And we’re back with another NZIF instalment. Impulse Theatre graced the Random Stage on Thursday evening (and will until Saturday 12 October) with their touring show Off Book: The Musical, which is exactly what it sounds like: an improvised musical. For this season, however, the cast of six is joined by Wellington’s very own Bethany Miller, who adds a dose of cheery optimism to the mix.
New Zealand Improv Fest officially opened on Wednesday night, spearheaded by Here’s a Thing: NZIF Kickoff, MC’d by Jennifer O’Sullivan. This show was jam-packed with the kind of audience anticipation that any kickoff performance should hope to earn. It felt like I was back in high school, attending my first ever theatre fest.
If you’ve been reading the many other reviews that were published more punctually than this one (my apologies), you will already know the premise for The Pink Hammer by Michele Amas. Four women take part in a female empowerment workshop reluctantly lead by Woody (Alex Greig) after Maggie Taylor, Woody’s wife and heavily-mentioned-and-never-seen character, has apparently fled with the $400 pre-paid fee each woman has paid.
Force people to spend time with one another and they will become friends by the end. This we know, especially if it happens on stage. Each of the women begin almost stereotypical: Louise, played by Anne Chamberlain, is such a nervous, jittery, mousey, sweet woman, you wonder if she’s ever left the house before; Siobhan (Harriet Prebble) is the bouncy young Irish woman who is the epitome of Nelly Furtado’s song I’m Like a Bird, which played in the pre-show amongst other empowerment songs sung by women artists; Annabel (Bronwyn Turei) is the staunch modern woman pushing hard feminism down everyone’s throats; and Helen (Ginette McDonald) is the strong silent horse breeder who doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body. Not to mention Woody who is just the typical tradie bloke who doesn’t like the women’s chatter nor their presence in his tool shed/man cave.
However, Amas doesn’t let them stay stereotypical. As the play moves forward, layers peel off, the characters reveal some honest realities, allowing the characters care for one other, and in turn us as an audience to care for them.
by Laura Ferguson
Much Ado About Nothing is part of the Alexander Sparrow and Katie Boyle comedy extravaganza currently being hosted at The Gryphon Theatre. There are nine different shows being performed by the talented pair. After seeing Boyle’s one-woman show of The Merry Wives of Windsor earlier in the year, I was intrigued at how Alexander Sparrow would put his spin on Much Ado About Nothing. While doing all the characters. On his own. I mean, wow.
Wise Guy is the latest theatrical offering from the exciting young company, Soy People Productions, and is their second mainstage production at BATS. This ambitious play tackles everything from the foibles of comedy to the harsh reality of an AIDS diagnosis in a full-flight theatrical exploration.
When Sam Brooks’ Burn Her opened at Auckland’s Q Theatre to rave reviews and sold-out houses, I don’t think I was alone in hoping and praying for a Wellington production. On at Circa until the end of August, Burn Her (directed by Katherine McRae) did not disappoint.
ORCHIDS is a mesmerising contemporary dance piece featuring an all-female, inter-generational cast. The sequences are introspective, expressive and explores the mysterious feminine divine and female relationships. The 55 minute performance is a revised piece by choreographer Sarah Foster-Spoull. Her time, energy and collaborative efforts with assistant director Natalie Maria Clark are evident in the beautifully layered and intricate imagery.
When I think of rugby, I think of my childhood. I think of the cold Waikato winters, when we travelled down the road to our neighbour’s house, an elderly lady who had Sky TV (we did not). I snuggled up to the gas heater while my brother, dad, good ole Dawn sat on the couch. She made me a watery Milo at halftime, served with shortbread biscuits. The four of us were entertained with All Black patriotism, a little family bonding over ninety minutes every winter Saturday. I wasn’t much impressed with my watery Milo but drank it anyway. This was my experience of Bleeding Black.
It was a cold and wintery night in Wellington. The vampires have all vacated Circa Theatre to make room for children’s theatre in the school holidays and a tröll… In the dungeon? No. In our very walls! Award-winning theatre company Trick of the Light give us TRÖLL, a 90s Icelandic-New Zealand dial-up internet story told by an enthusiastic and easily likable 11 year old Ottó (Ralph McCubbin Howell). Ottó really likes the internet because he’s able to connect to people who also like the Dark Ages, can be 12, and choose his own name. But when the internet takes a turn for the worst, Ottó falls into darker places, places where tröll’s grow…
Theatre company, Rollicking Entertainment’s latest offering to Circa Theatre is a deep dive into the world of hauntings and superstition. Inspired by performers Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman’s discovery (while on their honeymoon) of the many ghost stories which ruminate through the lands and minds of Central Otago, The Dunstan Creek Haunting is both a joyful adventure and spooky as heck.
MANIAC on the Dance Floor by Natasha Lay, directed by Adam Rohe and produced by A Mulled Whine, explores the highs and lows of mental illness to the beat of our favourite love-to-hate-it radio bangers. We follow Anna (DaeDae Tekoronga-Waka) while she flaunts her progress with her mental health, only to come to the realisation that she is living in denial about her own mental health struggles.
Part storytelling, part stand-up, Dancing on my Own is a jovial jive through the trials and tribulations of growing up queer and with ADD while being born for the stage. Maddy Warren, a master of physical comedy, comes into her own with the awkward punch line. Unfortunately, a lack of preparation lets her down and a sixty-minute show feels like a drawn out half hour.
The Aliens by American Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Annie Baker is a poignant piece, and Red Scare Theatre Company handles its themes with sincerity. Over the course of two hours we follow misfits KJ (Jack Sergent-Shadbolt) and Jasper (Jonny Potts) as they take seventeen-year-old Evan (Dryw McArthur) under their wing, and each begin to unravel. In a fitting touch, Red Scare opens the show on Thursday 4 July, which matches up with the show’s holiday setting.
Lonely Shakespeare Collective, the company that focuses on Shakespeare’s less popular plays, raises the stakes this year by presenting a tragicomedy that sparks debate over authorship. Double Falsehood is a play that I had only heard vague historic ramblings about—it is officially attributed to Lewis Theobald but is thought to be adapted from the lost play The History of Cardenio. It’s new territory for me, going into Shakespeare blind, but it’s satisfying to see the all too familiar plot devices crop up along the way.
by Laura Ferguson
A one-woman show of my favourite Shakespeare play The Merry Wives of Windsor? Oh, yes please! Katie Boyle makes my Shakespeare dreams come true with a ninety minute show where she embodies every one of the characters from the Shakespeare classic. So ‘twas a dark, rainy, frigid night I went along to the Newtown Community Centre to see how this iteration played out.
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