Tag Archives: Live Performance

K’Rd Strip

I went to see K’Rd Strip last night at Downstage Theatre.  I enjoyed it very much. The publicity material makes it look like it will be all glittery fierceness. I found it to be engaging, fun, melancholic, sexy, hilarious, and clever. It’s full of NZ songs, chosen for their lyrical appropriateness, with delightful and surprising arrangements. I’m impressed at the way the stories of the people of K Rd were woven through and told either through the song or in little vignettes.

Also (quite selfishly) more men should wear guyliner and short skirts.

 

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Tu

I am going to see Tu. It’s closing night tonight. Here’s hoping it’s not as dramatic as opening night when an audience member was taken sick. (The cast, crew, and theatre staff handled the situation extremely well but still…)

 

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Matariki Development Festival

I went to the final set of play readings at the Matariki Development Festival today. The festival is a week long series of workshops for new works by Maori writers. This is where a script is read by a cast, they play with some of the scenes, and ask questions of the writer. The writer then has the opportunity to make some rewrites. The play readings vary from a static read (the cast sit in one place and read from the script) through to an on-book performance (with simple blocking, minimal props.) The two works showcased today were quite different. One was excerpts from a play at the very beginning of its life. The other was a more mature work which had many of us in audience crying with laughter, then in sorrow. I can’t wait to see it in production. Ka rawe!

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Sydney Bridge Upside Down

Sydney Bridge Upside Down

This is tonight’s viewing.

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Everything is ka pai

This was the first thing I went to after I arrived in Auckland for the Auckland Arts Festival 2013. It was a fantastic way to start, not least of which was running into people I know. I saw more people that I knew in the 15 mins before the show started than I ever do on the streets of Wellington. (So what if most of them were from Wellington…)

According to the Festival website, Everything is ka pai “In a nutshell: Kiwi crooners, class acts and good times” which is a pretty accurate description of what we got. (It’s missing out on the ‘heart’ bit of the equation but I guess there was a word count.)  It was held in the Auckland Town Hall, a lovely fancy venue. The audience were ready to engage with the performers and the performers were warm towards the audience.

So it starts in the dark with Hinewehi Mohi and Tama Nathan performing Haere Mai (Everything is ka pai), kicks into gear with house band The Yoots (THE YOOTS), digs into my heart with Seth Haapu and Blue Smoke (marred by an annoying buzzing but still beautiful), then brings the cheeky with the Modern Maori Quartet’s version of Pokarekare Ana. Four tracks in, there are people dancing in the aisles and smiles all over the place. Our first chance to sing along is Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. It’s a bit dodgy (the band has solos which are fantastic but confuse us) which adds to the charm of the night. It feels like we are all responsible for how it goes.  Maisey Rika with the St Joseph’s Maori Girls Choir sing a Hirini Melbourne waiata, then Te Waka Huia (TE WAKA HUIA) take us Round the Motu with waiata from all over NZ. It’s a fantastic combination of songs in English and songs in Maori. The Modern Maori Quartet are back with Cruise (arranged by Tama Waipara who arranged the evening), then Ten Guitars played by Ten Good Wa(hine)s (hahaha) featuring Anika Moa and Julia Deans. The two featured women have a wonderful rapport, hilariously trying to out do each other’s vocals. The Ten Good Wa’s include a string quartet, several guitars and a ukulele. The first half closes with Ria Hall belting out Whakaaria Mai. Actually, that undersells what she does but I can’t think of some other way to describe it. I guess it’s that she sings her spirit into the waiata.

In the break I nip out to get a couple glasses of wine (1 for me and 1 for a friend) only to almost spill them when Stan Walker bumps into me. I find my friend again and she invites me to sit at her table. It was fun sitting at the back being able to see almost the whole audience but not so fun not being able to see past the sound guy who kept standing up. (Sit down bro, you’re in the way.) Her table is halfway down on the side. Immediately I spot another two friends. I’ve been at this new table for 10 seconds and already I’m ignoring them. Happily there’s enough time to be introduced to everyone. I also have a good chat with my closest table mate. He and his partner have been in the country for 5 weeks. They love the concert, particularly the MMQ. (Not surprising I guess. Gorgeous men with lovely voices and a little bit cheeky.)

