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.
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.
A story on an intimate scale from Red Leap Theatre. Intimate in both the need to be close to the stage to see some of the action and in the story itself.
Henry has made his home his sanctuary. Outside is scary and loud. Inside is safe and secure. Predictable. Then Lumina appears and changes his life.
There isn’t a lot of dialogue in this show which means that the audience has to really focus on the performers to pick up the story. It helps that there is plenty of physical comedy in and around the more serious (and potentially scary) scenes. Clever use of folding scenery showed changes in scene and scale. Who knew paper could be robust and delicate?
Get as close to the stage as you can. Beautiful.
Paper Sky: a love story by Red Leap Theatre
10-14 March, 7pm, Mercury Theatre
I hoped that this would live up to the interview I had caught by luck on RNZ between Kim Hill and the writer Lennie James. The set promised that it would – 5 spaces on different levels spread over the stage with window frames hanging above. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. It’s three hours long but it did not feel like it to me.
There’s a large cast – 14 people – and complicated in that there are 6 storylines to follow – 5 on stage and 1 off stage (which is the catalyst for the lockdown the others find themselves in.) In the interview Mr James said that each cast member got to show him ‘their’ Auckland. (I’d like to know who showed him Vodafone Queen street!) There were a few times when I felt that the stories and phrasing were being imported from overseas but mostly it felt grounded in a familiar city.
I liked the fact that each story was a contained unit within the space. None of the 5 stories on stage crossed over with each other. Stories (well, people’s lives) _do_ play out inside walls in a way that noone outside the house is aware of. It wasn’t a play about isolation or how we should all get to know our neighbours. It explores family relationships and dynamics. Brothers and sisters; sisters and sisters; uncles and nephews; friends.
This show most definitely hit the mark. Thanks Massive.
Havoc in the Garden, a new play from acclaimed British writer Lennie James and Massive Company
9-12 March, 7pm, Mangere Arts Centre
16-26 March, 7pm, Pumphouse Theatre
“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….
Maidment Theatre to 06 March
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.
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 www.iticket.co.nz