Category Archives: Theatre

Amber Topaz: The Rude Awakening

amber
Image © Amber Topaz

When I first saw the poster, I was suspicious of my husband’s motive for wanting to go to this (though he tried to convince me I would want to go too if I had joined them in their podcast where they interviewed Amber Topaz). MEN! – I harrumphed. 🤤🙄

Well – curiosity won and I said yes to going for the show. She was sultry and sassy, as expected. But I was swept off my feet by her warmth, vulnerability, and beauty. 💘

She told her story and she did an amazing job in portraying the wonder of WOMEN! and of the human experience. 💎

🛫 WELLINGTON (NZ) she is headed to you next week and she doesn’t know anyone in NZ … so I said I would help spread the word 

More details here

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Cool Behaviour

Cool-Behaviour-Q-Hero-Slider

Are you cool? Am I cool? Are they cool? 

Last night I invited my friend Justin – a Kiwi back from his other home Edmonton – to join me at Q for “Cool Behaviour”. We were ushered into the cosy, warm space that is the Vault … to a table at the front. Uh-oh. My heart skipped a beat at the possibility of having to do the dreaded audience participation stuff. This, before it even started. I distracted myself with the bright thought that Justin was seated in a more convenient spot to be picked. Ha!

With no due warning the play commenced and two bold, quirky, beautiful “Doctors of Cool” burst out on the stage, and there was no time to retreat … to consider an ‘out’. We may not have signed up for it, but we were in. We were enrolled – as students, guinea pigs, dare I say disciples! – at the School of Cool.

For a brief and glorious hour, comedy duo Ava Diakhaby and Frith Horan charmed, chided, humoured and enlightened us through multiple genius acts – with energetic song, dance, rap and more.

I laughed more than I expected to, I had so much fun!

Justin wished to award it “five stars”. I think back to a certain sea of Doritos stars I saw scattered across a dark surface last night, and indeed I feel like showering both Ava and Frith with stars.

Are we cool? Are we even close? Why yes, now that we’ve walked out those doors changed people … I think we are.

Producer: Alice Kirker
Stars: Frith Horan (Actor/Writer; Mating in Captivity, Album Party), Ava Diakhaby (Actor/Writer; Flaps, ATC’s Boys)
Dates: 22-24 February, 8:45pm
Venue: Q Theatre Vault, 305 Queen St, Auckland
Ticket $: $18-$22 (service fees may apply)
Bookings: here or phone 09 309 9771
More info
Auckland Fringe
Image © Q Theatre website
This post has also been published on NZ Entertainment Podcast.

Kátya Kabanová

NZ Opera’s Kátya Kabanová opens appealingly with mystery. The lovely Kátya (Dina Kuznetsova) appears in soft pink, pretty and delicate beneath a blanket of stars. An aura of childlike wonder surrounds the scene – I feel as if I am gazing at a moving scene in a picture book. A jolly science teacher praises the beauty of the river while a servant, unimpressed, disagrees. I lean back into my seat, enjoying the beautiful set and costumes, and being taken back in time.

The lyrical novel begins. Set in 1950s America, everyone is suited, booted and coiffed – the set similarly constructed to paint a picture of order and grace: religious symbols in the tidy house, a bleach-white picket fence, pruned trees, a high-flying American flag. It is Sunday, church day. At the conclusion of the service, the lawn is awash with bows and smiles.

Polite and perfect settings soon juxtapose strongly with emerging, unregulated emotions. It seems that a religious morning has done nothing to soothe the spirits of a conflicted husband, a domineering mother, a fiery adopted sister, a lonely woman, a cantankerous uncle, and a man trapped by his uncle’s demands and his hopeless love for a married woman. The river to me becomes a visual representation of the changing temperaments of the human soul – surging with secrets, calm one moment and stormy the next.

As always I loved the visual and musical feast that I have come to associate with NZ Opera’s commitment to excellence. Though set in 1950s America, there are many themes and threads which are relatable in any time – most of all the universal emotional experience that we, being human, undoubtably share. Terse, lyrical outbursts by the individualistic Leoš Janáček carry the character-driven plot forward as we follow Kátya’s footsteps through a journey of inner struggle and courage.