The second half starts with a conga line around the hall. Somehow I’m dragged in (actually I know how, Miria George *glares*) and dance my way around the tables. Will and Annie Crummer with The Rarotongans sing three songs. Song number two Aue Taku Tane has the whole crowd spellbound. Maisey Rika, Ria Hall and Annie Crummer are back with a song celebrating Ethnic Beauty. I’m not entirely sure about the lyrics although once again, I guess there’s a limit to how many ideas you can get into a thing. Finally John Rowles sings Cheryl Moana Marie and If I Only Had Time. My friend was so excited that we had to stand to the side. She couldn’t stay seated. It was a little like seeing a living legend…actually, it was exactly that. I can’t exactly remember what happened next – either Te Waka Huia came back out and sang Poi E OR the marching band came out playing Maori Battalion March to Victory. All I remember at the end was an overwhelming sense of good humour and aroha. Not a bad way to finish a performance.

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Dog and Bone

After tonight’s performance of Dog and Bone we were invited to say something. Not to be shy. That if we had something to say there was a space for us to stand and say it. Kei te whakama ahau. Kaore au e tu. Kaore au e korero. I was moved by something but I did not speak. I must learn to stand. Then to speak. Aroha mai, Te Rakau Hua o te Wao Tapu Trust. This is what I should have said.

Toi te kupu. Toi te mana. Toi te whenua. Tihei Mauri Ora. Tena koutou katoa. He mihi tenei ki nga atua Maori. Kei te mihi, kei te mihi. E te roopu performance he mihi tenei ki a koutou. Ka pai to mahi. Kei te mihi, kei te mihi.
He mihi tenei ki a koutou kua haere mai nei i tenei po. Kei te makariri i tenei po. Kei te mihi, kei te mihi.
Ko wai au? Ko Tainui te waka. Ko Ngati Raukawa to iwi. Ko Ngati Tukorehe te hapu. Ko Kris Wehipeihana toku ingoa. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
The first time I was in Dunedin, my friend drove me out on the causeway, and told me the story of the caves. It was unbelievable. I could not believe that people would do that to other people. I mean, I know that Dunedin gets hot, I’ve been there when it’s 30 degrees. But I’ve seen pictures of the snow…and that they would work people that hard? And make them live in those conditions? It was unbelievable to me. They were alienated from their land. And that happened in many ways. Like we have seen here tonight.
This play is one of a continuim of New Zealand plays that I am seeing this week. I saw One Day Moko on Tuesday. It’s about homelessness. I saw The Prospect last night. It’s about a gang in small town New Zealand. On Saturday I’m going to see Michael James Manaia. They are all New Zealand stories, they may all be Maori stories. I want to thank you for adding to that continuim. Cast and crew. He mihinui ki a koutou. I particularly want to reference Ngati Irawaru who were there all the time. You were beautiful. Beautiful and terrifying. I loved the mix of traditional performance and the dreamlike sequences that you featured in. Thank you.
The ideas in the script seem very foreign to me. “Half caste” “Nigger” “Savages” ‘We’re all doomed.’ I know we are not perfect, but we’re a long way from doomed. I am grateful that those ideas are so very far away from me. And from what I see in the people around me, and the people I saw on stage. I’m learning Maori, as you are learning your craft. I say that as someone who knows that this is a process that continues over a lifetime. That as you grow, and the stories that you tell change, and the people you tell those stories to change, you learn a little more. Thank you for letting us come on this journey with you. Or at least, this little bit of it. No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

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One day Moko and The prospect

In three days I have been to two shows which take a look at societal challenges in New Zealand. One day Moko (homelessness) and The prospect (poverty, gangs). I'm calling it socially conscious theatre, and these examples are excellent. If I had time I would jump at the chance to see them again without hesitation.

One day Moko

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A solo performance by Tim Carlsen, directed by Sophie Roberts. Essentially it follows Moko through a typical day in his life. He is homeless. Then one day, everything changes… Unfortunately I didn't see any programmes so I'm not sure of all the people involved (Theatreview tells me – A/V Edit by Daniel McEwan and Joe Newman; Lighting Design by Jennifer Lal, but there may be more people involved.)?? Carlsen has sharp physicality which plays the sloppy character out nicely. He is all awkward angles – sharp wrists, tilted head, mouth askew. This combines with the hard edges of the machines used in the show (an old TV, a video player (DVD?), a cassette player) to contrast the human and societal construct that Moko finds himself in.

A ceramic tumbler with a fracture.

The prospect

A new play by Maraea Rakuraku, directed by first time (stage) director Tammy Davis. Rakuraku wrote it to "understand why gangs are such a present, violent and traumatic part of my life and that, of the community that I come from." The dialogue is natural, casual, funny, and heartbreaking. There's probably space for edits to tighten up the dramatic tension but overall it is a powerful piece of work which was compellingly staged in the premiere season at the Gryphon Theatre. The lighting (Laurie Dean), sound (Karnan Saba), design (Wai Mihinui, Jaimee Warda), and music (Rawiri and Joseph Hirini) were there in support of the story in a way that flowed with the scenes.

