals)

The spy who wouldn’t die again

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There are a couple of quality shows on in Wellington atm and this is the purely entertaining one. Super spy Stephen St Clair is at his retirement party and is convinced to tell us about one of his missions. *guffaw guffaw* Cue flashback to New Zealand in the 80s! Cue strange and wonderful characters! Cue beautiful women! Cue accents and wigs! Cue mayhem and fun!

I can’t spoil the story for you – if you’ve seen any spy movie from the 80s then you pretty much know the plot. What I particularly loved was the way that the company used the whole theatre space.  The four actors and one stage manager did an amazing job of running around the different levels and trapdoors at Downstage. There were too many moments of pure joy to pick out a favourite. Recommended. 

Book at Downstage Theatre box office, phone 04 801 6946
The spy who wouldn’t die again, SEEyD Company, 31 Mar – 23 Apr
Suitable for age 12+; Tickets $25-$46
31 Mar – 23 Apr

Performance Times
Tuesday – Wednesday 6.30pm
Thursday – Saturday 8pm
(no show Sun and Mon)
Note: no show on Good Friday 22 April.
Public Matinee: Sat 16 April, 4pm
Duration: 90 mins plus interval

Disclaimer: I’m stoked to be a Downstage Ambassador which means they give me tickets to their shows for Season One. Unfortunately I was sick the night the tickets were booked so I paid for my own ticket. (Unfortunate that I was sick, not that I had to pay that is.)

Mediated by technology

Earlier this year I went to two shows* that mediated the audience experience using technology. The first was an immersion thing where the audience were the performers and there was no audience except for the mildly puzzled people wandering back and forth to the bathrooms. (At least, that's what they did at Matterhorn where the play was staged.) In 'Etiquette' my friend and were given ipods and told to follow the instructions. (Hard to concentrate on that when we were also given plasticine, eyedropper, glass of water and tiny people to play with. Fun!) Our acquaintance had mostly been mediated through technology so the most difficult part of the whole experience for us was sustaining eye contact. It was short and it was a bit weird but I'd definitely go to the next one.
The second was more traditional in that I went to a theatre and there were paid performers. 'Love you approximately' is a devised show about a long-distance relationship between a woman in New Zealand and a man in Spain. I liked the idea behind it – unfortunately I think the execution of that idea could have used some work in set design (transparent cloth walls for screens were excellent but having the (solo) actress hidden behind the screens was not) and some stylistic choices (where were the self portraits from the funny angles because you're stretching your arm out to take them? Why were some video clips documentary style and others amateur video? JUST ANNOYING.) The man (on pre-recorded video) came across as warmer than the woman on stage and it wasn't until someone pointed out it that he was larger than she was (due to projection vs. real life size) that I clicked that maybe that was why.
I get to go to another show/experience facilitated by technology and presented by Downstage next month – 'Death and the dreamlife of elephants'. It's billed as "an experience across multiple platforms – on the streets of Wellington, on the radio, ??in a city-wide treasure hunt, and by delving into an interactive website." There will be some street happenings facilitated by social media. The website is just counting down at the moment so it looks as though something will happen around Easter. Keep your eyes peeled peeps!

I'm really liking the way that I'm being challenged as audience to reframe what I think of as performance. Very pleased that performance isn't always sitting there, quietly, in the dark, waiting to be entertained.

*N.B. I attended these shows courtesy of Downstage – for Season One I'm one of their Ambassadors which means that I get review tickets to all the shows. Thanks Downstage! *mwah*

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