Though Kátya Kabanová is the New Zealand Opera’s final offering for 2017, it is by no means one that should be overlooked. The performances of the cast are bold, heartfelt and haunting. The 1950s in the USA certainly marked a time when men ruled both the workplace and the home but seldom their mothers. Kátya Kabanová is a moving example of how at times that formula could go so tragically wrong. Patrick Nolan, the director, and Genevieve Blanchett, the production designer, seem to have taken particular care to make sure that this notion was not lost on we, the audience.

Although a tragedy, which has been compared to Romeo and Juliet, Kátya Kabanová does provide enough by way of individual performances, breathtaking lighting and set designs to leave us with a satisfying smile at the end of it all. Over and above those, there are outstanding performances by Wyn Davies [conductor] and The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, as well as a spectacular audio-visual presentation which helped keep the suspended reality of Leoš Janáček’s vision and story completely alive and forbearing.

Kátya Kabanová has three more performances in Auckland this month before the production moves to Wellington’s St James Theatre for four dates from 7 October. For more details, see NZ Opera website.

Saturday, 16 September, 2017 – ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

Written with Jarred Tito

This post has also been published on Libel.

Image © NZ Opera via Facebook.

Chance to Ignite

Spirited, raw, spontaneous.

With poetic prose and energetic dashes of boxing and jujitsu, seven young stars take turns in the spotlight, inviting us into their stories. Hunger for their ‘spark’ moves the narrative along and the cast takes the audience on a journey that explores emotions around their inner battles. Sitting in the front row [at Q Theatre] we look right into their eyes, the windows to their souls, as they wax lyrical on dating, death, loneliness, being alone in nature, being ‘good’, being afraid and more. At one point I notice the sudden tears that jump into one young lass’s eyes – as she relives her own story, right there on the stage. I am touched as I realise she is voicing her truth.

The performance weaves together several narratives and incidents, with a certain sense of light and harmony. There is a unified, joyous energy that bursts from the cast throughout the performance – it is obvious that they have poured their hearts and souls into it. The cast members offer us a glimpse into their souls – paving the way for us to peer into our own.

Introspective, humorous, illuminating and relatable by turn, Chance to Ignite showcases the beauty of being both a young woman and ultimately a human being in the world.

Chance to Ignite

This post has also been published on NZ Entertainment Podcast.

Image © Massive Theatre Company / Eventfinda

 

Taumata

Seamless storytelling. Captivating. Bravo!

A super treat last night – my friend Katherine’s company plus a ticket to see Taumata – Four New Works at Q Theatre. A quick Google search piqued my interest, and indeed the brilliant performance of the dancers swept me off my feet!

Delivered in four separate yet connected acts, they took me to the secret place between humanity and divinity. In barely an hour we covered a lot of ground. The black stage set took on, for me, different dimensions throughout the evening – a fertile soil supporting life; imagination; a womb; a final resting place; mystery and desire; the point of no return; black night.

I loved quite a few things about Taumata – the sense of harmony throughout the evening. The way music carried movement and movement submitted to rhythm. Taane Mete’s impressive portrayal of the rawness of birth, living and death. The flowing dresses and startling story of womanhood told through the beautiful women in Sisters of the Black Crow (act 3). The absolute grace and agility of the dancers in Eve, bringing together the poise and beauty of ballet with the strength and fun of acrobatics.

It reminded me of the awesome knowledge that we are small … we are the crown of creation.

Sweeney Todd

Dark and delightful.

NZ Opera’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street took me by surprise. It’s the fifth opera I have watched to date, the first one I have seen presented in English, and the first that thrilled me from start to finish.

When we settled into our plush seats, my eyes saw a simple set – but when the music and show began, I felt a curious sensation; I was no longer on land, but at sea. The luring music of the orchestra and chorus were as rippling waves in a dangerous ocean, surging with secrets that begged to be told. In the opening scene, I saw not a costumed cast, but living ghosts rising from the ground …

Many things come together to make the show what it is. Those accustomed to NZ Opera’s high standards will expect nothing less, and I am certainly once again impressed. Costumes, make-up and the simple but convincing set leave little need for imagination to make the world of Sweeney Todd feel too real for comfort.