Some of the scenes will stay with me for a long time.

Kuia Duchess (Grace Hoet) and her friend Ray (Ralph Johnson) circling each other. Intent on their own tasks, but always moving in relationship.

Gilbert (Rob Ringiao Lloyd) eyeballing members of the audience, quietly explaining _exactly_ how things lie.

A trio – Te Manawanui (Tola Newbery), Hombre (Joe Dekkers-Reihana) and Ugg (Moana Ete) – facing each other over a space that represents different distances to each of them. Hombre desperate with wild eyes and tense shoulders. Ugg full of aroha, with open arms, grounded. Te Manawanui broken, denying the relationship down to his fingernails.

The flinch of a strong shoulder.
New growth from a broken plant.
A moving box made of cardboard and sticky tape.
Springy grass by the seaside.
An old, still functional, washing machine with a hand wringer settled into a paddock.
A twist of effluent in clear water.

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Waka, choreographed by Neil Ieremia, performed by Black Grace

This work explores "the idea of a raft as a metaphor for hope". It started from The raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault, which inspired The Arrival of the Maoris in New Zealand by Louis J. Steele and Charles F. Goldie. Ieremia says he thought about 'history being written by the victor, never by the people who were slaughtered' and how sometimes that history (as in the Steele and Goldie painting) is misrepresented. Then his mind turned to musing on what would happen if he was one of ten people left on the raft, all the food and water had been lost – would he turn to his companions and start thinking that one of them looked pretty good?

Overall, this piece confirmed that I like watching Ieremia's work when it is interpreted by professional dancers. They are usually more experienced. There is something about the way the work is held and expressed by their bodies that is stronger than that for amateur dancers. It's not necessarily that they are more precise, or more drilled. To my eyes they seem heavier, more connected to the ground. I really liked the way choreographic elements were picked up and repeated throughout the whole piece. In fact, the first two movements seemed to me to be visual representations of the sound of a symphony. Not the music that they were dancing to, but a completely different piece. If musical notation didn't exist, then I think the first couple of movements could be scores for music. (It put me in mind of The RSVP cycles which explores scoring (like music) human endeavour.) The third movement has made it onto my favourite dance pieces list. As well drilled as a marching team, it was repetitive, sharp, with flashes of humour.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the athleticism of the dancers. They work hard for 65 minutes. They are stripped back and strong. Nga mihinui.

Waka, choreographed by Neil Ieremia, performed by Black Grace

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Matariki development festival at Circa Theatre

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This is the third year the festival has been going. It is an “indigenous playwrights’ festival developing new plays by indigenous writers” held over a week. It is based on a similar festival in North America. At the beginning of the week there were two panel discussion, one with Maori women playwrights, and one about Pacific Island theatre. The panels and rehearsed play readings are open to the public. It’s exciting to be present when a work is at the beginning of its development. There are things to be worked on, tightened up, shifted, but the potential of pieces can almost be tasted.
Nga mihinui ki a koutou.

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Leaps & Sounds

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Through a serendipitous Twitter conversation I scored a ticket to Leaps & Sounds, a collaborative performance by the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. They matched 9 RNZB dancers/choreographers to 9 music pieces by young composers (from the NZSO’s Young Originals Todd Corporation Young Composers Award.) Some of the music had never been performed live for an audience. Some of the choreographers had never seen their work performed before a public audience. There were only two shows and tickets were free. I was too slow to book a ticket, but luckily one of the composers had a spare ticket. (Thanks @ellisrobbie!)
I wish I’d taken some paper and a pen in with me so I could take notes because all I’m left with is an impression without many details. I remember that I was surprised by what some of the composers did with their pieces. There were some with a steady driving rhythm and some that were more lyrical in their approach. Some had repeated melodies. Some were melancholic, some were creepy, some were bouyant, some did tricky things with timing. Similarly with the choreography. The dancers were fragmented, then in sync. I remember really liking a piece that had a woman partnered by two men (a recurring choreographic theme), plus another that had partner work that switched fluidly between woman/man, and man/man, woman/woman, and back. I laughed at cheeky comedic touches, and was moved by the beauty of some of the dancing.
Robbie’s piece was called Feral. The dancers were costumed as demented dolls in full body beige onesies with different coloured high ponytails. They were all over the place like broken clockwork dolls, then they’d be together for a while, then off again. There was some nice demented partner work as well. Robbie was really pleased with the choreography by Jaered Glavin. ‘He gets my music’ was his comment. I hope the other composers felt the same way.

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