As the program writely says – it is indeed “a journey from darkness to illuminated darkness”, brilliantly achieved through the use of contrast. One never escapes darkness throughout the night, but if black is a colour, one sees its many tones and shades, and thus revels in its startling beauty.

Steven Sondheim’s clever lyrics are a pure delight to take in, as is Johanna’s irresistible birdsong (Amelia Barry). The lively Mrs Lovett has me hooked from the time she provides a hearty, flour-dusted whiff of the “worst pies in London” (Antoinette Halloran). Todd’s unrelenting cold hands bring necessary chills and truly, I cannot imagine a better rendition of his role (Teddy Tahu Rhodes).

Darkness builds like a castle of waves as the show progresses – when Tobias goes through the horror of finding a fingernail and other human identifiers in his pie, I am right there with him in his terrible pit of revulsion. Cascading sound and the effective use of stage lights render me hot and cold at once, and I find myself drawing my scarf closer around my body; needing, somehow, a certain reassurance even as I revel in the masterful delivery of this violent tale.

I won’t be hungry for pie for a while, but I am certainly looking forward to my next serving of opera / theatre.

Verdict: An impressive performance by way of dark intrigue topped with a golden crust of spine-tingling humour and exemplary design. A feast which scares and beckons … by all means have your dinner, but leave some room for pie!

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – showing till 24 September 2016 at the Civic Theatre in Auckland. Don’t miss it.

See NZ Opera website for dates and times for Wellington and Christchurch shows.

This post has also been published on NZ Entertainment Podcast.

Images © David Rowland

If you can talk, you can sing…

If you can talk, you can sing; if you can walk, you can dance.
~ Zimbabwean expression, as quoted by Stan Davis and David McIntosh, The Art of Business

What a treat. Last night, Gudrun and I trailed up to the confusing campus that makes up Auckland University and located, with some trouble, Maidment Theatre. It was well worth it. We stepped gratefully into the warmth (the weather was quite reminiscent of Wellington!)… and into another world.

It wasn’t quite what I expected, admittedly. I guessed that “The Guru of Chai” would be colourful, and fun, and inspirational. And it was. But I didn’t expect it to begin with a philosophical address, and end with a surprising twist. I didn’t expect to witness two men wax magic, conjuring up many characters, many voices, many emotions and a sense of wonder without much help. I didn’t expect a marriage between minimal costumes/props and endless imagination, openness and courage. A dance of talent and practice.

It was so wonderful to bathe in the poignant air of mirth, pathos, thought, and humanity. Watching this, I was at once fully engaged and elsewhere… it made me think of the million ways in which we are different, and the other million things that connect us as people in the world. It reminded me of the hot, bustling parts of Southeast Asia that I grew up in, and the few wayang shows I watched as a child, and coffee from the local coffee shops where we’d sit and sweat in the sheer humidity. It brought to mind Grandma’s shrimp chilli paste – best described as “pungent” within the limitations of English; but stunning applied to bread, or meat. Addictive, even. A blend of simple ingredients that Grandma pounded tirelessly with her mortar & pestle, turning it into a complex paste with an unforgettable flavour… one which I could never (and still can’t) tell where sweet meets hot meets bitter meets… whatever. I can’t describe it…

So… “The Guru of Chai”. If you are in Auckland, you have four days left to catch them before they fly to the good US of A! Go and watch it.

While we’re being arty-farty on this food blog (I figure theatre and music count as food – for the soul)… just last week, I also went to watch a high school orchestra/choir performance, fantastic to watch young talent performing. It was a night which led me down hallways of old dreams, up silent thoughts of what could be – and which cracked open my Russian doll selves and allowed me to be 6, 8, 20, all over again and all at once. I thought about that drama teacher I had in primary school, who was one of the people who taught me the power of Imagination. Do you love music? I hope you tap into its magic…

In other (food-related) news, I finally got to try Oh Calcutta! – I went there this evening with Gill. We shared a bowl of basmati rice and GIGANTIC naan (looked like two full moons tucked into a basket) – and she had lentils, and I the lamb rogan josh (I thought it was quite fitting that we got to eat good food and share good heart and life stories!). Really attentive service and delicious food at this restaurant… Dhanyavād, Meena Anand and team!